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15 January 2014

A House Divided

Hoa is an energetic Christian businesswoman in Ho Chi Minh City, married with two young children. For all her liveliness, her eyes brim with tears whenever she talks about her children and how she longs for them to grow up to love and serve the Lord.

Hoa was raised in a Buddhist family, but became a believer at 17 through school friends who took her to church. Initially she was enthusiastic, but after a time her faith weakened. She began to disregard some of the Bible’s teachings, and at 25 she married a kind but non-Christian work colleague.

Like most Vietnamese, Hoa moved into her in-laws’ home soon after the wedding. She and her husband – and soon two young children – had just one room in a large house of relatives.

From the first day, Hoa’s brothers- and sisters-in-law made life unpleasant for her and her husband, and it wasn’t long before they won Hoa’s mother-in-law to their side too. Any childminder Hoa hired was forced out, and they even hit the two children.

The main motive for their actions was greed: they wanted to prevent Hoa’s husband from inheriting the family house and business.

But prejudice also fuelled the torment: no one in the house approved of Hoa’s faith. The mother-in-law, in particular, attempted to force Hoa to worship the family’s ancestors and, when alone with her grandchildren, would ridicule their mother’s beliefs.

These troubles, together with problems at work, did not cause Hoa to abandon her faith, but rather led her back into the arms of her Lord. Regular church attendance was difficult, but she began reading the Bible and praying earnestly again.

Relationships in the home only went from bad to worse, and Hoa and her husband knew they had to find a place of their own. But how could they afford it? Hoa kept praying, and they saved every penny they could.

Prayers began to be answered with a new job and promotions. Finally, after seven long years, they had a house. Hoa’s mother-in-law celebrated the family’s departure by sacrificing an entire pig.

But the family’s troubles didn’t end there. Although enormously relieved to have their own home, from the day they moved in they were plagued by illness.

The children kept being sick, Hoa’s husband was diagnosed with early signs of tuberculosis, and Hoa had the strangest symptoms: she would feel fine at the office all day only to return home with terrible headaches. She felt completely exhausted in the house, especially on Sundays – to the point where she was unable to get to church.

After about six months, Hoa learnt that her mother-in-law had asked a spirit-doctor to put a dangerous curse on her. To everyone’s amazement, Hoa didn’t react with hatred or desire revenge, even when a neighbour who was also a spirit-doctor offered to curse her mother-in-law in return.

Instead, Hoa spoke of a God who loved her and would protect her, and she warned that the curse was dangerous not for her but for those who inflicted it.

Just a short time later, her mother-in-law’s spirit-doctor died very suddenly. Since then Hoa and her family have enjoyed full health. Meanwhile, her mother-in-law’s health rapidly deteriorated, and she has now died as well.

Today, Hoa not only attends church regularly but is beginning to serve there too. Her children enjoy Sunday school and insist on prayers before bed. But their father is still dismissive of Hoa’s faith, and Hoa now understands that marrying a non-believer makes it difficult to raise her children in God’s ways.