I’m not sure exactly what I expected to find during my first trip to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam at the beginning of January. But, what I actually did find was… MORE!
I expected to find sisters and brothers in Jesus Christ, dedicated to serving the Lord in their unique setting. What I found was the stomping, shouting exuberance of people who are passionate about their faith and excited about their future!
I expected to find pastors looking for help in developing their gifts and skills. What I found was a community of “Bereans,” eager to search the Scriptures for greater insight into God’s truth.
I expected to find committed leaders guiding the fellowship known as the Baptist Churches of Vietnam (BCV). What I found were selfless servants, gracious hosts and dedicated men and women of God.
I expected to find a people and a city still marked by decades of war and a centralized approach to economic development. What I found was a booming, bustling metropolis with a highly energetic and mobile (mostly on small Honda motorbikes!!) population of incredibly warm, gracious people.
I expected to find God at work… and that is EXACTLY what I found! The BCV grew out of initial work by Southern Baptist missionaries, who planted great gospel seeds and left a solid legacy. During the difficult years after 1975, courageous Vietnamese Baptists continued to serve the Lord faithfully, but mostly invisibly, as a non-recognized house church movement. Over the last few years, and especially since October 2007, the government of Vietnam—using only its simple human, secular standards—has increasingly recognized that something very solid is happening with the Baptist movement. So, the government is pursuing a year-long process of granting official recognition to the BCV as a legitimate Vietnamese religious body.The veteran leaders of the house church movement are praising God and excitedly preparing to extend their ministries into the public arena. Just one example: for the first time since 1975, the BCV was able to get government permission tohold a public worship service in Ho Chi Minh City’s central park this Christmas. Over 12,000 people attended the service on December 19th. That night, some 1,500 committed their lives tofollowing Jesus Christ! No wonder BCV leaders are excited about all the ministry avenues that will open up to them as full recognition is achieved!
The BCV has invited International Ministries (IM) to play a strategic role in the current transformation. IM is helping BCV provide important coordination and training to the leaders of its 409 congregations. As part of the recognition process, BCV needs to hold several national-level training sessions for those leaders between now and August 2008. It costs IM about $7,000 to enable the BCV to produce a single session. If the Lord prompts you to help make this strategic effort succeed, please contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or IM’s area director for Vietnam, Stan Murray (Stan.Murray@abc-usa.org) as soon as possible.
With God’s guidance and your support, the Baptist leaders who have been working for over 20 years to win government recognition will truly experience 2008 as a Chúc Mùng Nam Mói… Happy New Year!!
Global Consultant for Theological Education