Buddhists Find ‘The Way’

Bounlouane (“Bruce”) and Champathong (“Betty”) Keobounhom were born in Laos. Bruce’s parents, unable to afford public school, sent him off to a Buddhist monastery at age 9. He spent the next 13 years learning to be a monk. But he became more and more convinced that something was missing. When communists swept through Laos, Bruce joined tens of thousands fleeing for Thailand. He ended up in a camp with 70,000 other BuddhistsFindtheWay_02Laotians.

Bruce accepted an invitation to attend church in the camp. He tried to hide in the back row as 500 people sat in the grass and listened to a preacher from Thailand present the Gospel. He preached from Romans 10:9 (“That if you confess with your mouth ‘Jesus Is Lord’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”)

This was the “something missing” Bruce had been longing for—salvation that is found only in Jesus. The Holy Spirit stirred his heart as the lies of Buddhism were exposed.

“There is one way,” Bruce says. “There is only Jesus. Only He can save you. …”

Bruce started spending day and night in the church and became a lay leader. He even attended Bible college.

“I knew I wanted to be like the preacher,” Bruce says. “I wanted to tell people the truth.”

Bruce also taught English at the church, and one night, Betty came in with a friend.

Back in Laos, Betty had caught Bruce’s eye when they were together in an English class.

“I recognized her smile immediately,” Bruce says. “And this time I wasn’t a monk! We started talking, and I invited her to church. She accepted and kept coming!”

Betty says, “I wanted to know more about the Bible, so that’s why I met him there. We just came back to each other.”

The couple married in the refugee camp and later felt a call to ministry, which brought them to the U.S. They were leading a Nazarene church in Nashville when they met a Laotian Salvation Army officer at a conference.BuddhistsFindtheWay_1

“They saw us work hard and want to serve the Lord, so they asked us to come to the Army to be together, husband and wife, to serve together,” Betty says.

The couple, now Salvation Army captains, opened a Laotian corps in Nashville and three others across the country. They transferred to Rockford, Ill., in 2003, where they started out ministering to a Laotian congregation but have reached out to a new wave of immigrants from Myanmar (also known as Burma).

“We meet them and help them,” Bruce says. “We help them settle, find a place, a house, and then they come to the Army. … When they see the way we help them and we love them and care for them and then talk about the love of Christ … they just want to follow Christ.”

by Robert Mitchell & Central Connection

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