Jun 15, 2020 | Bangkok, Thailand |
There are approximately 1,443 Seventh-day Adventists in the southeast Asian nation of Laos, out of a population of 7,123,205. While very small in numbers, the dedication of church members in the country—where the first Adventist missionary arrived in 1957—is a remarkable story of miracles under difficult circumstances.
A case in point is the Jiang Say church, the first Seventh-day Adventist church for the Ya Hern or Nyahon tribe of southern Laos. Now called the Muen Luang Village Church, this small congregation has gone from the brink of closure to full government recognition, something required under the government’s Decree 315, which took effect in December 2018.
Some background: It was a Sunday-keeping minister, Pastor Khampasong Khammuenlouk, who pioneered the congregation there. Pastor Khampasong learned about the Bible Sabbath because Pastor Mun Lansri, an Adventist pastor from Thailand, told Pastor Bouasone Volachit of Laos about the Sabbath. Pastor Bouasone began to search and study the bible for himself. When he found out that the Sabbath was true, Pastor Bouasone was eager to share what he had found with his Sunday-keeping ministerial colleagues including Pastor Khampasong. The two spent time studying the Bible together, and Pastor Khampasong accepted the Sabbath in 1998.
Pastor Khampasong shared the Sabbath truth with his big family. His nine daughters and family friends accepted the Sabbath. More people in the community converted to Adventism because of this example.
Pastor Khampasong and his team wanted a church building because, in three years, the group grew very fast. They started praying for permission to build a church. God heard their prayers and saw their need. It must be noted that during this time the government did not give permissions to build churches in Laos. But they went to the district governor to ask for permission to build a church anyway. The first permission for the church was granted by the district governor on April 30, 2001. They built their first church building with bamboo and a thatched roof. Every year they had to replace parts of the walls and the roof. Then Pastor Khampasong and his team were convicted that they needed a bigger and better church. They prayed together and went to the governor to ask permission for a new church building. God heard their prayers, and on December 10, 2002, they received permission from the government to start the construction of a new church building in Jiang Say village.
However, because of a lack of funds, the new church building was not completed until 2017. Pastor Khampasong never saw his new church building; he died in 2012, with his wife passing to her rest the following year. Before their deaths, the couple donated their land on which to build the new Jiang Say church.
The members enjoyed worshipping in this new edifice for only a couple of years. Then, in December 2018, the government told the church they needed to reapply for permission under Decree 315, which requires all religious places to be re-registered. Various government officials set meetings with church leaders to go over the paperwork process.
The Adventist members learned other churches in Jiang Say village were closed because they did not meet the new requirements. As the members saw the process, they concluded that they couldn’t get permission. They would have to get approval from six departments at the district level, five at the provincial level, and another five at the central government level. At each step, they would have to defend their position answering a lot of questions. It seemed officials wanted to use the new Decree 315 to close the Adventist church, the process was so difficult.
Because the Jiang Say church had previously received permission for their building, officials waived some requirements. While new churches had to have approximately 1.25 acres of land for their facility (5,000 square meters), the Jiang Say Adventists were approved with only .125 acres, or 500 square meters.
Members believe God arranged an appointment for the church leaders with someone with excellent governmental connections, who supported the congregation with the paperwork. Although there was a great deal of investigation and review of the application, the Muen Lang Village Church of Seventh-day Adventists received approval for the new building after 18 months.
One local member, a Mrs. Sengdao, said: “We are so thankful that we have a great God and there is nothing impossible for Him. I thought it would be impossible for us to get [approval], but nothing is impossible with God.”