Fools for Christ

I get the Voice of the Martyrs magazine every month, and it’s always humbling to read what my brothers and sisters in Christ go through, the ones who live in lands that are outwardly hostile to Christianity.  Sure, it’s becoming a more hostile environment for Christians here in America, but it’s nothing compared to most other countries.

What’s even more humbling is that the fools for Christ featured this month are believers who have limited knowledge of Scripture, yet they simply can’t stop telling others about Jesus.  I’d like to share the stories of these extraordinary brothers with you all.  As you read this, note how the stories parallel exactly what we were told in the Bible.

First is pastor Cong, from Vietnam.  The Lord has worked through him to spread the gospel in tribal communities in central Vietnam.  This is an example of how God is taking the gospel throughout the earth, “For so the Lord has commanded us, 'I have placed You as a light for the Gentiles, That You may bring salvation to the end of the earth.’” (Acts 13:47)  Although religious freedom is growing, Vietnam is still communist, and remains hostile to Christianity, especially in rural areas.  Pastor Cong has been beaten, arrested, and had his house destroyed, yet he keeps preaching the gospel.  He is truly a fool for Christ.

Next is our brother Bounchan Kanthavong from Laos.  He also knew little about Scripture, but had a burning desire to keep sharing Christ.  He was eventually arrested, had his legs put in stocks and was handcuffed.  He went for seven days without food.  He had a strong will to live because, in his words, “I knew that my life was valuable for God and His ministry.”  He was locked in solitary confinement, yet all he asked for was a Bible, saying he could not live without a Bible (ouch!; how many of us in America take for granted the numerous Bibles we have at home?).  He was assigned to cutting firewood, and at one point was able to sneak away to his house (which was not that far from the rural prison) to get a Bible, which he smuggled back into prison.  The guards found the Bible and asked him to read it to them.  Those guards were soon replaced.  The prison chief told him that his family’s faith was so strong that Christianity had spread everywhere.  They told him to stop believing, go back home, drink, play, and join the Communist party.  Bounchan told the chief to stop worshipping a cement, gold or bronze idol.  Bounchan said that even in prison, he knew that God was with him, and that what Jesus did on the cross was greater than what he went through in prison.  He spent 13 years in prison, and when released, he was warned not to share his faith.  “19 But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; 20 for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4)  His desire is that we in America share the gospel, since we have the freedom to do so.

Also serving the Lord in Vietnam is Ly A Pao of the Hmong tribe.  God has been using him to spread the gospel and teach believers.  For this, he has paid a price:  he has been arrested, mocked, and beaten for his faith in Jesus.  He has been stripped naked and forced to sleep on a cold concrete floor with no blanket.  He’s had several teeth knocked out and been thrown down a flight of stairs.  Told by a colonel to bow to him, Pao said he would not bow before any man and would only kneel before the Lord, as only He deserves praise and worship.  “29 And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence, 30 while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.” (Acts 4)

Next, we have Ma Toa, another Vietnamese pastor.  He, too, had no training.  All he did was share the gospel, and the Lord brought 100 people to Christ in his first year of ministry.  Ma had been a Communist party leader, and he lost his job when the party learned of his conversion to Christ.  Being very familiar with the law, Ma has been able to effectively use it against the police when they try to unjustly imprison him.  Yet he keeps preaching the gospel.  “25 But when they stretched him out with thongs, Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, “Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman and uncondemned?” 26 When the centurion heard this, he went to the commander and told him, saying, “What are you about to do? For this man is a Roman.” (Acts 22)

Finally, we have brother Dinh Van Hoang, who shares the gospel in the central highlands of Vietnam with the K’Dong people.  The K’Dong make sacrifices to animistic gods, but God is working powerfully to overcome this idolatry.  Through Dinh’s work, God has planted six house churches and baptized more than 400 believers.  Dinh has been beaten, survived two attempts on his life, and had seven homes destroyed by authorities.  They told him they would help him rebuild his house if he would renounce his faith in Jesus.  Although at times he has been dejected, his attitude is, “Jesus himself had to suffer to pay the price to save the world.  Who are you to refuse the sufferings that the Lord Jesus foretold?”

The Communists and all unbelievers believe they are the “wise” of the world.  They have chosen the things of this world, things that will eventually be burned up.  But Cong, Bounchan, Pao, Ma, and Dinh are fools for Christ.  “26 For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28 and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, 29 so that no man may boast before God. 30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 31 so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”  In the eyes of the world, our brothers are foolish; in God’s eyes, they are wise.  By God’s grace, may we wisely join them in their foolishness.