The last week in October and first week in November found me in Vietnam. This was my first trip to this country, but the Barriers in Florence who work with World Evangelism make a trip there every year. People often have misconceptions about various countries, and I was that way about Vietnam. I generally assumed that it would be a country of rice, jungles, and poor housing. However, I was greatly mistaken. Of course, it still had its share of rice, but the country that I saw was very clean and modern. I spent most of my time in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), and this city was a bustling modern city filled with great numbers of motorcycles, since most people rode motorcycles rather than in cars. It was also a city with several parks scattered throughout the city. One large park was just across the street from the hotel in which we stayed part of the time, and many people used the park for daily exercise. Early every morning, numerous people set up badminton nets in the park and played before going about their daily activities. I made two trips outside of the city to other places, and each town was likewise clean with modern buildings and nice housing.
Vietnam is a communist country, but it has also embraced various aspects of capitalism. Religiously, it is primarily Buddhist, but large numbers claim to be either Roman Catholic or CMA (Christian Missionary Alliance), which is basically a combination of all Protestant denominations. There are also many groups called house churches, which are small independent assemblies that meet in various homes. The church would be part of this group. Many of these small groups are sincere believers but basically ignorant of the Bible, thus they need to be taught about the true church. There are many groups such as these scattered throughout the country. My perception of the church has certainly changed as I had thought that it would be basically non-existent in Vietnam, but surprisingly many small groups are meeting throughout the country.
The method that is being utilized to teach and ground the church is to invite groups of people, both Christians and non-Christians, to a training session spread over 2-3 days. Everyone stays in a hotel, and we meet in a room in the same hotel. This is necessary due to the government situation. The translator we used was a young Vietnamese man who is currently studying in a Bible school in Singapore. He said that Christian groups can meet in homes with no problem. The problem is that we as Americans are forbidden to meet with them. Thus, we stay and meet in hotels in order to avoid the appearance of foreigners meeting and teaching the native brethren. The rooms were alwayscrowded, and the people sat on the beds and floor as they listened. The time we had was well utilized. We would start classes about 8:00 am and teach until 12:00, take a couple of hours break, meet again until about 5:00, and after the evening meal, meet again for a couple of hours. Many questions were asked, and it was a challenge to be prepared to answer those questions. During my time in Vietnam, I was able to meet with three separate groups.
One interesting story concerned a family living in the city of DaNang, a good distance north of Ho Chi Minh city. The husband was an American Christian running a bed and breakfast in that city. He graduated from Sunset International Bible Institute in Lubbock, TX many years ago, and had been living and working in Vietnam for several years. He had married a Vietnamese woman about 12 years ago and they had two children. He had been teaching his wife, but she had never been baptized. It was necessary for them to come to Ho Chi Minh in order to solve some kind of Visa problem, and he and his family worshipped with us on the first Sunday I was there. They were still there on the following Saturday night, and then we found out that his wife had just been baptized. Naturally, he was overjoyed, yet also somewhat perplexed. He had been teaching her for many years without success, and she waited until then to respond. One must never give up on other people, because we never know when their hearts might soften.
Recap of 2014
At the end of the year we always enjoy summarizing what was done during the year. It is usually surprising when everything is added together. Five weekly TV programs were added in 2014. One 30 minute weekly program was added in Hindi, and Thang Lien arranged for four local 1-hour weekly programs in Manipur. TV programs are a great benefit to the work in India, since it is home to such a huge number of people. Through TV, literally millions upon millions of people have access to hearing the gospel preached every week, and many contacts are gained through these programs.
We also started a Bible school with Arjunan designed to further teach those who are not able to attend a full-time Bible school. Twelve students are currently enrolled, but many more are wanting to join in the spring. The J C School of Evangelism had two graduations, one in Orissa and one in Tamil Nadu, totaling 43 graduates. World Evangelism has also assumed the support of the North India Bible College in Chandigarh, India, because it lost support in January.
Both of us traveled together during the Spring and Fall and taught and visited with those associated with World Evangelism. Jerry made a total of four overseas trips in 2014 which included teaching at five schools associated with Bear Valley. Included in these trips were schools in Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania, Nepal, and India. Combined with the teaching was also some discussion regarding the distribution of the Voice of Truth. Literature and schools work well together, since many times students help with the distribution of the books. Schools often send their students out on evangelistic campaigns and literature is a great help in this regard as well. We have begun printing the Voice of Truth in Nigeria, and shipped it in bulk to Ghana and Tanzania for them to distribute. It is working well in Ghana, but not so well in Tanzania, so we will have to do some thinking and discussion about how to best distribute in that area.
We made three trips to the Dallas area delivering literature to be sent on containers to various countries in Africa. This comprised nearly 6,000 pounds of literature. Much of this literature we picked up as we visited our supporting congregations. In addition, numerous people came by the office and picked up literature to take with them on mission trips. We continue to also ship the Voice of Truth and other books by regular shipping throughout the year.