This is the remarkable story of penniless, homeless war veteran, who buys a Bible that someone found in a trash can and has his life turned around. Suddenly he discovers hope. He reads and studies the Bible daily praying to God while sitting on his piece of cardboard on the pavement. God answers his prayers and he finds a home.
By Arun Sok Nhep, United Bible Societies Team Leader, Asia Pacific
As I was walking across Vientiane’s market (Laos) after dinner, I noticed a man sitting on the street who appeared to be homeless. I was intrigued as he didn’t seem to be begging but was intensely reading a book and taking notes. Curious, I approached him and immediately recognised the Revised Lao Bible we published in 2012. Even more intrigued, I asked him where this Bible came from and he told me he had purchased it from someone who had found it in the trash. He has been reading it ever since. I could see the well-worn pages, the result of assiduous reading. After a chat, I gave him some money and went on my way.
The Bible is all I need
However, the picture of this homeless beggar reading the Bible kept haunting me. So I decided to try to find this man again on a return trip to Laos a few months later. There he was sitting in the exact same spot reading his Bible. To start the conversation I asked if he understands what he is reading. “Yes,” he responded, “I understand everything from this book. It gives me hope and joy. Especially knowing God.”
He asked me to sit down next to him and continued, “I have a question and I need someone to explain to me.” “Go ahead and ask me, I will try my best to answer.” I replied.
Will I go to heaven?
“I’m reading at the moment the laws of Moses. Do you think I have to do everything required by Moses, in order to gain heaven?” I told him that “the laws of Moses are good, but everything is fulfilled in Jesus, who died on the cross for us.” He gave me a big smile, and replied: “this is what I thought, but I needed to check with someone.”
He continued to tell me that despite living on the streets, the Bible has helped him to be a happy man. “I do not know much about religion, but I share what I read with people.”
I asked him if he attends a Church but he said that no one has taken him to a church.
After talking for a while, I noticed that he had a slight accent. I asked him where he came from. He replied he was Vietnamese. Since Le Khac Tam, the Associated Executive Director of Vietnam Bible Society, was with me, I told Tam to ask him more questions about his life in his mother tongue since I don’t speak Vietnamese.
A war veteran
Sơn, is in his early 60s and he told us that he is a Vietnamese veteran, who served his country from 1977 for several years. He was in Cambodia for 5 years after the Khmer Rouges were defeated by the Vietnamese army (in 1979).
He left the army and came to Laos more than 30 years ago with his parents. Both parents passed away, and he was left alone. He became handicapped due to untreated diabetes, as he had no access to medical care. Since he has no military pension, he begs on the streets to buy food and medicines. At night he sleeps in front of someone’s house.
The Bible gives him a new start
Life had been without hope until he found the Bible in the Lao language. “I could not read Lao at all. So I prayed God for help. God answered my prayer. I started to read after one month, as I really wanted to know what God wanted to tell me.” Later someone gave him also a Vietnamese Bible, but he prefers reading in Laotian. “God speaks to me in Laotian, and I speak to him in Laotian too.”
I asked him if he needs any help. He said that recently a Western family invited him to move into their home. “I hope I can move to my new place next month!”