Global Mission: Laos
Appointed to Linworth UMC as Senior Pastor on June 30, 2019, I was humbled that the youth mission team leaving for Laos that same day would make a spot for me. I declined, believing that another trip would happen shortly and that I was responsible for spending my first two weeks on-site at the church instead of halfway around the world. One of the harshest realizations when the pandemic began to unfold was that I would not get to travel to Laos to meet our mission partners.
Fast forward to July 4, 2022. Walking out of the airport, I was moved to tears to see the face of I. Painit, the missionary with whom our team had continued to relate with via Zoom (early in the morning for him, late in the evening for us, coffee in hand for all…) during the pandemic travel restrictions. At least two hoped for trips were delayed, but we finally embraced in the spirit of United Methodist connection.
It is interesting to answer the questions of those unfamiliar with mission partnerships. “What are you going to Laos to do?” The answer our small team of three (myself, Joel Rabb, and Mike Smeltzer) felt most comfortable with was and still is, “Relate.” As we traveled, we met with some churches and pastors our teams had met before, and we visited with some new people in new places. What was constant was the commitment to Jesus Christ in the churches peppered through the cities and villages. What we beautifully witnessed is that a commitment to relationship, and not solely building a thing or providing a service, is allowing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to be shared in Laos.
While Laos is a beautiful country full of changing infrastructure, much of the countryside remains the same: rice paddies as far as the eye can see and water buffalo laying in the mud to keep cool. What previous teams had experienced as long and arduous road travel taking hours was now a slick train ride through the countryside. Expressways made some road travel fast and easy, while the rainy season challenged even the most skilled driver on other more rural paths. One village was impassible by van, but never one to miss relationship or a meal, I took my shoes off and walked barefoot through the flooded creek bed to pray, sing, and eat with God’s beloved in the village.
We took in the country’s beauty, accompanied by our friends and ministry partners in Laos. The waterfalls in Champasak and Luang Prabang provinces were picturesque backgrounds for the sharing of stories, faith journeys, laughter, and snacks. We were blessed to hear of the challenges to Christians, but also encouraged by the faithful perseverance of Christ’s disciples in Laos.
We were moved by the pride not only of Christians, but whole communities, for the developments that the mission partnership in Laos provides: fishponds, mushroom farms, coffee fields, water wells, latrines, livestock, and more. Community leaders and village chiefs honored us by sharing meals and dreams for their communities. We witnessed what we know to be true but sometimes need reminded: The prayers of the righteous are powerful and effective (James 5:16)!
-Rev. Anna Guillozet, Linworth UMC Senior Pastor
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