Laotian Witchdoctor Turned Church Planter

Joy- Welcome to our podcast series, Stories From the Field,” the podcast that takes you deeper into the lives of national workers around the world. I’m your host Joy Kita and with me are Ron and Charis Pearce. Welcome back to the studio, guys.

Ron- Thanks, today we are going to Laos.

Joy- Laos, oh we hardly go to Laos.

Ron- No, it’s Southeast Asia and it was one of the most exciting times of interviews I think I have ever had with this group of pastors that came in from all over the region. We were sitting in this, it was a very traditional Lao house in the fact that it was made of teak wood, it was huge high ceilings and the walls were just loaded with all memorabilia, pictures of the family, you name it.

Joy- Would it be on stilts? I’m picturing that.

Ron- No, this was flat on the ground, and it had animals outside, etcetera. This was a meeting room there because the gentleman who headed up this movement wasn’t there at this time so he brought in eight of his workers and they all sat around telling me their stories. And one of these brothers is the story I’m going to tell today and we call him Yellow Shirt. Yellow Shirt was a pastor, church planter, etcetera, who came from a very difficult background in the fact that he used to be a witch doctor, a very powerful witch doctor. And it needs to be explained that in the villages and a lot of Laotian people in tribal areas, over the years they believed in house spirits, or their home spirit, and that means that they would go to that spirit to have the blessing under animism, the blessing of the spirit to protect them, to heal them, to bless their crops, to ward off evil of all sorts. So they would, over the generations, have a book that they passed along from generational leader to generational leader and this was like their bible. And in it they would write down all the incantations or sacrifices, what the remedies were or what they should do under certain circumstances. So this was their manual for life and this brother was like that. He was the leader of the home, he was the witch doctor of the area, he was the big kahuna. So he comes in and you could tell he was a leader just by the way everybody reacted to him and his demeanor and everything like that. We are sitting there, all the other guys give their testimonies and then he starts into his testimony and talking about the way his life developed and he was so powerful, he told me that actually, he could put a hot knife, a red hot knife between his teeth and his lips and nothing would hurt him. In other words, the evil spirits would protect him. He would tell a tree to die, lay his hands on a tree and curse it and a couple of days later it would be dead.

<p>Map of Laos</p>
No, it’s Southeast Asia and it was one of the most exciting times of interviews I think I have ever had with this group of pastors that came in from all over the region.

Joy- I wonder how someone found out they could put a red hot knife between their lips. Very interesting.

Ron- I have no idea. Who knows how they would come up with these things but it was a show of power. Now when he told me that story, and all of the story actually, we were sitting at the lunch table and so all the pastors are on one side and I get on the other side that way I’ve got my tape recorder ready to go, I can look them in the eye and they are telling me their stories. Well, when he told me this part of the story about the hot knife I thought, I’ve got to see this. So I got up and I walked around the table and I said, Open your mouth, I want to see this,” because he said there were no scars there. And I looked in his mouth, and here is a guy who is just in the middle of eating and so here I am looking in a mouth partially filled with food, and I open it up and the other guys, the other pastors laughed. They were laughing at me or with me or whatever the case is that I would actually go around and do this. So here we are, we are sitting there with this brother and he is telling me the stories as to what his life was like and he said catastrophe came in. And his mother and his little boy both got very, very sick and both died. They tried everything prior to this to have them healed and that would mean they would do all the incantations and whatever. I think he sold eight water buffalo to be sacrificed for them and nothing. They died. He was despondent. He was in an absolute state of wanting to give up on everything. He was depressed beyond belief. And he had a friend, now believe this or not, it was another pastor, and this other pastor came over, I don’t know how he had a Christian friend in his position, but the other pastor came over, shared with him about Jesus and he accepted the Lord. He burned all of the paraphernalia and everything like that and he believed in Jesus. He went out and after that became a church planter. So we got to the church planting part of this and I said, So how many churches have you started now?” Oh, 45.” 45 churches!” And he says, Yes, we will go into the village and we will first go door to door and we will pray for the sick, before we preach the Gospel we will pray for the sick and many if not all are healed,” and then he says, we gather them together in the middle of the village and we will preach the Gospel to them, tell them who healed their sickness, who did this, who created all creation and we know the name of the creator all that sort of stuff.” So he told me this whole pattern as to how he did church planting. It was really good. And then I said to him, Man, oh man, that’s amazing, so are you planting these churches all the time?” and he says, Oh yeah, we just did one last Sunday.” I said, Really?” He said, Yeah.” He gets up from his seat, walks around, sits beside me and he pulls out the oldest iPad in existence in the world. This thing has been through wars I think. I have never seen one that is so dirty, broken, scuffed up, and everything like that. I think Apple is going to take this one as a prize someday and put it up as a demo because this was incredible. Then, it’s sitting there in front of him and he is going through picture after picture of when they would start churches. He had hundreds of pictures, I mean hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of pictures. He gets to the ones from last Sunday and he shows me this picture and I’ve got it because I took pictures of the iPad pictures. I couldn’t transfer them, didn’t know how probably, but I took pictures of them and I still have them today. And here are these pictures that I took of a man who was tied up and chained to a platform made up of tree bows and tree limbs and everything like that. Probably they were about five or six inches across and made a platform. Then they put a little bit of a roof over top of it and half walls, etcetera, and this man was chained in there on that platform. And I said, Is this where you started the church?” and he says, Yes. We walked into the village and we were praying for people and we noticed this guy was in the middle of the village all tied up and everything like that and I asked Who is that man?’ Oh, he’s demon-possessed and he’s a wild man who hurts people and we have to tie him up so he doesn’t hurt the children and nothing can control him, he’s out of his mind.’” So he said, I knew I might as well just go over and deal with this at the first because I was going to have to do it anyway. So I walked over to him sitting on the little porch of his house and he was growling and snarling at me and you could see that he was going to try to bite me or something. I just slowly walked up, I stood beside him, I put my hands on him and for the next 20 minutes I just prayed for him. I prayed that God would deliver him, I prayed over him, and all of a sudden he just calmed right down.” He calmed down so much and there was no outward manifestation of anything but at the same time you could sense that inside him something was different. So I sat down beside him and he was calm, he was gentle and all the meanness, all the insanity shall we say, was gone. God had totally healed him.” So he called all the people over in the village because they were all watching at a distance to see what was going to happen. This was the prophets of Baal and Elijah situation, and he calls them over and says, Take the chains off, he’s okay now.” So they carefully take the chains off and the man is smiling, he’s standing up and greeting everyone. He sits down and I think they said that they had a meal together sitting on the front porch of his little prison and the man was fine. I have pictures of him both praying, as well as him sitting with him there afterwards, etcetera, like that. So he said, Then we called the whole village together and I told them who did this.” He preached the Gospel to them, they accepted the Lord and we started a church that day. That was last Sunday. So I just looked at that guy sort of like, wow! This is a sort of a little apostle Paul, going around from place to place and various miracles happened around him or situations like that and he took it as this is normal. And I think that is what we have got to realize in many parts of the world right now with all the huge numbers in the jungles of the Vietnams and the Laos and all these other countries. People have been waiting eagerly for someone to come and deliver them and tell them who the creator is because these people are animists which means they worship the rocks and moon and the stars and trees and everything like that.

This is a sort of a little apostle Paul, going around from place to place and various miracles happened around him or situations like that and he took it as this is normal.

Joy- Which made his strategies so powerful because he immediately started with who the creator truly is.

Ron- Exactly, so you start where they are because they are always wondering who is the creator. Just like Paul when he was in Athens, Greece and he was at that location where they were worshiping an unknown god and he says I’m going to tell you who it is. Well, it’s the same principle when he goes and he tells them who the unknown God is that they have been worshiping from afar. And when they learn and when they are shown that he is a personable God who wants to love and heal them, man this melts them because this is what they’ve been looking for. So you know, he had his book of shall we say, incantations that he had and the manual and everything like that, this is now a man of the Word. In the old days, he would use this to try to appease the spirits and to gain favor with them and to have prosperity. That left and the Bible comes in and it does, in a holy and complete way, it does the exact same job for a Christian. Cleans up their life, shows them what to do in life, shows them who the power is behind them and in them, talks about the Holy Spirit. This is what the people were looking for before and now they found it in the Word of God. That is the power that is being released in the Vietnams and the Laos today of the world.

Joy- So a little tiny geography lesson, is Laos close to China, is it on the border of China?

Ron- It’s south of China, the main body of China. It’s bordered shall we say by Myanmar and Cambodia and Vietnam and those countries.

Joy- It’s not a communist country.

Ron- Yes it is, and there is great resistance in Laos to the Gospel by the police. Another story that I will throw quickly in, there was one brother that we met that went to prison and they were going to execute him. He was there with five other guys that he had led to the Lord, they put them under a firing squad and everybody shot but nobody shot. In other words, the bullets didn’t work, the guns misfired. The guards all went into the police station to say what is going on here? They left everybody out there standing against the wall ready to be shot. So they were in there, then came out…

Joy- Were they still standing there or did they run?

Ron- No, they didn’t run, they were still standing there, all of them. They come out and the guards loosened their bindings and everything like that and said to them go home, we don’t want you here. Go home and don’t be preaching anymore. So they just left and here is the pastor saying, Yep, we were almost killed but the bullets didn’t work.” Can you imagine six, seven, or eight guns and the bullets didn’t work?

Joy- That would change your life.

Ron- Well yeah, the police were confused, but this was the case and this happens in some parts of Laos today. There is a penalty involved.

Joy- That’s what I was going to ask, if there is persecution so to speak, to the Lao.

Ron- Oh yes. But when you get on with the pastors, I just did, the main leader that I was sitting in his house, I was talking to him just a week ago and, yeah they say persecution, its normal, sort of like, yeah but let’s talk about something else. And this is what we have to get through our minds, is that all the problems that we go through in life are infinitesimal, is that the proper word? They’re small, they’re incredibly small in comparison to the Gospel matters, what is going on for eternity, and that is what we’ve got to keep going.

Joy- Okay, well thank you. It’s been a great reminder I think for all of us to keep in mind the larger problems around the world compared to ours so thanks again, guys.

Yep, we were almost killed but the bullets didn’t work.”

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