Ly A Pao’s first arrest came just a year after he placed his faith in Christ. He had already led 8 of the 108 families in his Hmong village to Christ, and he regularly hosted worship gatherings at his home in Southeast Asia.
During his five months in prison, guards repeatedly beat him until he was unconscious. Once, an officer kicked him in the chest, breaking a rib.
“When I was in the prison,” Pao said, “I always remembered Daniel 12, talking about suffering on earth, receiving the reward in heaven. I wanted my life to be like the shining star for God.”
After his release from prison, Pao resumed his ministry, sharing the gospel with seven more families. His evangelism angered other villagers, who sometimes interrupted his worship gatherings and threatened him.
Eventually, Pao moved to a new village to escape the hostile environment. There, he led 11 families to Christ and established a church. Then authorities arrested him again, and this time he was imprisoned for more than two years.
Early in his imprisonment, the guards told other prisoners that Pao was a Christian. To humiliate him, they ordered the prisoners to hop on his back and act like they were riding him like a horse. Pao suffered a broken hand and multiple back injuries as a result of these traumatic incidents.
Other times, the guards tortured Pao with an electric cattle prod and poisonous beetles. As with his previous imprisonment, they repeatedly beat him until he lost consciousness.
Upon his release, Pao was unable to find his family. He eventually heard that his wife and 11 children had moved away for their own safety. He also learned that two of his children had died while he was in prison.
Pao rejoined his family in their new village, but soon he was arrested a third time, for leading three families to Christ. Authorities handcuffed him to a chair and beat him severely.
“If you are a servant of God, then I will put you in the truck,” a police officer told him. “I will tie you up and throw you in the river so you die without anyone knowing.”
The police also threatened to expel the three new Christian families from the village. When Pao told the officers that he would allow the families to live on his land, one of them slapped him in the face for protesting.
“No matter what you may do to me, it will not stop me from sharing the message of salvation in this village,” Pao told them. “I will share the gospel with everybody in order that they may receive salvation. I do not fear death.”
The authorities then locked him in a jail cell and forced him to sleep naked on a cold concrete floor with no blanket. When the local police chief learned how Pao had defied the officers, he entered Pao’s cell and repeatedly jumped on his stomach in retaliation. He then dragged Pao to his feet and punched him in the face, knocking out several teeth.
As Pao fell to the floor, the police chief kicked him in the head. “This is what we do to people who oppose our government!” he exclaimed. Finally, the police chief dragged Pao out of the cell and threw him down a flight of stairs.
Two days later, the police chief noticed Pao was wearing a cross necklace and ordered him to remove it. When Pao refused, the police chief hit him in the face with his shoe. Then he ordered Pao to remove his clothes, stand naked against a wall and bow to him.
“I will not bow down to any man,” Pao replied. “I will only kneel before my Lord, as only He deserves praise and worship.”
When he was released two weeks later, Pao returned to his family battered and bruised. One week after his release, he attended a Bible school. While there, he met with front-line workers, who provided him with more Bibles and Christian literature. He also received funds for medical and dental treatment.
Today, at age 75, Pao continues to proclaim the gospel fearlessly. Despite his continued evangelism and church-planting efforts, he has not experienced persecution since his last imprisonment. He said his persecutors probably overlook his Christian work now because of his advanced age and respected military background.
Although Pao hasn’t faced persecution in more than a decade, Christians in his country, especially Hmong believers, continue to face opposition because of their witness for Christ. In the region where he lives, authorities increasingly oppress Christians and churches.
Since 2011, Pao has planted 12 churches. He still shares the gospel daily, though he admits it has become more difficult. “I realise I have become old,” he said. “My ears cannot hear people speak clearly. My health is not good. I understand that when I speak, I am murmuring. I am unclear to talk, but in my heart, I am still eager to share Christ with other people.”
Pao has no idea how many people he has led to Christ throughout his years of ministry work, but he said that of the many churches he has started, the smallest now has 40 families and the largest has 100 families.
Looking back on those who persecuted him, Pao feels only love towards them. “I don’t hate them,” he said. “I know for sure that the more they persecute me, the more I will be rewarded by God, so I am not afraid to die. Actually, they are not our enemies. In the end, the one that forces people to persecute me is Satan.”
Pao asks for prayer as he continues to tell others about the truth of Christ. “Pray that I will open my mouth to share the gospel not only to the villagers, but whenever I have a chance to meet with the officers, that I would also share the gospel to them,” he said. “I cannot stay home without sharing the gospel; my heart would go out. That is why even until today I am still an evangelist. Please pray for my health. Pray for my heart so that I can share the gospel with even more people than ever before.”
Having suffered greatly for his Christian work in the past, Pao has no fear of further persecution. “I am not afraid, even if I die tomorrow,” he said. “I am not afraid because I have God with me and I pray to God, ‘Lord, let me die serving You’.”