In the year 2000, the United Methodist Church began to reach out to the people of Laos. As a new, minority religion, United Methodism is technically illegal, and only permitted to exist at the discretion of public officials. In some villages the Church is more accepted than others, depending on the relationship with local authorities. The identity of long-term missionaries is kept secret, and they settle in the country as teachers rather than pastors.
A decade of mission work has led to the creation of 74 congregations stretching across seven provinces, with between 10 and 70 people in each Christian community. Worshipers gather in sunlit homes where they study scriptures, pray, and sing. Held back by formal restrictions, previously established religions, and the difficulty of travel, Laotian United Methodists labor with patience. Congregations grow as friends and family members come around one to two at a time. There is also a long term vision to reach out into communities by offering vocational training, creating educational opportunities, empowering women, and strengthening the economy.