“How old are you, Grandpa?” a VOM parter asked, using a traditional East Asian term of respect for elders. At age 101, Bounsaen is an elder statesman in the relatively young Laotian body of Christ. And while he can’t remember the exact date of his birth, he knows he placed his faith in Christ at age 20.
When Bounsaen came to know Christ, he was working as a witch doctor, a common occupation among animistic tribes in Laos. After memorizing a number of incantations, Bounsaen was able to earn a good living as a young witch doctor. “I was worshiping spirits,” Bounsaen said. “I was a wicked and clueless person. When people talked about Jesus, I did not like it.”
His attitude toward Christianity changed, however, when he fell in love with a Christian. “I saw her at first glance, and I wanted to marry her,” Bounsaen said with a laugh. “She wanted to marry me too.” His chosen spouse, a young woman named Term, lived in the village of Om Jun, where a large number of people had come to faith in Christ during French colonialization.
Soon after coming to faith in Christ, Bounsaen led his mother, father and several others to the Lord. “Some of the village people who were worshiping spirits got sick, and the spirits did not cure them,” he explained. “I went to pray for them, and they were healed. This opened many people’s eyes.”
Bounsaen continued to worship with Christians in Om Jun during the country’s civil war between Communist Pathet Lao insurgents and the Royal Lao Army. As the only Christian village in the province, the Om Jun Christians welcomed the encouragement, fellowship, Bibles and hymnals they received from believers in nearby Thailand.
Then came the Communists.