Tuesday, November 09, 2004

'Nam Prayer Request

Starting my holiday in Ho Chin Minh City tomorrow.

The last time I was in Vietnam was 2 years ago indulging a hang-over from my pagan past - the selfish desire to travel alone so as not to be inconvenienced by having to be other-person-centred in my decision-making. After more than a week of travelling alone and at other times with fellow-backpackers I'd met along the way, on a cold winter night in Hanoi, when I'd just made a wrong turn in the pelting rain and had gotten myself completely lost, I found myself standing outside what appeared to be a church building. It looked dry and warm inside and it seemed as if a service was starting. I was craving some Christian company (all my fellow-backpackers having been out-and-out pagans who were more interested in new age superstitions) so I gladly went in.

No one spoke English. After many hand-signals, I established that this was a protestant church and was led, purple wet poncho and all, to a front pew and motioned to take a seat. They found a young Christian who used to be a tour guide in Saigon and he sat beside me and translated the sermon for me. I almost wept. It was a faithful sermon. And it was the most heartening thing to see the word of God going out through the world and people from every nation being brought to knowledge of his Son. The warmth of these brothers and sisters whom I'd never met previously is something I'll never forget. In their stilted English and my stilted French (which didn't get very far since only the older generation enjoys that colonial heritage) and with many gestures, we shared how God had worked in each of our lives to save us and bring us into his family.

Since then, I've always made it a point to go to a church on a Sunday even when I travel, not because of any threat of being struck by a heavenly bolt of lightning if I failed to do so, but with eagerness to know how God is working in other nations, other cultures and other people.

I'll be going to Saigon (very much down south of Hanoi) this time round so I won't be able to meet up with the people I got to know originally. Will be bringing in some bibles and bible study material for them and handing these over to their friend in Saigon. Will put some more bibles in backpacker book exchanges in travellers' cafes: bored backpackers on long cheap trips up north in the back of a truck or on board the Reunification Express will read anything. It's a great opportunity to get them reading the word of God.

I understand that foreigners have been arrested, prosecuted and expelled for importing and/or giving out bibles and religious literature (most notably, Christian material). Please pray that for the safe delivery of the package to Hanoi from Saigon and also that these will be of help to them in studying the very word of God and living it out in their lives.



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