Rotha and I have been in Laos since Tuesday. We came to meet with the microloan committee here at the Laos Attached Field.Note: “Attached Field” is the name given to the church structure in a region that would typically be a “Conference” but isn’t yet developed enough to be self-governing.
The program is still in its first iteration of loans, but ASAP-sponsored Bible workers and church planters haven’t stopped applying for more. They have a lot of ideas. As soon as we’re ready for another round, we can move forward.
But before loaning anything more, we’re curious about two things: how the loans are used and whether they’ve been a distraction or enhancement to the person’s ability to share Christ. ASAP is loaning to LAF-employed Bible workers and church planters so that they can build a source of income outside of the fiscally-constrained church, while continuing to share the Gospel in their communities. To find out more, we’ve been able to meet personally with a few of the workers we’ve loaned to, and today we visited a Bible worker named Pa at his barber shop.
Pa lives just over 50 kilometers from Vientiane, but we drove through two hours of intermittent road construction and dust to get to his house. His shop is a rectangular cement-block building with a saddle roof that sits at the front of his lot, and his wooden house sits on concrete stilts a few yards behind it. He seems to live on a quiet street (though you wouldn’t expect much else from any place at 2 O’clock on Sunday afternoon), but in the two hours we spent there, he performed at least five haircuts. If he hadn’t been so busy, Rotha would have asked for one.
When Pa saw us arrive, he invited us to relax on his waiting bench and chat while he cut a customer’s hair. After a few minutes, we went around to a kitchen at the back of his house to wait while his wife cooked us lunch and his son scrambled up a palm tree for a couple coconuts.
And then Pa called for us.
He had four teenage guys (his wife later said they used to be gangsters—though I’m not sure what she meant by that) in his shop now, waiting their turns for a haircut. As they rotated through, two of them were quietly reading a Bible, and one was reading the Sabbath school lesson out loud. Every now and then a question would come up and Pastor Pa would put down his clippers to point them to a verse.
By the time we left, Pastor Pa was cutting the last boy’s hair. We’d enjoyed a delicious meal with his wife, sister, son, and daughter. We’d seen his simple shop and the new construction for a home-addition that he’s able to afford now with his extra barber-shop income. And we’d seen him disciple boys with a haircut.
This visit encouraged all of us; it may be time to move forward with more loans.
After all, we don’t want to cut a program like this short.