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A letter from Paul Friesen, Regional Liaison for Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam

Fall 2011

Warm greetings in Christ.

In July’s prayer letter I chose to highlight the strategic role Singapore plays in regional evangelism.  I also wrote that of the 10 countries represented at the mission consultation, Laos reported unprecedented growth with more than 30 new house churches planted in the capital city of Vientiane.  In this prayer letter I will focus on the strategic role that effective partnerships play in this country.

Laos is home to over 6 million people, 97 percent of whom are Buddhist or animist and 2 percent Christian.  For many years the Lao Evangelical Church (LEC), the largest Christian church in Laos, has worked to gain recognition and build trust with the government in order to end the discrimination and persecution of Christians and instead create effective partnerships to spread the gospel through their country.

Photo announcement for Paul's ordination service in November.

Lao Partners, a ministry of University Presbyterian Church in Fresno, California, has joined together with LEC to provide medical care and equipment, English language classes, and church leadership training.  In their work together they became aware of the need for clean water for drinking and food preparation.  In 2008 they began to address the water issue directly by working with Living Waters for the World (LWW).  Designed by Presbyterian engineers and other volunteers, LWW has developed a simple, effective, low-cost water purification system that is easily installed and maintained in remote locations.  After many months of careful negotiation with government entities, LEC secured permission to install a LWW system in Laos.  In November 2009 their team worked with the staff at the Luang Prabang Teachers College to install the first LWW water purification system in Laos. This included training Lao faculty about teaching methods to provide education on sanitation, water utilization, and operating and maintaining clean water systems.  Installing the first system at a teachers college, whose students come from all over Laos, will help to pave the way for future LWW installations throughout the country.  In November 2010 the second LWW system was installed at an LEC church in Vientiane.  This installation now serves the three main churches within Vientiane as well as a child care center.  This November a third installation project was undertaken in a village where there are very few Christians and no church.  In keeping with LEC’s evangelistic goals, this community will be impacted with the gospel.   We rejoice with Lao Partners, LEC and Living Waters of the World for their spread of the gospel to this remote area in Laos.  Praise God for this growing partnership.

On a personal note, soon after I returned from my last trip I experienced chest pain while working out.  I scheduled a stress test with my cardiologist, underwent a catheterization, and eventually a quadruple bypass on August 22.  I am doing well and we are so very thankful for access to excellent medical care and, too, for insurance to cover the bills!  Also during these past few months I was able to complete the requirements for ordination and on November 20 I was ordained to specialized ministry as a mission co-worker.   Family members flew from California, Minnesota, Massachusetts and Rhode Island for a wonderful celebration at Westlake Hills Presbyterian Church in Austin, Texas.  Praise God for his healing, protection and blessing. 

To achieve my goal of being ordained as a Presbyterian minister of Word and Sacrament before Thanksgiving I needed to write five papers and be examined orally by Mission Presbytery’s  Committee ministry October 24.  The 90-minute examination focused on my faith statement, my understanding of Reformed worship, the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's Supper, an exegesis paper, and a written sermon based on the exegetical paper.   On October 28 I appeared on the floor of Mission Presbytery and was approved for ordination.  A Commission on Ordination and Installation was set up and a worship service celebrating my ordination was scheduled on November 20 at West Lake Hills Presbyterian Church. 

Follow-up consultations with Dr. Hume and Dr. Rissinger were very encouraging.  Although I had to postpone my scheduled trip to Asia in November, I’m now clear to travel in January.   Three of my siblings, my brother-in-law, and my mother-in-law have flown in for my ordination ceremony.

Praise God for his goodness throughout these last here months.  Pray for my next mission trip scheduled January 7to February 8.

Serving together, partners in the gospel,

Paul Friesen

The 2011 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 135
The 2012 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 187

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