Not too long ago I came across this very convicting video. I would consider this to have hit really close to home for me because of my recent journey to the country of Vietnam. The video shows a few Christians having assembled to worship Christ together. You can hear them joyfully singing praises to Christ. Moments later, a swarm of men appear dragging and beating people out of the beauty salon and yelling at these Christians. Reportedly, they were arrested and thrown into jail for their illegal activity.
I remember distinctly as I prepared and obtained all the necessary documentations to enter the country of Vietnam, the pastor mentioning to me, “Be sure not to bring your nicest Bible.” I did not understand the statement fully so I requested for the pastor to explain himself. He began to inform me that it is very likely my Bible may be confiscated during my entry into the country. Vietnam is considered to be a closed country. To be more specific, Vietnam does not allow religious freedom in our definition. Vietnam does not allow unregistered western religions to conduct assemblies. This also includes Bibles and other religious articles.
I connected with a dear pastor friend that I met while he was visiting here in the states. He invited me to visit his ministry and speak to his membership as well as some area pastors. I combined this trip along with a few other stopover countries and ministries, but for many God-ordained reasons, I began to be really excited and nervous about this particular leg of the journey.
The pastor would pick me up everyday in his little scooter. I enjoyed darting around traffic avoiding oncoming cars, pedestrians, and other cyclists. Vietnam, like many other developing Southeast Asian countries has a very unique, fast-pace traffic system that is uncomprehendable to the orderly western method of traffic. Red lights, yield, patience, these are words that are definitely not in their traffic vocabulary. I nearly lost my head by a motorcyclist carrying several 15′ pipes making a wide turn and we were going about 35MPH. It was close! Probably too close!
Church day had arrived, the pastor picked me up just like normal, however, this time, because we were headed to the church, it really was not normal. We sat on the motorcycle for about fifteen minutes Patiently, we waited to allow other members to enter the “house church”. Members were only allowed to enter the building with no more than two people at one time to avoid suspicion from government officials, police, or neighbors. The pastor has had to take extra precaution because he has been in jail before and this is his third building relocation in just a few years. Finally, it was our turn. I was warmly greeted by so many smiles and kind faces. It was obvious that these were Christians who loved the Lord. I spoke a few times to different groups and then spoke to the entire congregation. It was a wonderful experience.
Afterwards, I was humbled when they had a beautiful plague and a donation at the end. To this day, I wish I still had the plaque (it was taken away from Vietnam Customs agents). The plague said, “Pray for Vietnam” with my name on it. I fell in love with this country and it’s people. Despite religious persecution, or should I rephrase that “because of religious persecution,” I strongly believe that God is doing a mighty work. “Matthew 5:11…Blessed are ye , when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.”
I needed to be apart of this special experience. It gave me a greater appreciation for the freedom that we have here in America to freely assemble and worship. This trip also gave me a greater appreciation for the term “persecution”. No longer do I flippantly use the terms, “I’m a martyr”, “I’m being persecuted”. I have a greater understanding of fellow Christian brothers and sisters that are truly paying the price for religion. Having seen and experienced it, I must say that it was a humbling and life-changing adventure.
** Faces have been blurred for obvious reasons. **