In early 1998, thirteen Christians were arrested, tried, and imprisoned in Laos for participating in a home Bible study. Monday, 1 year and 129 days later, the eight men who remained in prison were freed.

Have you read 1 Peter 4:14-16 recently? They were not murderers, thieves, evildoers, or troublesome meddlers. They dared be Christians in an unchristian society and nation. They were not ashamed to suffer for their faith in Christ.

Their faith and suffering glorified God--not just in their nation--but all over the world. We cannot estimate how many people worldwide heard of their faith in Christ. It would be impossible to estimate how many Christians were challenged by the faith demonstrated in their suffering.

Their arrest for meeting in a home to study scripture shocked us. Their imprisonment for engaging in activities declared to threaten their nation and society astounded us. Their example accomplished things that preaching and teaching cannot achieve.

We responded with deep concern, which was appropriate. Appeals to government officials were made, diplomatic pressure was applied, and petitions from worldwide sources respectfully requested their release. All of that was appropriate. Yet, we likely will never know the impact or effectiveness of these efforts. They certainly did not produced the prompt results we wanted.

If my understanding is correct, the most powerful influence at work was the men's faith. Again, if my understanding is correct, the final initiative came from those in charge of the prison. They petitioned the government on behalf of the men.

While in prison, the men gained respect and trust. They were entrusted with services and given opportunities. They were allowed to care for tasks outside the prison. They recently even were permitted to enjoy a time of celebration with their families. And all this occurred in their country's most notorious prison. Because of our efforts? No. Because of their faith. Does this remind you of Joseph?

As we earnestly prayed for their release (which we should have done!), God used their imprisonment to make a "faith statement" about Christ. I wonder if, as we prayed, God responded by saying, "I know what I am doing; I am at work."

Read 1 Peter 3:13-18.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 13 June 1999

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