‘They dragged me out of my village’: A story of horror and hope in Vietnam

November 1, 2019 by Christopher Summers in Stories of Persecution

As the truck bounced wildly, the hills around us were on fire.

 

“Why is there so much smoke?” I asked the driver, Pastor Thang*, an Open Doors partner.

 

“They are cutting down trees and then burning what’s left,” he told me. Pastor Thang explained that it was common in this undisclosed part of Vietnam for farmers and loggers to illegally use “slash-and-burn” techniques—cutting down all the trees, then setting fire to the remaining ground cover to produce a layer of ash that makes the ground fertile for crops.

 

We were on a road that didn’t seem to end or have any rhyme or reason—we’d taken a series of turns, and had long passed the point of paved roads. I was with an Open Doors team to meet and talk with believers in Vietnam who had experienced unthinkable persecution.

As my stomach gurgled, already queasy from the lurching truck and made queasier by the black smoke that seemed to engulf the blue sky, I thought about the people we were going to talk to. I knew they were persecuted Christians. And I knew there were hard stories in Vietnam. But I didn’t know how hard their stories were—or how even the smallest help from Open Doors’ partners has made such a huge difference.

We came to the end of the dirt road, on the edge of a small village made up of a small cluster of houses, mostly built from wooden slats and concrete floors. The only signs of technology were the satellite dishes dotting the houses lining the street. Chickens wandered between the houses, and a friendly dog walked up and down the street.

We walked into a small building with a tile floor—a small church, with a cross on the wall, a simple pulpit with artificial flowers on the front, and a small print of the 10 Commandments written in Vietnamese. A group of local believers were there to greet us—they all belonged to a local ethnic tribe, and their village was mostly made up of people from that tribe.

We sat on the floor with the local Christians, Pastor Thang and the Open Doors team. We prayed and then we began to hear their stories.

Each person who shared had their own story of how much they had gone through simply because they follow Jesus. Their stories were sobering—beaten, chased from their homes, and forced to listen to their families renounce them.

But the one that got to me was Y Bi’s story.

‘They dragged me out of my village’

Y Bi hasn’t always lived in the village I visited. Until recently, she lived in a traditional village with her husband and children.

Pray for Christians in Vietnam

Christians in Vietnam face a variety of pressures—but by God's grace, we can stand with them in prayer! Here are some ways you can pray, today:

- Pray for protection for church leaders and evangelists who face persecution from both their family and state authorities.
- Pray with ethnic minority believers, as they often experience strong oppression from their communities—persecution that's often backed up with government power. Pray they would be safe.
- Pray for a loosening of restrictions and increased freedom.

She became a Christian some time ago, when she saw how different Christians were from other people. For Y Bi to accept Christ meant that, in the eyes of her community, she was betraying her tribe and ethnicity. By worshiping Jesus instead of her ancestors or animistic gods, she was immediately a target for her village. Even more tragically: She was also a target for rejection from her family.

That was when Y Bi started to cry.

“There was a day in 2018; it was in the morning and I was cooking the rice to prepare the [morning] meal,” Y Bi remembers. “The people from the village came in and took the furniture out of the house so they could demolish the house.”

After discovering her faith, the villagers had come to Y Bi’s house to destroy it and to kick her out of the village. Her faith in Jesus meant she was no longer welcome in her home, and that the community and tribe no longer considered her one of their own.

It also meant her husband no longer believed her worthy to be his wife or the mother of their children.

“The village gave me money to move; and I said ‘no,’” Y Bi remembers, tears flowing freely. “They pulled my hair and they dragged me out of the village. My child was crying; they took her so she could not see me.” She tells the story in a soft voice. The images are stark: A child, screaming for her mother, dragged away as Y Bi is pulled from her home, loudly arguing with the other villagers.

These are images that transcend any cultural divide—these are images of a mother and child being ripped apart, a pain any parent would do anything to stop. I thought of my own young kids. What would they do if they saw me or my wife, being pulled out of our home as they watched?

The pain is unimaginable.

“[The villagers] said they did it because I followed Christ and also because when I followed Christ I was different than the other people, so they cast me out,” she says. “The police came over to stop the fighting, and they asked me to come to a new village.

“I didn’t want to go with [the police]; I told them my husband and child were in the village and I didn’t want to leave,” she says. “Because I insisted [I would] not go out, the police tied my legs up and put me on the back of a motorbike and drove me out of the village. I jumped off the bike—and the police told me I would be killed and should wait for them to solve the problem.”

The tears continue as Y Bi remembers that trip—tied up on the back of a motorcycle, cut off from her tribe and from her family, listening to the screams of her daughter fade into the distance. She chose Jesus, and following Christ has cost her everything.

Support and maybe even a little hope

After she was taken out of her village, Y Bi was taken to a community of Christians—where her sister lives. Y Bi’s sister is also a Christian, and she had come to this small community made up of other Christians who had been forced from their homes after deciding to follow Jesus.

Will you help projects like these continue?

Projects like the one that provided help to buy land for Y Bi happen because of people just like you—people who are inspired to give to their sisters and brothers who risk everything to follow Jesus. Right now, Open Doors needs $1,805,029 before the end of the year to bring projects like these—all over the world!—to completion.

We need your help to meet these needs! Will you help?

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In this village, through Open Doors’ support through Pastor Thang, Y Bi began to rebuild—and grow in her faith. “When we got to know about sister Y Bi, we tried to connect with her to pray with her and to support her within our ability,” Pastor Thang says. “We tried to connect with [Open Doors] so we can help her more. I myself have seven children. Sister Y Bi is just like my daughter. And so, I can care for her.”

Y Bi now has a Bible and is learning about the stories of Jesus. “My sister had a Bible that was a gift to me,” she says. “I love the stories in the books of Matthew, Mark and Luke. Because in these three books are the words from Jesus directly. I see that the Bible is the Word of God. It teaches us how to become like Him, so that’s why it’s very important to me.”

Through the support of Open Doors, Y Bi was able to buy some land where she could build a new home. “It is because of Pastor Thang [through Open Doors] so now I can have a place of land to prepare for a new house,” she says. “When I heard I would get land to build a house, I was very grateful to the pastor.” She still needs to complete a house on the new land, but she is excited to have the plot of land secured.

What the Church looks like

Y Bi’s story was hard to hear. And it stuck with me, through my own tears. But I was also proud that Open Doors had been able to help. Even though it hasn’t fixed everything, at least Y Bi will soon have a place to call home.

I also realized that this is what Open Doors is called to do around the world and is doing so in a tangible way: support Christians who are attacked and threatened for their faith. There are millions of believers just like Y Bi—and it’s the mission of Open Doors to help each one of them see the hope of Jesus even in the midst of the worst persecution.

It put a new face on things that seem uncomfortable sometimes—like asking for donations. But I realized that when we’re asking for your financial help or asking you to give to Open Doors, it’s because of projects like the one that helped Y Bi buy some land, and learn how to read her Bible. Open Doors projects provide training for pastors like Pastor Thang, who then carries the gospel into villages like the one where Y Bi lives. Open Doors sponsors secret Bible schools in the region; helps print Bibles that are carried throughout Vietnam; and provides help to believers who are imprisoned.

And Open Doors projects like these are happening all over the world, every day.

Download the World Watch List report on Vietnam

Y Bi is not alone in being persecuted in Vietnam. That’s why it’s No. 20 on the World Watch List, the annual list from World Watch List. Christians risk arrest, imprisonment, persecution from family and friends and more in Vietnam.

Visit the Vietnam country page to find out how you can pray, and download the country page today!

Download now

Visiting Y Bi’s village and hearing her story reminded me of the immensity of persecution against Christians. As she told her story through tears, I thought of my own family, my own community, my own church. And I realized, yet again, that we are all part of God’s family—that pain, and that love, and the hope of Jesus transcends any cultural or language barrier. Open Doors gets to be part of that.

That’s why we ask for your prayers and for your financial support. Simply put, we can’t do the projects we trust God has laid on our hearts—projects that help believers like Y Bi—without those gifts. We try to be good stewards with the help that you so faithfully give, which is why we carefully listen to the needs of the local church in every culture and society around the world. And then we humbly ask you to help!

Right now, we have lots of projects left that need additional funds. Things like secret Bible schools, trauma care for believers who are attacked, Bible printing and distribution, and more. There is so much need and so many Christians who have similar stories to Y Bi—each one heartbreaking in its own way. Will you prayerfully consider a gift today, to help us make sure we can complete the projects that we believe will effectively equip God’s people living in the hardest places?

‘I pray for you’

As for Yi Bi, she is thankful for the prayers and gifts of Open Doors supporters. “I would like to say thank you to those brothers and sisters,” she says. “We don’t have the same father and mother, but I know about you because of your support; I pray for you and your job and your family.”

As she ended her story and her tears began to dry, she even allows herself to think about the future. She will not be over her trauma today or tomorrow or even a year from now. But she has found a new community, one that has helped her see the hope of Jesus. And God has given her the gift of letting His joy give her hope.

“My first prayer request is that I can complete a house so I can have my own house,” she says, when asked how Christians around the world can pray for her. “I was thinking about that maybe one day I can cook in the kitchen of my new house for my husband and my child. And my second request is that my husband and daughter would accept Jesus Christ as their Savior. I wish there would be a day when my family could be united, where my husband and my child and I can worship God, just like other families.”

*Name has been changed to protect identity

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