The following is a tremendous report from the September edition of The Voice of the Martyrs’ Newsletter in Australia. If you live in Australia, we encourage you to subscribe and receive their newsletter regularly.
On 5 May 2002 at 8 am local police armed with batons surrounded a village church and brought a Christian youth meeting to an abrupt end. Esther’s husband, Peter, was inside the church conducting the “illegal” service when the believers heard loud shouts as the police approached. The Christians scattered in all directions and Peter jumped through an open window. He felt a tug on his trouser leg and was quickly pulled to hide under the building.
Esther told them the truth, “I don’t know where he is. I am still waiting for him to come home from the meeting.” At the time, she was three months pregnant with their second child. Esther would be waiting another two years before she would see her husband again.
Peter had eluded the police and was now a fugitive with an arrest warrant pending. The police had kept a close watch on their home, and when Esther’s husband tried to return home, the police were waiting. Because he had avoided capture for two years, Peter received a brutal beating before he was taken into custody. Esther said the police “acted like animals.”
Peter was in prison for four months before a court hearing was scheduled. Standing before the judge, he was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment at Nam Ha prison in North Vietnam. Esther was told, “Don’t bother with him. He’s going to die anyway.”
When Esther made the long, expensive journey to visit her husband in prison, he was hardly recognisable. His face was so bloodied and badly swollen from the beatings he had received from his captors. The police said she would be allowed to visit him on the condition that she told nobody he had been beaten.
In desperation, Esther sold a piece of land they owned for 5,000,000 dong ($A400). She had hoped to use the money for a re-trial, instead the police took it. Sometime later Esther was told that Peter’s sentence was now reduced to six years, making him due for release in 2010.
Since 2004, Esther has only been able to visit her husband five or six times. Her two children (now aged seven and ten) attend school and have been doing well in their lessons. They both attained a Certificate of Achievement, but when the authorities told the school their father was in prison, the certificates were taken away. The school told Esther’s children they would never receive a good report. This is a common occurrence among the children of parents who are persecuted for their faith.
Esther has had to work hard to provide for her family and although she feels weak, she must go every day and work in her brother’s coffee field. “I always pray that God will help me,” Esther said. Tearfully, Esther informed us that she has been diagnosed with breast cancer and cannot afford the treatment. She hopes she will live long enough to see her husband released from prison, and prays that he will be there to care for the children. She receives great comfort and encouragement through the ministry of other Christian women in her village. “I have learnt to put my trust in the Lord for everything,” Esther told us.
Voice of the Martyrs Australia is supporting Esther’s ongoing medical treatment for breast cancer and we are also supporting her children through our Families of Martyrs fund. Esther asks you to pray for her: “We are used to the suffering, please pray for healing. My husband is still being beaten and is in pain. Please pray for him.”
Order our new video “Enemies of the State.” Witness the resilient faith of Christians in the two communist nations of Vietnam and Laos where believers face imprisonment without trial and torture simply for following Christ. Gain a unique insight into the challenges they face. Discover how the harder the authorities clamp down on Christianity, the more it spreads. (DVD, 25 minutes, 2009). In Canada you can order it here. In Australia, you can order it here. In the UK, you can order it here.