1995-present: Thirty years ago, on a bomb-strewn plain in Southeast Asia, God began a work that is reaching families with His love and hope to this day.
This is a story of renewal, redemption, and hope. In the Southeast Asian nation of Laos, silk production has a long history among the rural villages. But the quality and quantity were often not enough for families to sustain themselves. Impoverished families continued to struggle to survive, creating an endless cycle of poverty and hopelessness.
That began to change when Samaritan’s Purse received funding to support a small, two-year-old farming cooperative.
Working with enthusiastic local believers, we started by building structures in an open field surrounded by farmland that was nearly useless. During the Vietnam War, this region was one of the most heavily bombed areas in the world—a result of the U.S. military’s effort to stop the flow of North Vietnamese supplies coming through Laos into South Vietnam.
Through a lot of effort, the structures were built to support silk growth and production. That includes the arduous work of planting and nurturing mulberry trees (whose leaves are used to feed silkworms) in soil made rock-hard and unproductive through the bombings. Even today, there are still unexploded bombs in the area.
This aspect of the project required a lot of faith in the Lord. We moved forward because we believed God was leading the way, even though one of our team members noted, “Honestly, at the end of the construction, we wondered what on earth we had done. How would these facilities ever be fully utilized?”
From that very humble beginning, God worked through Samaritan’s Purse and friends like you to greatly expand the project, the number of families participating, and the number of opportunities to share our faith in Jesus Christ.
Today, more than 250 families are producing silk. Some of them have as many as three harvests annually, selling their silk to their cooperative, the Lao Sericulture and Agroecology Company.
The sustainable income produced by this initiative is enabling many farmers to expand into raising chickens and growing soybeans, corn, and cassava (a staple ingredient in many diets).
In 2022 alone, we distributed almost 150,000 Mulberry saplings to 66 families in Xieng Khouang and Houaphan provinces. Over 60 families joined the project and, working with the cooperative, we held five training workshops for almost 70 people.
Meanwhile, the Lao Sericulture and Agroecology Company has partnered with a local agricultural college to provide Madame Kommaly Chanthavong, one of our original Christian partners, with a dozen students annually to mentor. Kommaly is ensuring the country’s silk tradition is passed on, while also sharing her faith in Christ.
The cooperative’s future is being further strengthened through Samaritan’s Purse, which has invested in a training center to make it possible for more people to produce silk and join the cooperative.