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Vatsana guides a father praying to Jesus for the first time.

From grief to belief and a Bible mission in communist Laos

From grief to belief and a Bible mission in communist Laos

Vatsana Mahaphone, 71, is at the forefront of Bible work in Laos. Here she tells her story and thanks you for your crucial support for her challenging ministry in a communist country that is one of the poorest in East Asia. (For security reasons we are not using Vatsana’s real name and have blurred faces in the images.)

Vatsana started by translating Scriptures for children

I have a very clear memory of the moment when I first encountered the one true God through the Bible. It happened in 2004 when I was suffering great personal loss. At the time I was a practising Buddhist and took my faith very seriously, but it did not bring me the comfort or hope I needed when I faced the pain of seeing one of my five children die.

I had gone to the United States to get treatment for my daughter who had cancer. When she passed away, a relative took me to a church. As I listened to the preaching, I felt that everything around me was touching my heart and I couldn’t stop crying. It was the Holy Spirit’s presence within me. From that moment on, I knew that there was a God – and that he was real.

Touched by the Holy Spirit

When I returned home to Laos, I attended church and had the same experience. I wanted to cry, to laugh. The Holy Spirit was touching me and I got baptised.

A short time later, I found myself crying again, unable to stop the tears. This time I was at my desk at the Bible Society office in Vientiane, the capital city of Laos. I became emotional as I translated the story of the crucifixion for a children’s Bible.

You see, just six months after I became a Christian I started working for Lao Partnership as a secretary. I also started translating Scriptures for children from English into Lao.

I’ve personally experienced the importance of having a clear translation of the Bible because when I first became a Christian I had to read the old version of the Lao Bible that uses outdated language and is also missing verses. The Revised Lao Bible, which was published in 2013 by Bible Society, has helped the Church to grow in Laos. It also helped me to develop a deep passion for Scripture.  The story of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16.19–31) is one of my favourite Bible stories.

A surprise calling

When I was asked by my church in Laos to attend a workshop in 2015 I had no idea that I was being nominated to be a translator. I felt that my English wasn’t good enough! But with encouragement, training and practice I improved and my confidence grew. Now I am one of two translators working on the new Lao Study Bible, which is based on the Good News Study Bible in English.

Vatsana reads from the Revised Lao Bible to a family in Vientiane

There are very few study materials in the Lao language to help people study the Bible for themselves and for pastors and church leaders to prepare their sermons and lessons. This project made possible by the generosity of Bible Society supporters will make a big difference. When I translate, I get so involved in my work that if I prepare a hot drink it turns cold before I remember to take a sip! I love my job and I thank God for using me in this way.

I’m also studying for a Master’s degree in theology and working as an associate pastor at my church, focusing mainly on women’s ministry. At the church, I pray and share the hope of the Bible with many desperate people – poverty-stricken widows, abandoned wives, and women whose lives have been blighted by the drug addiction of husbands and sons.

Thank you for your prayerful support of Bible work in Laos. Please pray for the publishing and distribution of the Study New Testament and for God to grant us wisdom and good health as we continue work on the Study Old Testament.

Vatsana’s story first appeared in the June/July edition of the Bible a Month prayer letter. If you would like to help Bible workers such as Vatsana on a monthly basis then please consider joining Bible a Month for a minimum of £10 a month. If you want to make a one-off donation to help Bible work in places like Laos please hit the blue button below.

Help Bible workers such as Vatsana right now   

Author: Simon Bartz, 4 June 2021

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