Nine-year-old Yaok and his brother, Vangsith, huddled around the fire for warmth from the single-digit winter temperatures in Laos.
Sak, one of their friends, sat next to them playing with a rusty ball — or what looked like one.
Meud, Sak’s mother, was washing dishes at the time, and when she saw her son’s hands holding the “ball,” she rushed to stop him.
But it exploded. She was too late.
Sak had found not a ball but an unexploded ordnance left over from the Vietnam War. Between 1964 and 1973, more than 2 million tons of ordnance was dropped all over Laos, and 30% didn’t explode. Many are still uncovered today. Children don’t know their dangers and set them off as they play. Farmers don’t expand their fields, scared of what they may accidentally hit in the process, making it difficult to grow Laos’ economy.
Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help.—Psalm 22:11
When Sak’s ordnance went off, it killed Vangsith and three other children. Yaok lost his leg. Meud and two others were also injured.
“I was in shock when I saw my son and other children laying down on the ground covered in blood,” Meud says.
World Vision worked with Yaok’s family to get him the medical care he needed.
Two years later, Yaok, a sponsored child, can walk confidently with a prosthetic leg and says, “I am afraid that this will happen to other children again.”
So is World Vision, which works with Mine Advisory Group International to clear unexploded ordnances. This lets children play safely and enables farmers to have more access to land.
Join us in praying Psalm 22:11 over the people of Laos, who live in constant danger from unexploded ordnance left over from the Vietnam War.
“Do not be far from me, … ”
Meud wasn’t far from Yaok, but it only takes a second for an unexploded ordnance to explode, making any distance too far to help. Prevention is the best approach, so World Vision educates communities about the dangers of unexploded ordnances so children don’t pick them up and play with them.
Protector God, our hearts hurt for all the children who die or are hurt by unexploded ordnances. We know Your heart hurts too. Please, be close to children and families in Laos and protect them from these bombs. Help them recall what they have learned when they find unexploded ordnances so they avoid being hurt or killed.
“… for trouble is near … ”
When Ngor was just 10, he found something only the size of a pen in his family’s rice field. He played with it, not knowing it was dangerous until it exploded. He lost his arm. Today, he can’t help his wife with much of the farm work, so he puts his family’s hope of a better life on his two young girls, who are both in school thanks to World Vision sponsorship. World Vision also provided Ngor’s family with better seeds and taught them modern farming techniques to increase their crop yield.
Merciful Father, we can’t imagine the horror children like Ngor experience as bombs explode around them. Guide experts in finding and safely disarming unexploded ordnances. Protect children and farmers as they play and work.
“ … and there is no one to help.”
After four decades of tragedy, it’s natural for people to feel hopeless and that nobody is helping. But in addition to its other efforts, World Vision trains local volunteers on how to identify and report unexploded ordnances and how to keep their communities safe. Phaythoun Chandala, 28, has volunteered for five years and says the efforts are working.
Dear Lord, bring more people to help. Safely lead those clearing the fields. Guide the volunteers educating their communities. Give each worker and volunteer the grace and encouragement to continue their work.
Nila Douanesouvanh, Ammala Thomisith, and Mark Nonkes of World Vision’s staff contributed to this article.