Tom LoVan is no stranger to persecution, having come from Laos where Communists persecuted and executed people for their Christian faith. "I'm just kind of surprised to have that happen in America," says LoVan, pastor of Morningside (Sioux City, Iowa) and Salem (Dakota City, Neb.) Lutheran churches.
LoVan has been instrumental in starting Southeast Asian congregations and ministries in the Midwest (August 1998, page 36). He received an anonymous call in January telling him not to travel Highway 35 to Salem: "There is someone waiting for you with a gun." LoVan alerted officials, who apprehended a man waiting with a gun.
LoVan is quick to say this is not new and other clergy — including ELCA pastors in Rockford, Ill., and St. Paul, Minn. — have received threats from Buddhist fundamentalists warning them not to evangelize among Asians. LoVan says Buddhist temples, located in nearly all the communities where the ELCA has started ministries, are losing members.
Two years ago, LoVan began receiving threatening letters and calls. In early February he was notified that someone had put a challenge to "eliminate Tom LoVan" on an Internet bulletin board. LoVan is being careful but says, "I'm not afraid. You don't want them to control your life and ministry. That means they win."
LoVan is thankful to all who pray for his safety. Even members of the Buddhist Association have told him they feel bad about the extremists and pray for him. "I don't want to die, but if we are successful, I'll die for the name of Jesus Christ," LoVan says. "If you kill me, someone else will step up and lead."
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