Vietnam - The Cost of Following Jesus
This article featured in Frontline Faith Magazine - Building The Local Church, click here to read.
I met Tim* on the ground in Vietnam. He had travelled 1,000km just to be with us. He, his wife, and his 12 year old son can’t return to their village because there is a bounty on Tim’s head.
An Underground Church
There’s only five communist countries left in the world, and Vietnam is one of them. Rural village tribes worship spirits but Christianity is nationally condemned.
The church is an underground church. Talking to Tim, it quickly became clear why the church needed to be so hidden.
When he began sharing his testimony, he started to cry. Tim had to stop to gather his emotions, his interpreters’ eyes were also filled with tears.
Tim was the very first Christian in his village. In July 2015, he was on his way to the markets to sell a pig when he met a pastor and was invited to church.
It was the first time he had heard the gospel and Tim accepted the Lord as his Saviour.
He was quick to tell others about Jesus, and six families gave their lives to Christ. But Tim’s village was driven by a fear of spirits, and each day they would offer sacrifices to appease them. The villagers noticed Tim had changed when he stopped offering sacrifices and stopped getting drunk as was customary after a sacrifice. They begged Tim to deny Jesus in fear of what might happen. When he refused to join in, the persecution began.
The Cost Of Following Jesus
Tim was quickly identified as the Christian ‘leader’ in the village, because he was the first to convert to Christianity.
He was dragged out of his house in front of the village and told to renounce his faith to an audience of 100 people. He refused, so he received the same treatment every night for a week. But even in front of an angry crowd, with villages yelling and hurling insults at him, he refused to renounce his faith in Jesus Christ.
Three times they poured sand into the petrol tank of his scooter, which was his only way to get into town for income.
They then slashed the hamstrings of his cows, killed his two dogs, cut up his crops, burned his grass, confiscated his field, beat his family and destroyed his house. The villages took his only pig and sacrificed it to the spirits. They left him without any source of income and under constant pressure.
One night they threw large stones through the roof of his home. They landed just centimetres away from Tim, his wife and son. They escaped just in time.
Image: A Vietnamese street scene
Forced To Flee
Right now Tim, his wife and his son live in temporary accommodation because they have nothing. Tim can no longer return to his home village because of the bounty on his head.
The authorities have said, “We must kill the leader so that the rest will lose their faith.”
“I always pray for the people who came and beat me, my wife and my son. They don’t know about God and God is a heart changing God,” Tim said.
Another believer from the village had travelled with Tim to meet us. The villagers had beaten him with bamboo rods and only stopped when they thought they’d killed him. It had been a month since the attack, and his teeth were still loose.
When Open Doors offered to relocate him, he refused.
“Who will tell them the gospel?” he asked.
A Simple Response
They’d barely heard much of the Bible, and because they were illiterate they’d never been able to read it for themselves.
When we asked them how and why they continued to hold on, their response left us lost for words.
“We don’t give up because we know Jesus, and he is coming back soon,” Tim said.
“Because the Lord is gentle. He is not like the other gods we used to worship,” said Tim’s friend.
Image: Church meeting in Vietnam
Violence in Vietnam is increasing. In 2016, three Christians were killed and 35 churches were attacked. Pastors and believers were abducted, while others had their land confiscated. Please pray for the church in Vietnam.
“At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:25-30
*Name changed for security purposes
This article featured in Frontline Faith Magazine - Building The Local Church.