I first noticed the inscription in front of DRIVEN by Betty Pfeiffer that all profits go to Hmong charities. This is a great tribute to the subjects of this book, Payeng Yaj and Shongfue Khang. I also noticed that on the back cover of the book, the pictures of the real Payeng and Shongfue are blurred and the caption reads that their names have been changed as well. Even today, it is possible the two missionaries are still in danger.
Driven is a true story of two Christians who fled from persecution in Laos and then chose to return as missionaries. They are part of the Hmong clan which was persecuted by the Communist government after the Vietnam War, forcing them to flee to Thailand. The book is separated into three parts: Payeng Yaj’s story, Shongfue Khang’s story, and their story together.
The hardships they endured are inspiring. Payeng relates her journey from Laos to Thailand. Many dangers were present, and Payeng’s family underwent many struggles. Unfortunately, life in Thailand refugee camps was not much better than in Laos. Conditions were cramped and unsanitary, and Payeng’s family had arrived too late to receive refugee ID cards, which were required for food. By the end of her section of the book, Payeng has been separated from her family and her husband. Then, Shongfue tells his story of traveling through the jungle to Thailand. God spared Shongfue’s family many times; they were caught, arrested, and sent back to Laos repeatedly but never harmed. They had to cross a lake during a dangerous storm, yet they all survived. Shongfue arrived in Thailand much earlier than Payeng, and their marriage was arranged by their fathers, a Hmong custom.
Once reunited, Payeng and Shongfue prepared for their journey to the United States. Life in America was difficult; they knew no American customs and could not speak English. The author describes their situation best: “Fences of the refugee camps had been replaced by fences of ignorance that seemed almost as insurmountable” (76). Shongfue had longed to be a missionary to the Hmong people in Thailand for most of his life, and the opportunity arose after being in the United States for sixteen years. The couples’ ministry has been blessed by God and is a huge success; they have three congregations with around two hundred members each, Vacation Bible School programs for children, and many other ministries. Even though it is impossible now, Shongfue hopes someday to extend his ministry to Laos.
The story is very well-written and keeps readers interested. I think Driven holds educational value as it reveals little-known aspects of the Vietnam War. I, as probably most readers, did not realize that Laos was involved in the war just as much as Vietnam. The United States government promised to aid the Hmong people in return for their behind-the-scenes work during the war, but this never came into fruition. Instead, the Hmong were persecuted strongly because they aided the United States. Also, the story reminds readers of the struggles of a missionary. Payeng ends the book by reminding readers how God used her and how He can use them as well. I enjoyed this gripping story and recommend it to readers of all ages.
Kathryn Dover lives in South Carolina with her family including her cats, Prince and Harley; dog, Lady; and two fish, Minnie and Gilligan. She is a homeschool student and enjoys math, playing the piano, reading, and writing plays.