Vietnam was a mystery to me until I travelled there with John Gilmore and Mark Stevens last November. Mark and I are GMP Board members, and we were travelling with John as he visited the areas in Vietnam partnering with GMP.
My knowledge of Vietnam came from what I had read in history, discussed with Vietnam War veterans, and read in newspapers and other media. I knew it was a communist country, but I wasn’t prepared for the experience of seeing Christianity operating in a communist country.
We arrived in Ho Chi Minh City and met up with Pastor Doan and Fiona Briers (Bright Solutions). Learning of Pastor Doan’s work in supporting the Churches of Christ pastors in Vietnam, and Fiona enabling women to have a better life through life skills and family income generation, was encouraging and challenging. We visited local churches in homes and backyards, even being brought to them surreptitiously. It was good to see Pastor Doan and John encouraging local Christians and their pastors, many of whom did not have formal theological or indeed any training, but have a passion for the gospel and involvement in their local communities, living on very little.
The highlight was a gathering of Churches of Christ pastors forging a way ahead as a group and a movement. Churches of Christ in Vietnam have, I was informed, their roots in Christian military members (particularly from the US) who served there during the Vietnam War.
It was quite challenging to hear the stories of the older pastors who experienced the impact on their lives once communism became the dominant philosophy in Vietnam. There were also younger pastors who had not experienced that, and to see them all join together for the first time and forge a way ahead as a united group was an incredible experience and, to me, a move of God. It was a privilege and a humbling experience to also have some input into their lives and ministries.
We experienced being driven to the meeting location through back streets. On one occasion we had to move next door, as the owner of the place where we were meeting was unhappy because we were foreigners meeting with locals in a group. To sing together, pray together, eat together and to share a testimony together with these pastors was an inspiring experience.
As Chair of the GMP Board it was good to be able to share on behalf of the Churches of Christ in Australia our support for them, for which they were very appreciative.
Vietnam in some ways is no longer a mystery to me. However I am aware I have only seen a small part and only met a few people. Pray for the fledgling Churches of Christ churches there as they work and share together for the gospel in their local communities.
By the way, Vietnam has great food and very tasty coffee!
GMP Board Chair, WA