Thursday, April 12, 2012

Vietnam Update

The Future Is Bright!

Dear Partners,

 I had to make a quick pre-planned trip back to Vietnam in order to interview a few more perspective students who want to attend our Bible school (ACTS) next year in Manila, Philippines. I had the privilege of meeting with several young people who were recommended by my Vietnamese pastor friends. The challenge is finding people with good English schools. Another obstacle is being able to pull them away from obligations to their local churches or families. One young lady rode her pedal bicycle, through Saigon's heavy traffic, for over an hour and a half for her interview. One young man was willing to leave his young wife and recently newborn baby to attend. Of course, we couldn't accept that.

Vietnamese young people -- the hope of Vietnam! Training the next generation!
The highlight of my short trip was attending for the first time a newly-formed home church that has been in existence for only 1 1/2 years, and it is filled with college and young married couples. (See picture above) There were over 45 in attendance. As I sat on the front row, waiting to be introduced, I marveled at what the Lord is doing with the younger generation in this nations. I took in my surrounding:

From my front row seat, I couldn't help but notice the keyboard player's toes as they stuck out from his sandals. He had been born with seven toes on each foot, but had two toes removed from each foot leaving small stubs. My eyes turned to the wall on my right, and I saw an elaborate chart that challenged the congregation to reach the lost. They had an up-to-date P.A. system, a projector for power point, several instruments and praise singers with microphones. As my eyes continued to circle the room, I saw a nicely dressed congregation standing with their hands lifted up, lost in worship. And each had a nice looking chair to sit on during the service.

This was a far cry from what I experienced nineteen years ago when I first started visiting churches. Back then, you had to sneak in through back doors, sometimes in the dark of the early morning or after the sunset. People sat on floors, shared pages of Bibles torn from the one fortunate person who actually had a whole one, and sang with acoustic guitars with missing strings. We spoke in hushed tones, sang quietly and had lookouts at each door and window.

Having Church the Old Way -- 1994!

The above picture was taken in Da Nang, Vietnam back in 1994 when we had church on a deserted beach in order to feel safe. If someone suspicious showed up, we acted like we were having a picnic.  The pastor on the far right died at an early age with lung disease. He was ready to meet the Lord! (That's me with the dark blue jacket.)
Having a Seminar the Old Way -- 1994

This picture was taken in a wooded park in Hai Phong, Vietnam in 1994. This church pastor felt safe by having me teach a seminar practically in the jungle. The funny thing was we did have a government official approach us during the study, so we cut our seminar short.  The agent had us followed which resulted in a chase. My interpreter's motorcycle crashed, and he was hurt.
 Today the whole nation has been transformed. Gone are the old, rickety Russian-made motorcycles, cars and airplanes. Welcome Japan, Korea, the United States, and a score of other nation's expertise, goods and services. Gone are the old hotels. They have been replaced by thousands of newly constructed and economically priced structures. Restaurants abound everywhere, and tens of thousands of tourists land at brand new airports throughout the country. And thank God, gone are the mean-looking men and women dressed in drab green government-issued uniforms, roaming the streets and keeping a watchful eye on everyone.

Vietnam is definitely on the up-and-up and progressing economically. Unfortunately, there is still only about 3% of the local population claiming fundamental Christianity. But after observing this youthful group enjoying Jesus, my faith soared. As young David picked up five stones to take on Goliath, God is raising up an army of Davids to break the backs of Buddhism and ancestor-worship--thus, the need to find and train new national leaders and hopefully the five-fold ministry. We have secured sponsors for two students to attend Bible school thus far. But three more students are in need of sponsors. If you would like to help sponsor a student, host a seminar, or help us continue our ministry to Asia/Pacific, it would be greatly appreciated.

We will be home for 2 1/2 months starting April 15 and returning July 4 to Manila for the start of a new school. If you would like us to visit your church while we are home, we will do our best to accommodate you.

John & Deborah Wolfram

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