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May 10, 1957 - March 15, 2019

On March 15, 2019, a motor vehicle accident in Southeast Asia took the life of a Laotian woman named Chansone, a quiet hero of the faith who loved her people and her ministry. What made this woman so special to so many people in this part of the world? 

She and her husband, both originally from Laos, immigrated to the United States, but after twenty-eight years in California they moved back to Southeast Asia in 2011. From Thailand, they served full-time among their people, the Khmu, and invested in a new and vibrant church-planting movement that was gaining momentum in the region. 

However, it was not easy at first for Chansone to be back in Southeast Asia. Although her husband was celebrated as a key leader and organizer of the expanding network, she struggled at times to find her place. In fact, during the first few months, on many occasions, she told her husband, “I want to go home. Let’s go back to California.” 

Eventually, her sentiment changed dramatically, but not without struggle and perseverance.

Chansone battled against fears and insecurities. She had grown up in a very poor family in Laos, and had never received a formal education. Even after years in the US, she never learned to read and write. She and her husband were also never able to have children of their own, which was a difficult reality for her to face, especially within her own culture. In addition, she struggled to understand whether she was more American or Laotian. These personal challenges were magnified as she made the move to Southeast Asia and embraced a life of ministry alongside her husband. She relied heavily on him and often took her place behind the scenes and out of the spotlight that was shining on him. 

More than anyone else, Chansone’s husband knew the critical role that his wife had played in his own journey. And he knew that they would have never returned to Southeast Asia if it had not been for her undying belief in him, which was inspired by a mature and persistent faith in God. Her husband was quick to recall the experience, while they were still in the US, when he went through a time of doubting and even returned to drinking. Chansone never gave up on him. She kept pushing him to make something of his life, to which he had responded, “What do you want from me?” 

Chansone had spoken sharply to him, “I only want you to be the man of God that I thought you would become when I married you.”

That encounter, which proved to be a major turning point in their lives, mirrored another encounter at the very beginning of their relationship in Laos when he had ended up in prison. Chansone had not only visited him behind bars and provided food for him, but eventually she negotiated with prison officials for his release and proceeded to bail him out. She had saved him, and he knew it. Soon after, they were married, fled the country and became refugees en route to the US. 

Years later, Chansone’s husband had become the man of God she had hoped and prayed for. She was happy to follow his lead, although she also needed to find her own identity in the ministry that God had called them to in Thailand. By God’s grace, she refused to be dragged down by her limitations. She resisted the temptation to compare herself with others, especially other women in ministry who had different gifts. In addition to supporting her husband, she began to find joy and fulfillment in her gift of hospitality. She learned to serve simply and humbly and to care deeply for those that God sent to her. She found that other women, especially the wives of church leaders, were drawn to her and appreciated her loving support. Before long, her home became a haven for visitors, co-workers, relatives and anyone in need. Her ministry blossomed as more and more people came to rely on her generosity and care. 

Eventually, Chansone was heard saying, “This is my home. I never want to leave.” Whenever they made trips back to California, she was always ready to return to Thailand. 

Over the years, she continued to endure tests and trials, including imprisonment, breast cancer, and distance from extended family in the US, but she never questioned her calling to serve God, to serve her husband and to serve her people. So she chose to stay, to face her fears, and to persevere. 

That is why so many in Southeast Asia will miss her — those who were inspired by her example, the families she cared for, the women she encouraged, and the husband she stood by.

The recent accident cut short Chansone’s life on earth. Yet, in Christ, she has only passed from one life to another. She will be remembered as someone who loved Jesus and served him faithfully with the gifts that he gave her. She will be greatly missed by her husband, her family and her fellow workers, yet her legacy will endure in this world and she will live forever with Jesus. 

“Mom Chansone set a great example of how to serve God and how to be a mom. She was especially loved by the wives of our leaders, but we were all impacted by her actions and learned from her example. She encouraged many with her sense of humor and the joy of her smiling face. Her loss has brought us hurt, pain, sorrow and broken hearts. But we know that she is now with the Lord, and she is waiting for us.”

Bounmee, Khmu Pastor, on behalf of the churches

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