Lao in United States

Photo Source:  Cambodia Research Network 
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People Name: Lao
Country: United States
10/40 Window: No
Population: 216,000
World Population: 4,007,600
Primary Language: Lao
Primary Religion: Buddhism
Christian Adherents: 4.00 %
Evangelicals: 0.50 %
Scripture: Complete Bible
Online Audio NT: Yes
Jesus Film: Yes
Audio Recordings: Yes
People Cluster: Lao
Affinity Bloc: Southeast Asian Peoples
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

Many Laotians came to America as refugees after the Vietnam War. Others left Laos after it became a communist country in 1975. Most American people are unaware that tens of thousands of Laotians died as a result of US bombing of the Ho Chi Minh Trail that ran through Laos. Some Laotians have come to the USA in recent decades seeking freedom and a better life for their children.
Many Laotian Americans live in southern California. Others live in the San Francisco Bay Area, in Fort Worth, TX and in the Sacramento and Seattle regions.

What Are Their Lives Like?

Even after being in the USA for decades, many Laotian Americans live below the poverty level. Many leave high school before graduating to help support their families. They continue to work menial jobs years after coming to the USA. Adults do not learn more than just the rudiments of English. An online magazine,, gives stories of Laotian Americans who have succeeded in their new land. Some of them have achieved renown in the sport of badminton.
Laotian Americans speak Lao at home and English on the job or at school. Some second and third generation Lao speak English at home and with their family.
Most Laotians continue in their Buddhist and animistic beliefs. They attend Buddhist temples on a regular basis. Some Laotians have become secular and no long participate in Buddhist rituals, but still celebrate Buddhist holidays as part of their cultural heritage.
The Lao belong to the Tai linguistic group, which began migrating southward from China in the first millennium after Christ, and which now politically and culturally dominate other Laotian groups.

What Are Their Beliefs?

Most Laotian Americans practice Buddhism, the major world religion based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama or the Buddha, who lived in the 6th and 5th century BC in ancient India. Their brand of Buddhism is heavily influenced by animism and ancestor veneration.
The Buddha taught the Four Noble Truths by which one can gain spiritual knowledge and escape the endless cycles of reincarnation. Theravada, one of the two major branches of Buddhism, declares that by following the Noble Eightfold Path of right intentions and right actions that a Buddhist can achieve nirvana or a state of freedom and salvation.
To most Buddhists, however, these things have far less meaning than their traditional beliefs, which are usually animistic. In animism, evil spirits must be appeased through prayers, sacrifices and rituals. Buddhism allows people to mix Buddhist teachings with folk religion.
Two of the important Buddhist yearly holidays are Vesak, the Buddha's birthday celebrated in May or June and Bodhi Day, the holiday in December or January which commemorates the day that the historical Buddha experienced enlightenment under a Bodhi tree.

What Are Their Needs?

Laotian Americans need to see the love of Christ demonstrated to them in practical ways. Many would benefit by becoming more proficient in English and in gaining new job skills. Most of all, they must understand their personal sin and their need for the savior. Christ alone can forgive their sins and grant them eternal life.

Prayer Points

Pray that Laotian Americans develop a spiritual hunger for the things of the true God of the Bible. Pray that believers will reach out and share the good news with the American Laotians. Pray that the Lao will be moved of God to read the Bible in their heart language. Pray the Lord raises up a church planting movement among the Lao in the US.

Text Source:   Joshua Project