Every Saturday night, Chef Tao Lee helps close the Pad Thai restaurant in Fresno, Calif. Though exhausted after a long and busy night, Lee faithfully sets his alarm for bright and early Sunday morning so he can make the two-hour drive to St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Stockton, where he is a deacon.
Having received God’s good gifts, Deacon Lee then walks the neighborhoods surrounding St. Andrew, knocking on doors and hoping to connect with the Asian immigrant families who make up more than 20 percent of Stockton’s population.
“If you are a Christian, you live in the Light,” Lee explains. But the Hmong, Lao and Cambodian people he meets “are living in the darkness.” Lee, a Hmong who was born in Laos in Southeast Asia, speaks from personal experience.
“If you were born in Laos, you were born into Buddhism and must bow down to Buddha,” he recalls. “We believed in the spirits of our ancestors and that we die and are reincarnated.”
a new resource for spreading the Light
Now, thanks to a generous mission grant from the LWML California-Nevada-Hawaii District, the Lutheran Heritage Foundation has published a new free resource to help share the Gospel with Lao-speaking immigrants in the United States: Bible Stories in Pictures.
Bible Stories in Pictures is a brightly-illustrated storybook that includes 94 Old and New Testament stories with text taken directly from Scripture. The comic-book style text is recommended for preteens through adult.
“There is nothing like this book in Laos or for Laotian immigrants,” said Rev. Ted NaThalang, LHF coordinator for Southeast Asia projects.
“It’s unique because it talks about the Sacraments and about the promised Savior in Genesis, which no other Bible books – especially cartoon-style books – mention. It’s a good Lutheran understanding of Scripture.”
Deacon Lee has already shared the book with Lao immigrants in the Stockton community. “When they see the book, they say, ‘Where did you get this book? It explains so clearly and in our language!’” he enthused.
Books travel to Iowa
The Lao Bible Stories in Pictures is also proving useful when sharing the Good News with immigrants in Iowa, where one of the first Lao Lutheran worship services started at Trinity Lutheran Church in Des Moines.
“All these immigrant groups are coming to the United States, and we need to figure that out,” said Rev. William Weiss, pastor at Trinity. “Des Moines has been a big dropping place for immigrant on way to other places in the country. We’re becoming very diverse.”
LHF shipped a dozen copies of the Lao Bible Stories in Pictures to Trinity – Des Moines, where they were enthusiastically received.
“I brought the books to the Lao worship service, and they were just like, wow! Everyone was extremely excited, even the older adults,” Rev. Weiss said. “They said, ‘We’ve never seen anything like this before. Can you get more of these?’ It’s a really great way to share the Word with them.”
When talking with Buddhists about Jesus, Lee said it’s important to be patient and to understand the background the immigrants are coming from.
“I remember the one whom I once bowed down to, but now I know Jesus Christ,” Lee said. “I come not to battle about religion, but to share the truth. I tell them, ‘Friend, I love you so much. After this body is decomposed, the soul cannot go to heaven on its own. Who will bring you to heaven? Jesus, our Creator and our Savior will.’”
To order your free copy/copies:
LHF has published 1,000 copies of the Lao Bible in Pictures, which are available in Laos and in the United States. As with all LHF publications, the Lao Bible in Pictures is provided free of charge to the individuals and ministries that need them. To order, send an email to LHF or call (800)554-0723.