“When I was ten years old,” Chaloerm said, “we moved to a Khmu village called Mae Phrao, where my father intended to plant a church. The leader of the village was a man named Dtailang who hated Christians, so we were forced to live outside of the village, separate from everyone else.”
Most of the people in the village were animists, which meant they believed that spirits controlled their lives and they needed to appease those spirits in order to be protected. Since Chaloerm’s family believed in Jesus as a higher authority, they refused to participate in appeasing the spirits, which made the animists feel afraid, vulnerable and sometimes angry.
Eventually, Chaloerm’s family heard about a piece of land in the village next to the cemetery. The villagers said that it was haunted by ghosts and filled with snakes. “Since the owner didn’t want the land, we were able to acquire it,” recalled Chaloerm. “We moved onto the property and my father prayed that God would protect us.”
Dtailang, however, continued to rally the villagers against Chaloerm’s family. Although they faced persecution constantly, the family endured it and eventually a church was planted on their property.
When he was sixteen years old, Chaloerm left Mae Phrao to study in Chiang Mai. There he was welcomed into a Khmu community where there were other believers. “It was there that my faith became my own,” he said. “I knew I wanted to serve God and his kingdom, so I went to Bible School to equip myself for God’s calling on my life.” Then the news came that Dtailang had passed away. After many difficult years, Chaloerm and his family wondered if anything would change in their relationships with the other villagers.
After years of preparation, Chaloerm went back to Mae Phrao to embrace his calling: “I returned to my village to pastor the church that my father had started. I didn’t know how hostile Dtailang’s family would be toward me, but I knew that I needed to invest in the members and leaders of the Mae Phrao church.”
The first sign of change came one day when Dtailang’s son, Phuu, approached Chaloerm and asked for his help. “My daughter is sick,” he said. “She has convulsions and goes into shock. Something is severely wrong. The doctors can’t fix it, and the animist priests can’t fix it. Can you?”
Chaloerm gathered the church leaders together and they laid hands on Phuu’s daughter. They prayed for her in the name of Jesus, and she was healed. It was a turning point in Mae Phrao. “The girl and her parents came to Christ that day,” said Chaloerm, “because they saw the truth and power of Jesus.”
Others in Dtailang’s family were furious. They began to persecute Phuu over his decision to follow Christ. Some even disowned him.
Then Dtailang’s widow became ill. In the midst of her suffering, people from the church began to visit her regularly and to help her in various ways. “A door was opened in her heart,” Chaloerm explained, “as we reached out to her in love.”
After some time, the church elders went to her and prayed for her healing. “God met her at once and took away her pain,” said Chaloerm, “and immediately she also put her faith in Christ.”
Next, it was Dtailang’s daughter-in-law who attended one of the church gatherings and heard the Gospel. She also decided to follow Jesus, despite the fact that her husband, Dtailang’s other son, followed in the footsteps of his father and was a strong persecutor of Christians. He didn’t want his wife to attend church without him, so he accompanied her every week to see what these Christians were really about. Gradually, his heart was moved by the love that he saw and he became convinced that what he was seeing and hearing was true, so he also accepted Jesus as his Savior.
“Most of Dtailang’s family are still unbelievers,” Chaloerm said. “But one by one, they are being reconciled to God and to our church family. Those who once stood in opposition to the Gospel have joined hands with us – their former enemies – and today they are becoming more and more involved in serving and expanding God’s kingdom in Mae Phrao and beyond!”