In Vietnam (#17 on the World Watch List), getting Bibles to people isn’t easy. Converts to Christianity from Buddhist or ethnic-animist backgrounds face increasing persecution. For the last two years, Bao, a 33-year-old believer in Ho Chi Minh City, has served as a partner with Open Doors’ Children’s Bible Project in Vietnam. Here, he shares how his faith has led him into the high-risk adventure of distributing God’s Word.
Meet Bao, a 33-year-old father of two—and a Bible smuggler.
In the last year, Bao has given away more than 100,000 children’s Bibles throughout Vietnam, where churches gather in secret, squeezed by increasing restrictions against practicing any other faith other than Buddhism. Based on statistics, he says, the need for Bibles may be up to 2 million people.
A Literal Lifeline
For Bao, God’s Word became a lifeline some 14 years ago when he was in high school.
“I thought life had no meaning,” he says. “I felt empty—I wanted to commit suicide. My house was near a river, and many times I walked past it and thought: What if I just jump into the river to die?”
Knowing he had these thoughts, Bao’s Christian friends invited him to come with them to their church. Each time he went, he returned again. At first, he came to church just to kill time.
“Each day, though, I wondered: Why is it that Christians have a strange joy in their lives?
“I couldn’t feel it, but I wanted to. So, I challenged God, saying to Him, “If you are real, show me.’”
One day during worship time at the church, Bao says God showed Himself. “It was just an ordinary day of worship,” he recalls, “but I felt God’s Spirit come and touch me.”
That day was a turning point in the high school student’s life; his transformation led to next steps. “My life completely changed,” Bao shares, “and I had a desire to serve Him.”
A Young Army of God
As Bao continued to grow in his relationship with Jesus, the church invited him to serve at a children’s camp for pastors’ kids. It was there that the teenager realized he had a big heart for children.
“I found that the children there were very special,” he remembers, “and I knew that God had a big plan for all of them.”
Bao soon realized that God’s big plans also included him. After the first camp, Bao served many more times, growing in his love for children’s ministry. While he attended programs for teenagers, he grew increasingly drawn to the beauty of seeing children touched and changed by God.
Friends began to ask Bao why he wanted to work with children. His response is instructive for every believer wanting to see the church advance: “I see a young army of God. When a child comes to God and He changes him, that child can become a good servant of God. I feel very happy to give a part of myself to serve these future warriors.”
Leading a Movement of New Disciples
Since becoming a Christian, Bao has risked his life numerous times to share his faith with both children and adults. Six years ago, he was traveling through central Vietnam, sharing Christ, when he came to the home of a local man and stayed with him to share the gospel. It was time well spent. Bao led him to Christ, and he began sharing the gospel with many. During that time, Bao says, lots of people came to know God.
“That area was a quiet (Communist) area,” he explains. “They didn’t know that God is love. They have to suffer under (spiritual) bondage. That’s why when the gospel came to them, their hearts were broken and they cried out.”
At that time, more than 20 people accepted Jesus. Bao’s story of multiplying believers sounds like Paul and Barnabas’ journey of spreading the gospel from city to city: “I and another person who stayed in his house took care of the new believers. When the new believers became mature, we would go with a group of believers to a place far from the main town.”
Like Paul, Bao soon faced persecution. Government officials heard about the burgeoning movement and took steps to crush it. Police stormed the worship time, stopping the service and forcing people to flee, scattering in all different direction. Except Bao and the owner of the house.
“Who Allowed You to Gather Here?”
Not knowing what to say or do, Bao kept silent.
“Who allowed you to gather here?” the officer yelled. “Where did all these materials come from?”
They confiscated the Bibles and other Christian materials and kept Bao in jail that day, then freed him that night. From then one, none of the new believers in the house church dared to talk to him. Bao soon learned why. The government threatened to stop the food supply from coming into their area if they talked to him.
“Because the tension was too high and for the good of the people there, I left the area,” Bao says, adding that some still keep in touch with him and some have continued to pursue their faith.
The police warned Bao that if he ever returned to the area, they would put more pressure on the people in the community. Most people there are farmers who depend on the government for supplies
The Job of a Sower
At the beginning of 2016, Open Doors invited Bao to join the Children’s Bible Project. Bao is the first to say that smuggling Bibles isn’t easy. The government is always watching.
“We’re trying not to let them know where we come from or who we are,” Bao says. “We try to hide ourselves.”
When Bao started distributing Bibles, he didn’t expect the huge welcome the Children’s Bible received. He understood more as he learned that children and adults alike are learning from it. “What matters most is that the Word of God comes to everyone,” he says.
He’s thankful to be a witness to the impact.
“When I distribute Children’s Bibles in the big churches, they honor the book not only as a free gift but as material to teach God’s Word. They also use this book for evangelism. And I believe that it’s going farther, and that its impact will spread wider.
“God’s Word must be easy for people to reach. The Children’s Bible is one of the easiest ways to let different kinds of people know about Him. I believe this is the job of a sower. We continue to sow, and God continues to make it grow.”
Bao vehemently believes that revival will come to his country. As a result, he’s doing everything he can to prepare the church for it.
“We have to prepare the next generation. To give them the vision, so that they can see the Word of God and live in faithfulness,” he says. “They will be the ones who do miraculous things. I believe this generation will be the one to do mighty things for God.”
Persecuted believers in Vietnam and around the world need Bible smugglers like Bao to bring Scripture to them. You have an opportunity to support these brave volunteers and get God’s Word into the hands of believers who have no Bible.