March 2023 WMU Around the World Laos
Missions Discipleship

Only God: From a Death Sentence to Life in Christ in Laos

A tragic accident in Laos as a toddler left Nalee disfigured and blind in one eye. Nalee struggled with self-esteem issues and never trusted others when they gave her compliments.

At age 17, she was told she was no longer needed in the church choir. This broke her heart. She left the church, and her life fell into a downward spiral. She began selling drugs on the street.

Right before the police arrested her, Nalee met a young man, Nhia, who captured her heart. When she was sent to prison, he wrote a letter and told her he would wait for her. Nalee doubted the sincerity of his words. She thought, There’s no way he will wait and marry me. I’m not even pretty. Yet she prayed and asked God to bring them together if it was meant to be.

In prison, Nalee lost all hope. She received no visits from her family. She was surrounded by murderers and others who committed violent crimes.

Completely distraught, Nalee tried to commit suicide. She wanted to do it in private so no one would try to stop her. Under the cover of a blanket with a rope around her neck, Nalee called out to God. She prayed, “God, if you feel I am worthy, take this suicidal feeling away.” The Holy Spirit intervened, and Nalee did not go through with her plan.

The next day, she made the decision to attend worship in prison. In a strange turn of events, Nalee met people who were members of the choir. They befriended her and began discipling Nalee through Bible study. They even invited her to join the choir. Nalee recommitted her life to Christ.

For five years, Nalee made court appearances and received multiple sentences. The first punishment ordered was the death penalty. It was later commuted to a life sentence. Nalee had no money for a lawyer, but God used a former enemy to help Nalee plead her case. On one side of her cell was a Muslim. On the other side was a Buddhist. In between was Nalee, a follower of Jesus. Nalee was despised by these two because of her youth and her constant songs of praise to God. Despite their hatred, Nalee determined in her heart she would shower them with love. She asked God to help her love them as much as she loved her mother.

The Muslim had been in prison 21 years and studied to become a lawyer. Nalee believes God provided this new friend to write to the court and plead her case, arguing Nalee was young and the drugs in her possession were not hers. Upon entering court, everyone is expected to bow to an idol to seek help. Nalee steadfastly refused. She told her court escort about God and said He is the only One she bows before.

At her final hearing, the judge halted the case and was prepared to deliver his verdict. Nalee boldly proclaimed to the judge he had not read all the evidence and asked him to read the next page. Once he had all the facts, he turned to Nalee and said, “Congratulations. You are going home.” Nalee lifted her cuffed hands in praise to God. When the judge said he had never seen anyone respond in this way, Nalee testified about her God.

What about the young man? Did he wait the five years Nalee was in prison? Yes, he did. Although he was not a Christian when they met, Nalee shared the gospel with Nhia and his family.

So much has happened to this young woman, but she is determined to share the hope of Christ with anyone God puts in her path.

Nalee dreams of a church where her people can worship God. Her family has purchased property. Nalee wants to enlist members to cut bamboo and do the construction themselves. She believes this will enable them to take ownership and appreciate the church more than if it were built for them.

Nalee has also been trained in WMU basics by Joy Bolton, international WMU coordinator, and is working hard to develop WMU and point to Christ in her circle of influence in Laos.

by Betty Lynn Cadle and Sandy Wisdom-Martin (with assistance from Cindy Vang and Tia Underbakke)


This article was originally published in September 2022 Missions Mosaic.