I was just in Cambodia with Dan Davis speaking at a Conference for pastors at the Compassion of Christ Church in Phnom Penh, the largest church in Cambodia. What a wonderful celebration of life- literally! Everyone one of the 350 Cambodia pastors had lost someone to torture, starvation, forced labor and death from the Khmer Rouge (1975-1995), the communist totalitarian party. Yet today these pastors share the hope of Jesus Christ with everyone, even their old tormentors.
At the same time, 120 Vietnamese pastors journeyed from all over Vietnam to celebrate in the liberty of Jesus at this conference. Although some strides have been made in Vietnam concerning ‘religious liberty’, Christians are still persecuted for the faith, and pastors all the more. Over 300 were coming to this conference but 180 were stopped at the border and not allowed to proceed because a Christian conference is an ‘activity’ considered illegal by the Vietnamese police. In fact while in Cambodia, the Vietnamese police came 60 miles into the country to the hotel where all of these pastor’s were praising the Lord and arrested my translator (a pastor) and took him back to Vietnam. Can you imagine the Royal Mounted Canadian police driving down from Vancouver, British Columbia to Seattle and arresting someone and taking someone back for praying in the United States?? But that’s what these guys did! Then the 119 pastor’s who were left at the conference ALL were arrested on their way back and detained for “participating in illegal activity (worshiping the Lord) outside of Vietnam”. After interrogation and having to pay a ‘fine’, really a bribe, all but three were released but the harassment continues a month later. I just got this from Dr. Paul Ai, leader of Vietnamese Outreach International (paulai.com) who put the conference together (who himself was imprisoned for over 12 years for preaching the Gospel in Vietnam)-
“…Our Brethren when they went back to Vietnam are still in trouble with police. Today police are questioning 3 pastors about their trip to Cambodia, they want to find out the VOI co-ordinator team in Vietnam, who are they? Police want to take away the passports of our pastors who are active for the work of God in Vietnam, so they cannot travel and do the works for Him. Please keep our Brethren in Vietnam in your prayers.”
Dan and I challenged these pastors to reach out to those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS with the love and compassion of Jesus and see them as a new mission “people-group”. Now you should know that all of these pastor’s have been arrested before for preaching the Gospel in Vietnam. Believe or not, that is one of the critieria required to be a pastor in the ‘Underground (illegal) Church’. they know what to expect. And I know that they will reach out to those with HIV and AIDS with an extra sense of love and compassion. But we need to be praying for all of these Pastors’ whose liberty has been so quickly snatched away. Pray for the liberty Christianity in Vietnam that the Gospel of Jesus might be openly shared!
I’ll let you know what happens.