Pastor Neville Mirtschin has now completed a 2 month teaching mission in Vietnam for AFA. Neville is from Queensland, a graduate from Concordia Seminary in Adelaide, but serves the Lutheran Church in Canada. What happened in Vietnam was breathtaking, hair raising, intimidating, nerve wrecking, dramatic. But it was also wonderful!
Paul puts it this way: In every way we’re troubled but not crushed, frustrated but not in despair, persecuted but not abandoned, struck down but not destroyed. We are always carrying around the death of Jesus in our bodies, so that the life of Jesus may be clearly shown in our bodies. While we are alive, we are constantly being handed over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be clearly shown in our mortal bodies. 2 Cor. 4, 8-11 (ISV) This sums it up!
After a promising start, disaster struck! Or so it seemed. Plans were to crisscross Vietnam from north to south teaching the Word of God and spreading the love of Jesus. In one province the police lay in wait, broke up the seminar that involved 40 people, interrogated Neville for hours, then took his passport away and fined him more than $1,000 dollars. High alarm! Emergency! Sleepless nights in Canada, Australia and Vietnam. We discussed how to get him out of the country within days before things got worse. Fortunately the worst was averted and after tension-filled days and house arrest he was allowed to stay. But the fine had to be paid in full!
What had he done? What crime had he committed? He was charged with: speaking to the people about God, spreading Christian religion, violating his visa!
No one was more upset than our Vietnamese friends themselves who had prepared everything as legally and openly as possible. They are law abiding citizens, as innocent as doves but also as wise as serpents. Said one of our pastors, May the whole world know what’s happening here, what daily intimidation we have to live with. In many regions of Vietnam the law of the jungle reigns. Some places in Vietnam are safe and we can even be friends with police and government officials but in other places it’s still full blown persecution.
Visibly shaken, from then on Pastor Neville always looked over his shoulder to see whether someone was following him. And invisible eyes followed him to the day he left – right to the departure lounge of his flight out of Vietnam. A man in green uniform sat himself in front of him – not saying a word, just watching him. Just before boarding the plane he disappeared. What a relief when the plane had taken off! Safe at last!
Meeting people, re-arranging seminars after the first mega-incident was a cat-and-mouse game: plans changed many times in the last minute, no firm schedule possible, living by faith, at times a logistic nightmare – in one way, a spy thriller. We read in a report, we have just received news that it was not safe for Neville's lessons to be conducted at ... That was why we instantly had to change it to ... [a totally different area]. Thank God that we found a safe place for studies in a small church in a side street. We quickly arranged for a 30-seater bus for our brothers and sisters from ... to come here for studies. Some had to travel up to 20 hours to come to this inconvenient new location! We heard that some got quite sick on the trip. Thank God for His people's ardent desire for His Word! Neville's teaching was so powerful and encouraging for all the people.
Neville taught, in all, more than 200 congregational leaders and pastors. He made an impact. He did not evangelize as is forbidden by law, just taught the Faith, which is legal.