Everyone in Tuan’s* village in Vietnam sacrificed to the spirits and gods of their ancestors, but at a friend’s house in a village a four-hour walk away, he heard the gospel and put his faith in Christ.
Upon his return, the young man from the Pa Then ethnic people told no one outside his immediate family, and they warned him to make sure he did not utter Jesus’ name outside their thatched-roof dwelling. They did not want him talking about foreign gods in their own home, either – until they realized the wages of their sin was indeed death as he had told them, and that Christ’s death and resurrection was their only hope of eternal life, the leader of a native ministry said.
Although Tuan had learned about Christ from a friend who was a native Hmong missionary in a predominantly Hmong village, the message of union with the one true God through Christ crossed ethnic lines, and soon other relatives heard and believed. Together they began walking the four hours to the Hmong village every Sunday for worship.
After one year of discipleship under the native missionary in the Hmong village, they had learned how to pray, worship and preach in Sunday services and began worshipping in their own village home, the ministry leader said. It was not long before police officers showed up.
“The policemen came and said, ‘The Pa Then people have not believed in God for a long time, so you cannot become Christians,’” the ministry leader said. “But the Christian family said, ‘The Hmong people and Lu Mien people have believed in God for such a long time. So why can we Pa Then not believe in God?’ The policemen said, ‘You can believe in God, but you cannot gather to worship the Lord in your house.’”
Tuan’s church continued to grow, however, and before long 121 Pa Then villagers were meeting in his home. Police arrested Tuan several times.
“And he was beaten repeatedly many times,” the leader said. “But God had give him spiritual power, so that he was very faithful and continous to serve God.”
Word about the church spread, and Pa Then residents from a neighboring village came to ask about Christ, he said. In time 98 of them put their faith in Christ, and now there are two Pa Then house churches in the (undislosed) district.
“And there are four young men who offered their life to God, and they are studying in the Bible school,” the leader said. “Halleluja.”
Obstacles to the gospel persist in Vietnam.
The country’s 2004 New Ordinance on Religion and Belief confirms the right to freedom of belief and religion but warns that any religious practice that undermines peace, independence and unity is illegal – and that religious activities can be suspended if they negatively affect cultural traditions.
The native ministry, which works in 19 provinces of Vietnam, undertakes various kinds of outreach in a country where 45 percent of the population practices animistic folk religions like those of the Pa Then, according to official records.
The next largest religion in Vietnam is Buddhism, officially 12.2 percent of the population, though Joshua Project arrives at a figure of 51.6 percent, presumably by counting animists whose traditional religions are heavily influenced by Buddhism. Joshua Project lists evangelicals as 2.9 percent of the population, with “Christian adherents,” mostly Roman Catholic, at 10.1 percent.
Nearly 9 percent of Vietnam’s population is unreached, according to the Joshua Project, and the native ministry sent 12 native missionaries to six unreached people groups in Vietnam over a six month-span this year, leading to 50 people putting their faith in Christ, the leader said. Among them was a Tai Lue family of four who came to faith after native missionaries had worked among their people for four years, he said.
The greatest opposition from police seemed to come among unreached peoples.
“When the missionaries went to share the gospel with unreached people groups, if there were new believers, the policemen quickly came and asked them many questions,” the leader said. “There were many problems with new believers among the unreached people groups.”
An extensive educational and training program enabled the ministry to equip 1,690 pastors and other workers earlier this year who helped lead 1,150 people to faith in Christ, nearly all of them from ethnic minority groups, he said.
Workers face other obstacles. Almost all unreached peoples live near the borders with China or Laos, areas where crime is rife, and border security officials often restrict access to native missionaries, he said. At the same time, he added, many tribal people are unreached for physical reasons; they live in high mountain areas without roads or even paths.
“There’s nothing there for cars or motocycles, so everyone has to walk and climb,” the leader said.
Native missionaries are overcoming such barriers throughout Vietnam and Southeast Asia. Please consider a donation today to provide the tools and resources they need to make hard-won disciples of Christ.
*Name changed for security reasons