'I am glad that God is with them'
by Tiffany Yang
At the end of March, 60 women from Laos participated in the United Methodist Women's Bible Women training in Thailand (See Young woman speaks about Bible Women Training: Part I), a country where the women felt they could meet, learn and discuss issues safely. Their home country is under communist rule and stories of Christians jailed or displaced for their faith are not uncommon.
The trainers were Hmong-Americans from Wisconsin, including Kady Herr-Yang, a Women's Division director who initiated the training of women. Ms. Herr-Yang's 14-year-old daughter, Tiffany, and 11-year-old daughter, Jessica, accompanied the group then went back to their mother's homeland of Laos to see how women and children live in the present day. This is their report to the Women's Division board of directors meeting in April 2005.
My trip to Laos and Thailand was an amazing experience. The purpose for Jessica and me to go with the Bible Women group was to work with the children. We wanted to learn about them and wanted to share with them about our lives. We wanted to know what they liked to do, to play, do they go to school, what do they want to do when they grow up; what do they hope for? We wanted to spend time doing activities with them, such as arts and crafts. We asked for children, but instead youth came. We were a little disappointed, but were happy to see so many youths come. It was wonderful to see the excitement in their faces. Since their ages ranged from 14 to 24 yrs, it was decided that they were old enough to join with the adults. So instead of spending time with children our age, we ran errands with Karen instead. It was hard, but somebody had to do it. Jessica and I enjoyed spending time with Karen very much. She is funny and has a great sense of humor. We’ve never made anybody laugh so hard!
Then the training ended and we drove to Laos crossing the Mekong River. To think this was the river that took so many of our people’s lives 3 decades ago. How tragic! I can’t believe I was there. When entering Laos, I had an eerie feeling. Thoughts about Communism and dictatorship ran through my mind. The suffering of our people and the struggles they went through to survive were beyond my thoughts.
Early Saturday morning, we journeyed to the mountains to visit two of the Hmong villages. I’d been wanting to do this so much and it was finally happening. Only dirt roads took us to the villages—nothing was paved. The roads were steep and bumpy. Thank goodness my mom had reserved an air-conditioned van and not one of the open trucks for us to ride in. The dust was terrible! I can’t image the sickness one can develop from all that dust. We stopped along the way at the village of Lao Kang and the new United Methodist community to pass out school supplies to the children and a teacher. It seemed as if the children had never seen so many school supplies. There were so many new things to them. Their faces lit up with smiles as Jessica and my mom handed them the supplies. I wanted to capture those smiles, so I took pictures. They received with thanks and many smiles.
After a 4-5 hour ride uphill, we finally arrived at one village. It was sad to see how the people up there were trying to adapt to life. All of the houses we saw were built on the ground except for one. This house was built on wooden pillars and was the pastor’s house. It took a lot of Lao money and a very long time to build such a simple looking stilt house. It may be complete, but there was nothing inside, no furniture or beds.
As we wandered the village, I saw many of the children doing work. I suppose they were chores. They were fetching and carrying water, cooking, cleaning, and carrying a younger brother or sister on their backs. Kids were carrying babies on their backs. I tried imagining the chores I do at home, but they don’t even compare to what these children have to do. They have to do their chores to survive. I do it for allowance. The weather is so hot and humid and they have to do their chores in the sun. They probably have never been in an air-conditioned room before in their lives. They don’t even have electricity. Imagine how pitch dark it is at night. Thank goodness we visited during the day. The pastor’s family made lunch for us, but we hesitated to eat because the water was just so dirty. I looked at my mom a couple of times before she gave the nod to go ahead and eat--not to be rude. We were hungry and they did cook the food—well, I hoped. The whole village has to pay a fee each time they fetch water from the one well that a family that was able to dig. How sad to have to pay for such filthy water. Water should be Free. It is a gift from God, I thought. The sun was beginning to set, so we headed back to the hotel.
On Easter Sunday, which I forgot that it was, we went to one of the churches in Vientiane. The church service took place in part of the pastor’s house. Jessica and I worked with the children during service. We helped them make a prayer booklet and showed them how to make some origami. We also had them make bead necklaces. Then we ate lunch together and stayed for the youth gathering after church. I thought that they would do different things in other countries, but their youth group did almost all the same things our youth group does at my church. They had worship, had a time to pray for people, talked about what spirits are and what is Holy. Most of the songs that they sang in Lao during worship were songs that I knew in English. Even though some of the families were more fortunate than others, they all had one thing in common; they have God in their hearts.
In closing, God, please bless all the families and people that we visited in Laos and watch over them as they serve you in such an unsafe environment. Please give them hope - especially the children! Lastly, I want to thank Women’s Division and United Methodist Women for giving me this opportunity. Now, I understand mission work and the hard work you do to serve God. I plan to be a United Methodist Woman one day and I pray that God will use me to do His work as He has for my mom and all of you. God bless you all. Thank you.
Date posted: May 18, 2005