Depending on your age, you may have grown up during the Cold War, which was a state of political hostility between Soviet-bloc countries and the U.S.-led Western powers, roughly between 1945 and 1990. The threat of nuclear warfare hung over the world during those decades. Maybe you had to participate in the silly “duck and cover” drills, which in some schools basically involved crouching under your desk, grabbing a leg of the desk, and putting your head down. This was designed to protect us from a nuclear blast. But I digress!
The goals of the U.S. during the Cold War were to undermine communism in the Soviet bloc and to prevent its expansion to other countries. The list of communist countries is now down to just five: Cuba, China, Laos, North Korea, and Vietnam. Of the five, Laos is the country that I know by far the least about, so I am drawn to stories about it. One such story is in the February issue of the Voice of the Martyrs magazine. Bounsaen came to faith in Christ at the age of 20 and is now 101. He used to be the pastor of a church that met in secret in the jungle during the 1980s, and he was imprisoned three times, which means in terms of his age, he spent much of his 60s in prison. While Laos is still communist, its persecution of Christians is much less severe than it was 40 years ago. That same congregation now meets openly in a church building; while Bounsaen is no longer the pastor, he continues to visit and pray for those who are sick.
It is not only Bounsaen’s story that is very inspiring to me, but his words as well. Here are a few of them: “Now I am tired physically, but my heart is not tired for the Lord’s work.” I can identify a good amount with this, as my energy level is not what it used to be. However, I’m retired, so I have more time to devote to the Lord’s work in a more direct way than I used to. For example, I have the responsibility of sharing God’s Word and facilitating discussion in a Sunday-school class at my church as we read through the Bible on a 3-year plan.
Here are some more words from Bounsaen: “I am really looking forward to the day that I am going to be with the Lord. All my sufferings in this world will be gone… I am looking forward to the reward He has for me, too. I wonder what kind of retirement I will get. I am getting impatient, to be honest. He has prepared a home for me.” I am “only” 62, but these words resonate with me. I laugh at his wondering about “what kind of retirement” he will get! He knows that the Lord has prepared a home for him because Jesus in John 14:2-3 tells us, “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” I also love Bounsaen’s honesty about being impatient; at the age of 101, I would think so!
As I write this, I’m also reminded of the man who until recently was our plumber. He was persecuted under the Romanian government (another Communist one at that time) but managed to make his way to the U.S. He will probably be going home to be with the Lord soon, and thankfully, his son has taken over the business. We recently had him replace our garbage disposal, and we had a very rich conversation while he was working. Among other things, he said, “You know, I’m not suicidal or anything ’cause that would be irresponsible, but some days I just want to go home to be with the Lord.” This was largely in reference to the way the U.S., along with the world as a whole, is becoming more decadent.
There’s an old song by Wayne Watson that I thought of as I was reading Bounsaen’s story; it’s called “There Goes Sundown.” While the context is a little bit different in that it refers to the Lord’s second coming, it still speaks to going home to be with Him; Watson was only 43 when he wrote it. Here are a few lines:
“Some days I pray this prayer more than others
For my Lord to come
When I’m weary of fightin’
Yeah, when I’m tired of runnin’
Other days I wanna stay around
And grow old with that girl of mine”
Amen to that. Like 101-year-old Bounsaen, my plumber, and Wayne Watson, I am ready to go home any time; in the meantime, I want to joyfully continue to serve our Lord and stand firm. Are you ready?