Local Lazarus becomes bold witness for Christ
SOUTHEAST ASIA (BP) -- His name is Chum Sok,* but to many people, he's known as Lazarus.
Lazarus, similar to his namesake in the Bible, shared how he went from death to life, literally.
As a result, he said, God took this modest and elderly Christian and turned him into a bold witness for Christ.
Today, Lazarus is hard to track down. He has a calling to share Jesus with his own people. Every week, he spends at least two days going out to evangelize, traveling on Sundays to a village far away to share the Gospel and teach.
He and fellow believers gather to study the Bible every night, often hearing of someone who is sick and going to pray for them until they are better.
Lazarus' experience not only impacted his life but stirred a strong response in his village, where there are now more than 80 people attending church.
Lazarus remains thankful to God. "Now villagers understand that Jesus can save," he said, choking back joyful tears.
In a village where Buddhist neighbors once criticized Lazarus and fellow Christians for believing in the foreigners' God, they now call on the Christians to pray when someone is sick.
The darkest day
Though he's been a Christian for many years, Lazarus' faith started out weak. "I used to be embarrassed," he said. "I would hide my Bible in my shirt when I went to church. I prayed for God to help me not be ashamed."
Lazarus and others shared how God answered his prayer in a way no one could expect.
As the sun began to set one evening, he started having trouble catching his breath. Soon it became alarming as he began gasping, unable to breathe. His tiny, elderly wife, Mean Sary,* rushed to find a car to take her husband to the hospital.
She and their son managed to get Lazarus to the main public hospital. By the time he arrived, Lazarus' organs were shutting down. The doctors soon lost his pulse.
That's when Mean Sary, who was not a believer at the time, began to pray.
"I had no hope," she said. "My husband was always praying, but he couldn't. So I cried out to God for him."
Lazarus' pulse returned and he remained on a ventilator for the next six nights with no improvement and no clear diagnosis. Eventually doctors told Mean Sary to take her husband home to die.
A few times, Lazarus regained consciousness long enough to write, "Pray." Then he would slip back into his comatose state.
Feeling defeated, Mean Sary began the journey home in the ambulance with Lazarus, who by that time had begun to look black and lifeless.
From death to life
Lazarus' home was filled with friends and family, both Christian and Buddhist. Mean Sary collapsed once she made it home, unable to be consoled. Meanwhile, International Mission Board missionaries and friends, William and Nancy Potter,* and local believers from Lazarus' church helped Mean Sary get Lazarus onto a bed and prayed for the family.
As the believers prayed, Buddhists mocked them saying that Lazarus was being punished for being a Christian. They wanted the Christians to leave so they could prepare a proper Buddhist funeral.
As believers prayed, William urged people to take the ventilator out of Lazarus' mouth so he could die with dignity. When they did, a miracle happened -- Lazarus began to cough.
The Christians all got down on their knees and began praying for God to heal Lazarus, to give him his breath back. Gradually, Lazarus began to show more signs of life -- regaining his natural color.
"That's when I started having hope and faith," Mean Sary said.
The "Jesus clinic"
The Potters asked if they could take Lazarus to the Christian doctors in the area. Mean Sary agreed, and Lazarus was soon in the care of IMB missionary Joseph Bricker* at what's known by the locals as the "Jesus clinic."
The clinic is a multi-national, multi-organizational medical clinic whose mission is to provide quality medical care in the name of Jesus and share the Gospel with each patient. The Jesus clinic is actively planting churches throughout surrounding villages and has played a part in many church plants countrywide.
At the clinic, patients "experience the love of God in a way they would not experience anywhere else," Bricker, who was one of the doctors attending Lazarus, said.
Test results at the clinic looked good, and Lazarus no longer had multiple organ failure. As he regained consciousness, he looked around and saw doctors and nurses praying for him.
"I knew I would live," Lazarus said. "I knew Jesus was in those doctors, and their wisdom comes from God."
Lazarus began to recover and was eventually sent home in good health.
A changed man inside and out
Lazarus only remembers a few things from his time in the hospitals -- the Jesus clinic in particular shapes how he now lives his life.
"I remember waking up once and praying 'Oh God, if I am your child, please give me the chance to evangelize. If you let me live, I will tell people about you,'" he recalled, stopping a few times to wipe tears and take a breath.
After slipping back out of consciousness in the hospital, Lazarus had a vision. "I saw three people -- Jesus, a soldier and a guard," he said. "Jesus said to me, 'Let your hope rise in me.'"
Today, Lazarus is alive and well, and he's keeping his promise to God. He didn't just come back to life physically; he was revived and emboldened spiritually. No longer a shy Christian hiding his Bible in his shirt, Lazarus joins his fellow believers to make Jesus known in their village, surrounding villages and even villages far away. His wife and son are now believers in Christ.
Reflecting on his ordeal, Lazarus said, "[It was] like Satan wanted me to shut up ... God saved me, and now I speak the truth."
He expressed his gratitude for the Jesus clinic and the care he received there.
"The doctors at the Jesus clinic have hope," he said. "Their faith stands out as different."
Lazarus said he is especially appreciative of Dr. Bricker. "I like that he knows how to pray in my language," he said. "He prayed I would be able to serve the Lord." And that's exactly what he's doing.
Lazarus often goes back to the "Jesus clinic" for checkups. When he does, he shares his testimony, helping the clinic in its mission to share the Gospel with every patient.
"If we're God's children, we must have fruit," he said.
Pray for Lazarus
He asked for people to pray for the following requests.
-- Pray for Lazarus and his wife to have good health so that they can continue in ministry.
-- Pray for Lazarus' family to remain close and follow God with all of their hearts.
-- Pray Lazarus would continue to take time to share the Gospel in every situation.
-- Pray Lazarus would "remain connected to the vine of Christ" and continue to bear fruit.
-- Pray for everyone in Lazarus' country to have the opportunity to hear the Gospel and believe in Christ.
*Name changed. Harper McKay is a writer for AsiaStories living in Southeast Asia. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).