By Scott Griswold
In Vietnam there is a bustling city that has a very high commitment to Buddhism. There is a young man sharing the Gospel fulltime in that city as an ASAP-sponsored church planter and youth evangelist. To protect his identity we’ll call him Dinh*, which means palace, since he’s working near an ancient palace preparing people for the heavenly palace.
Dinh grew up in the midst of idols, images of Buddha, and ancestor worship. In his heart he knew what was right because his parents were backslidden Seventh-day Adventists. Through the influence of the Peace and Happiness radio program, Dinh began Bible studies through Skype. He decided to give his life entirely to Jesus.
Now Dinh is teaching others on the phone, in person, and especially at home. His mother and brother are eagerly relearning the truths about Jesus’ soon coming and the depths of His salvation.
What is it like to witness in that Buddhist city? Dinh described the religious culture of the people as being “in every cell of their body”. Many are farmers but are not living in poverty. They are surrounded by centuries old tradition and find it difficult to consider something new.
Besides the apparent lack of openness there are times of persecution. About a year ago, Dinh went with his wife to another city. They visited a family who had a secret house-church in their home. The government of Vietnam has passed certain laws that appear to provide religious freedom. At the same time they have increased the specific requirements for religious activities, making it difficult especially for house churches. Some see this as a move from attack to control.
While Dinh was worshipping with the family, a crowd gathered outside with a megaphone. They began yelling, “You cannot gather like this. Your religion is illegal and bad.” The church members stopped singing and sat quietly praying. They were relieved when the crowd went away and immediately began to worship again.
In a short time, the crowd was back. This time they marched right in through the house. One man hit the jaw a member who was praying. Another was hit in the back of his head. Dinh also felt the sting as he was slapped.
The crowd seemed to be trying to get them to fight with the hopes they would be arrested for causing problems. No one in the church fought back. Where had the crowd come from? Was the government using other people to intimidate them? The members slipped away to their homes and privately prayed for their persecutors. Time passed and bad things started happening to the persecutors, demonstrating to some the justice of worshipping according to one’s conscience.
Dinh returned to his city with a determination to share the gospel more effectively. He knows that he is offering people the greatest treasures anyone could find.
Pastor Isah reports that the various Peace and Happiness groups and churches continue to grow. Some are small with 10–15 people. Others have more than 200 attending. Church members continue to watch developments in the government, thankful for the decrease in overt persecution, but longing for greater freedom to worship as they choose.
Asia Times reported on April 8, 2016 that in the last six months some reform-minded Vietnamese leaders have been replaced by those who are more committed to the Marxist-Leninist principles (the communist status quo). They fear a return to increased persecution as has been seen in China with the forced removal of hundreds of crosses and the closing of many house-churches.
Another gospel worker who we call Trong* has fasted and prayed his way through many years of persecution. Though his last five years have been more peaceful, he carefully prays and calculates where to go each day to avoid unnecessary problems. This doesn’t stop his eagerness to share the gospel, even with interrogators.
Recently a new inspector named Den came to examine a local house church. A leader under Trong’s supervision actually offered a DVD sermon by Pastor Isah to the inspector. He listened to it carefully, reported that he found nothing irregular or against the government, and started attending church himself!
Den’s superior found out about it and threatened to cut off his retirement pay. Trong studied the Bible with him earnestly, twice a week, plus more on the weekend. Den continues to stand strong. Truly the gospel continues to move forward powerfully, one-by-one in the face of many challenges. May God continue to bless you to support these workers with your prayers and gifts. May their courage be ours.