Women Vietnam | 2-4-2024

Tragic Ending, New Beginning – K’sup Nri


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“You Yourself have recorded my wanderings. Put my tears in Your bottle. Are they not in Your records?” (Psalm 56:8)

I will never forget her face. Sweet and childlike, K‘Sup Nri* seemed fragile, even at first glance. Her smile was a little shy, her manner gentle.

In 1973, our family had packed up, left Netherlands, and arrived in the beautiful city of Dalat, located in the central highlands of Vietnam. As missionaries our first task was to try to master the difficult Vietnamese language. Dalat was a scenic mountain resort and the view of the mountainous countryside was breath-taking.

Dalat City in 2016

When my children and I were returning to our house, a tribal woman came walking toward us. It was the first time I met K‘Sup Nri. I was immediately aware of her natural poise and charm. Her long black skirt, which wrapped gracefully around her waist. K‘Sup Nri was instantly attracted to my children. Not many words were needed for me to understand that she was expecting her first baby and that she was ecstatic about it.

She and her husband, Dieu*, belonged to the Stieng. Besides helping Ralph and Lorraine Hauper, Wycliffe missionaries who were translating the Bible into the Stieng vernacular, K‘Sup Nri worked with her husband, who was the young pastor of the newly converted Stieng Christians. At that time their tribe was experiencing an exciting spiritual revival, and they were really excited about the way the Lord was using them.

After one particular worship service, we all trailed into the woods to attend a baptismal meeting. Dieu, the only Stieng pastor at the time, baptized several new believers. I can still picture Dieu standing in that stream, up to his knees in water, his face shining in the hot sun. And K‘Sup Nri was a portrait of happiness as she watched her husband perform the baptism. Her lovely smile radiated joy and love toward him and their people.

An unwelcome interruption

In 1975, all missionaries were deported from the country. Our lifelong dream of a missionary career seemed to have ended, abruptly and perhaps forever.

It had especially hurt us to leave our Vietnamese brothers and sisters behind. What would happen to them? Sometimes K‘Sup Nri‘s radiant smile crossed my mind, and when I thought about her I prayed, wondering about her husband and her new baby.

Little by little facts trickled out. For over a year Dieu had been kept in solitary confinement. Then, in April 1977 he was transported to a prison in the north of the country, where he remained for eleven years. We were grateful to hear that Dieu continued to serve the Lord in his re-education camp. In fact, after his release we learned that he had led forty-four of his fellow prisoners to Christ and had baptized thirty-two of them in the woods during their lunch breaks.


So we prayed for Dieu and many others like him, but none of us knew what was happening to his young wife and their children.

When we finally did hear, it was too late.

Once Dieu and his brother were led away as captives, K‘Sup Nri and her son were sent back to the village where she was born. And not long after Dieu‘s incarceration began, K‘Sup Nri gave birth to their second child, a beautiful little girl.

K‘Sup Nri lived with her parents, but her loneliness was overwhelming. Her childlike appearance was no illusion. She had been a teenage bride—not much more than a child when she and Dieu had married—and she had always relied heavily upon her strong, capable husband.

Now he was gone. To make matters worse, K‘Sup Nri had virtually no spiritual support. All the Stieng churches were closed, and the Christians were scattered and forbidden to meet.

For years K‘Sup Nri had to work very hard in the fields to provide food for her little ones. Life was incredibly hard. She longed for her husband. Where was he? Was he still alive? How were his captors treating him? No word or letter ever came. She wanted to visit him, but visits to prisoners—even by their wives—were not permitted. K‘Sup Nri was crushed.

All the while, Communist cadres were pressuring K‘Sup Nri and other Christians to give up their faith. Confused and isolated, the young woman would lie awake at night, remembering the past and worrying about the future.

K‘Sup Nri‘s memories carried her back to the happier times she and her beloved husband had shared in Bao Loc. She envisioned the wonderful gatherings when all the Christians sang praises to God together and hoped to recapture some of the lyrics that had once lifted her heart. She tried to recollect the sound of her husband‘s voice as he explained passages from the Bible or prayed with her. In reality, she could not even remember his face very well.

A female believer worshipping in a Vietnamese church

In the tribal churches all the Christians would often pray out loud together. Sound would then fill the building like a sweet perfume rising to the Lord. Now all K‘Sup Nri could hear when she prayed was her own voice. How she wished her husband were there to help her understand what was happening. She had learned from him that God was almighty, always able and willing to help. Where was Dieu‘s God now? She knew she needed help, but who could she turn to? The missionaries were gone. The tribal Christians were spread out all over the region. Who could possibly understand what she was going through?


As the children grew, they began to ask about their father. She tried to explain, but to her children, Dieu was a stranger, a character in an oft-repeated story. K‘Sup Nri prayed persistently, but her prayers seemed to go nowhere. Then, after years of uncertainty, her worst fears were realized. Authorities came to her home and informed her that her husband had died in prison.

From that moment on K‘Sup Nri‘s emotional life fell apart. It had been seven years since her husband had been taken away, and her sense of isolation was almost unbearable. Now that she had received word of his death, the very foundations of K‘Sup Nri‘s life were fractured. All that she had believed in had failed her. She had trusted God with a child’s faith to keep her husband alive, but her prayers had been denied. She had tried to instill a love for Dieu in his children’s hearts, but how could they love someone they did not know? She had worked night and day to keep her family fed and sheltered, and her body ached as deeply as her mind and spirit ― God, I need a husband! She cried out ― I can’t go on like this!

Grief and spiritual confusion overwhelmed K‘Sup Nri. Her faith had eroded into doubt; her doubt had become despair. And at this very time, when she couldn‘t have been more vulnerable, a young Communist officer entered the scene. He was about her age, and he was attracted to her beauty. He befriended K‘Sup Nri, he listened to her, he expressed his concern. Understandably, she responded to him.

Of course the young Communist was not a Christian, and he was nothing like Dieu in any other way. But he was interested in her, and perhaps, she told herself, he was the answer to her many prayers for help. For a few months she resisted a serious relationship. She still felt emotionally attached to her children’s father, but what good was that? At one time she would have asked God for wisdom, but her broken heart told her that God wouldn’t answer anyway. So eventually, when the officer asked her to marry him, K‘Sup Nri overcame her reluctance and gave in. At least now, she thought, she and her children would be taken care of, and she would once again have a strong shoulder to lean on. Before long the two were married.

For a little while life seemed good. K‘Sup Nri‘s exhausting efforts to survive were relieved. Gradually she began to enjoy life again, even learning to laugh with her children once more.

Then, a few months after the wedding, a neighbour came to visit, bringing along a strange rumour. A prisoner who had been recently released was telling people that Dieu had not died after all. His brother Men was the one who had passed away. Trembling with fear, K‘Sup Nri started asking questions of anyone and everyone who might know something about her first husband. The more she inquired, the more certain she was that the rumor was true. Finally, she heard for herself confirmation from the man who had been released from prison just a short time before. Yes, he assured her, Dieu was still alive, faithfully serving the Lord in his place of incarceration.


K‘Sup Nri‘s desperation was indescribable. Regret and remorse gripped her with icy hands; hopelessness began to strangle her. To her horror, she realized that she had been lied to—the Communist authorities had intentionally deceived her. How could I have been such a fool? She asked herself mercilessly. Even worse, she began to suspect—and not without reason—that the authorities had also engineered her marriage to the young officer. It had all been part of their plot to destroy her husband’s life and marriage. They had succeeded, and in K‘Sup Nri‘s view, there was no one to blame but herself.

After so many years of overpowering struggle of every kind—physical, mental and spiritual—K‘Sup Nri now found herself utterly without reason to live. She simply could not find the strength to face the future. By that time her faith had grown too weak to save her. Her despair condemned her. One desperate night, unable to face another day, she poisoned herself. She was found dead the next morning.

If only we had known

For weeks after I heard the tragic end of K‘Sup Nri‘s story, I searched my soul. I couldn’t stop thinking about this beautiful young woman—my friend, my fellow servant of Jesus. And I felt guilty. Had I prayed for her enough? What would have happened if Christians all over the world had prayed for her as fervently as they had prayed for her husband? Johan and others had faithfully asked for prayers for Dieu, but no one knew about K‘Sup Nri‘s circumstances until after the worst had happened. Might she have been helped if only we had known of her struggle and interceded on her behalf?

Looking back on K‘Sup Nri‘s story from beginning to end, I am determined to do whatever I can to make sure that women like her are not forgotten. There are hundreds of men imprisoned for their faith around the world today, and many of them have left behind wives and family. This raises some profound questions:
Who are these women?
What are they going through?
What do they face while their husbands are in prison?
Who cares for them and prays for them?

The Lord has kept K‘Sup Nri‘s tears in his bottle. He has seen her hurt and felt her pain. And who are we to judge her desperate actions? But I want to believe that K‘Sup Nri‘s life was not lived in vain. I want the tragic ending of her life to bring forth a new beginning in yours and in mine. I want to know that her death is serving a profound purpose—awakening Christians around the world to the ongoing tragedy of persecuted Christians and inspiring us to respond in prayer and support.

Vietnamese believers praying for one another

Hidden Sorrow Lasting Joy – the forgotten women of the persecuted church
The women of the Persecuted Church are not superwomen. Neither are their husband spiritual supermen. Some seem stronger than others, but all of them have their weak moments. Some remain standing during great pressure. Others give in to temptation.

These women have struggled with painful separation, loss, and uncertainty. They have been ostracized by their culture, left alone to care for fatherless children, and subjected to crushing poverty. Their faith has been stretched to the limit, and yet they have rarely been the subjects of prayer campaigns or human-rights projects. At a time when women’s rights have become a popular cause, these women‘s needs have remained virtually unknown.

“Hidden Sorrow, Lasting Joy” is a tribute to the courageous wives who are often overlooked and forgotten. It is the story of twenty women of courage and endurance, some of the stories do not have happy endings. But all of the stories are true.

*Name changed for security reasons; extracted from the book “Hidden Sorrow, Lasting Joy 
please pray

Father God, thank You for the courage of our persecuted sisters. Thank You that You see them and call out their true value and worth in Christ. Remind them of Your love today, and strengthen and heal them in the midst of their trials. May the testimony of these precious women and girls be a shining beacon in the darkness and draw many to Your light. Amen.

please give
  • Every HK$190 could provide Scripture material to four women, to nurture their faith
  • Every HK$260 could give a Christian woman food to help her family survive for a month
  • Every HK$430 could help a persecuted woman start a small business, giving her financial security
*Any excess funds will be used to strengthen other persecuted Christians where urgent help is needed.