Tuesday, November 28, 2017

CP 284 Seven days in Vietnam November 2017

CP 284 Seven days days in Vietnam…
I have a tale to tell, a true story, a typical ‘Fred’ story, but first I must give you a bit of background. By Friday last week I was pretty weary. Flight to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) on Monday, followed by three intense days of teaching Tuesday to Thursday. They were keen for me to visit the churches in Binh Phuoc Province, which is north of Saigon and which has a boundary with Cambodia. So we leave at 5.00am on Friday and start visiting churches at around 8.00am. They follow one after another with reunions and prayer – the visiting Pastor is always asked to pray for the blessing of the church. After that every person present with a prayer need is brought to you for prayer. This is good and tiring. There’s a humble lunch, and then, good news, a rest time is declared. A gift. Brilliant!
I’m shown a mattress on the floor and lie down for a quick nap. And then find myself annoyed because a group of three of four men are having a loud discussion (the only way) outside the window. Eventually I do nod off for about 30 minutes. Someone notices I’m awake and the interpreter tells me they’d like me to come outside. Out I go… and step onto holy ground. Kneeling on the tiles are my Pastor guide and two other men. He’s leading them in a prayer of commitment! These two have been led to Christ while I was asleep, outside ‘my’ window! My eyes see, I comprehend, I’m ashamed, and I’m asked to bless them. And then, privately, I praise my Lord for what has happened and am grateful I have a forgiving Father.
What happened here is not abnormal for our Vietnamese brothers and sisters. They expect conversions. On the following Monday we visited one of the four churches in the vicinity of Long Thanh and Vung Tau. This is an area known to Australian troops during the Vietnam war. In recent years it has become home to numerous factories as Vietnam modernises. It has therefore been an attraction for hundreds, if not thousands of young people who are leaving villages with no future. For their trouble they get to work long hours for little pay 6 days a week. A steady stream of these workers turns up at church gatherings in the evenings and on Sunday. Many are not Christian, but equally many will soon be followers of Jesus Christ. The churches see a field ripe for harvest and expect conversions. It’s amazing and humbling both.
Another occurrence earlier on that same Friday morning. We call on Pastor He’, whose church is deep in the forest just kilometres from the Cambodian border. The poverty is like a physical slap. Pastor He’ lives in a small home, two rooms with a rusty roof. The larger room is the dedicated church room. The stove is a metal frame over a tiny open fire in a back room which is dirt floor and slopes down hill. It is also his bedroom and is open to the elements. His son-in-law and daughter and children have built a lean to at the side for their accomodation. One of the visiting Pastors shows me the family toilet, which is also the church toilet. I look out the back and see nothing except a cleared area. The open land at the back is the toilet… for everyone, family, church and other visitors. I’m shocked, and immediately promise him that money will be sent within the week to build the toilet. I make a note to add a couple of tarpaulins as well.
Again, same day. Pastor Tom is there to meet us at another Pastor’s house. Tom has been at each of the three teaching schools I have run in the past two years. This man supports his family by hunting in the forests. This time was the first time I’d heard him speak. He is shy, but when I gave him an opportunity to share something of insight he did just that. Later, as an aside, I asked these more than thirty men about how far they went at school. Most did not complete primary school. When I asked Pastor Tom he floored me with the news that he had never been in a school classroom. Somehow along the way he had learnt to read and write. He was converted when he was in his thirties and is now the Pastor of a small forest church. I asked him what he needed most. He replied that what he would most like is bibles, 10 bibles. I immediately promised him 15.
And so it goes. The passion of these pastors and churches is something to experience. Their worship is so ‘engaged’ I’m not able to describe it. They are deeply grateful for the Australian pastors who come to Saigon to teach at the Bible Institute.  There will be a graduation in November next year. My own particular role in this is to teach them how to read the scriptures and preach from a Jesus the Christ, grace/faith point of view. Last week most of the time was spent in the Gospel of Matthew with the catechism on the Apostles Creed as well. It’s tiring but I love it. There’s a lot of stuff they do which leaves me humbled. I do what I can do at this time which is teach and bless. The Father’s kingdom comes, his name is honoured, his will is done… all in and through the Lord Jesus Christ and his Holy Spirit.
I haven’t mentioned that this church is blessed with a host of ferocious praying souls… in Jesus name they give the devil a regular kick in the teeth…
There’s more to tell. This is enough for now.

Fred Veerhuis