Memories of a Memorable Trip: A live Church in Action
I have just spent 10 amazing days ministering in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Vietnam, ELCV. I did this through Asia Focus Australia. How privileged I was that I was asked. I heard the call of God in that invitation and went.
On arrival at the Ho Chi Min City airport I was met by the most serious looking Customs Officers the Communist state could provide at 1am in the morning. This was followed by a warm welcome of heartfelt smiles by church leaders. What a contrast!
After some rest, the next three days were spent in teaching, mainly on 1 Peter. I tried hard to really stress the Gospel (the Good News!) and pastors seemed to appreciate this, and often cheered me on. They appreciated it when I shared from my own experiences, or told stories to illustrate the teaching of 1 Peter. Over forty pastors and wives were present. Many pastors’ wives are also ‘pastors’ [not ordained] and lead equally in worship and in preaching and praying. After lunch each day they lay on the floor and slept. Sleeping on a hard floor was beyond me!
On the Sunday I got up at 4am for the three hour drive to a Lutheran orphanage to preach to those present. 100 children sang their hearts out to Jesus in the loudest singing I have ever heard. With helpers, a few parents, and local people up to 150 had gathered. I spoke to them about how precious they are to Jesus. They love Jesus so much. No child, even the smallest one, was bored in worship! The orphanage is run by Pastor Nhon and his family. He is the leader of the ELCV. Never have I seen so much love and dedication. I saw saints and angels working at the orphanage. Their hospitality was amazing.
On Sunday afternoon we drove back to HCM City. We took back with us two sisters whose children are in the orphanage. They’ve both been abused by husbands, and their children needed to be removed for their safety. I was able to witness to one mother on the way back, and she was very responsive and moved to tears by the love of Jesus for her. At night I preached at Pastor Kinh’s house church. About 35 people gathered in the top floor of his home. I preached on how precious Jesus is to us, and how our relationship with him is like a marriage and only Jesus can satisfy our deepest longings. Many of those present were youth and single. At the end of the service many people came forward for prayer for health issues, for relationship issues, and for the heavy burdens they have to carry at work. Many have to work very hard and long hours. O got to bed at about 11pm after a very long and tiring, but most amazing and inspiring day – one of the best of my life.
On Monday afternoon we drove the 3 hours back to the orphanage. It is not much more than 100 kms, but it is almost all city traffic at 30-40 kms per hour. At their evening service I had been asked to encourage the children for the future God was calling them to. I told them about Joseph and how God raised him up, and how God worked through Dr Ben Carson in USA. At the end of the service up to 50 of the children came forward for prayer about their future. Many of them want to be pastors, doctors, teachers, worship leaders, evangelists. Some asked to be humble servants and some to be granted wisdom. These children were 10-12. This just blew me away. Such Godliness! Such desire to serve God! This really humbled and inspired me.
We spent the night at the orphanage, and next day went on our way visiting pastors in their homes/house churches and praying for and with them. Many have been in prison for their faith. I noticed there is a great joy shared between the pastors. I asked one pastor how long he’d been a Lutheran and why. He said he became a Lutheran 3 years ago because he was tired of the legalism in his previous church. We spent the night at the resort city of Vung Tau, and even had a swim, and on Wednesday headed back to HCM City.
I was inspired by the prayers of these people. Pastor Kinh and his wife rise at 4am every day to pray for the needs of the church. I know they were also praying for me, and I also know you were, and I thank you for it. I was reminded that prayer is not preparing for the work of the Church. Prayer IS the work of the Church.
The needs of the church are great. The Government says the orphanage cannot worship in the orphanage and so they have begun building a separate chapel. But they have very little money for it. Pastor Kinh has little money but he needs a car to help move people around. Most people drive motor bikes, and one of the miracles of my trip is that I was not run over by one. HCM City is the city of 10 million motorbikes!
All through my time there people asked me to come back, and bring Joy along as well. That is a challenge to work through. I have come back grateful to God for blessing me so much through this trip, and I trust blessing the people of ELCV. Thanks for your prayers and financial support, and as you can tell there is a need for more. God has placed Vietnam in my heart and in my prayers. Glory be to God.
Pastor David Christian, Adelaide