Last week brought a moment of hope in a country long held in the grips of spiritual darkness for Christians in Vietnam when U.S. evangelist Luis Palau was allowed to preach to thousands of Vietnamese people at a public event in Ho Chi Minh City on April 9th, marking the centennial celebration of the church in Vietnam. In spite of government attempts to confuse attendees by forcing a last minute venue change, the event was a success due to unprecedented cooperation and coordination between the leaders of both the registered church in Vietnam and the house churches. Praise God for the 1,800 people who came forward at this event to receive Christ and for the ways this remarkable celebration has united the Vietnamese church leaders!
Optimistic predictions that this event marked a turning point in the government’s treatment of Christians were dashed this week when plans for a massive joint Easter celebration in Hanoi city organized by house and registered church leaders, again featuring evangelist Luis Palau, were thwarted. Organizers were forced to postpone the celebration when the government’s reluctant permission for the event allowed them to use a much smaller venue than they had requested, and venue owners began putting ridiculous conditions on its use. As one long-time overseas Vietnam analyst said, “Clearly someone at the top disallowed these events and then left it to clumsy underlings to create bureaucratic obstacles. Most people will see through this ruse and recognize simple lack of religious freedom.” Disappointed church leaders were left scrambling to get word to the thousands of Vietnamese believers pouring into Hanoi from distant villages that the event had been canceled.
Coming so soon on the heels of last week’s victorious centennial event, the forced cancellation of this Easter celebration is a powerful reminder to Vietnamese Christians that religious freedom in their country is still a long way off. This reversal leaves plans uncertain for several June centennial celebrations featuring Luis Palau in other Vietnamese cities. Please join in praying that God will use the events of this past week to strengthen the church’s resolve to press forward in declaring the gospel and that the new alliance between underground and registered churches will produce lasting unity among Vietnamese Christians!
Father, thank you for bringing unity to the Vietnamese church, even in the midst of government opposition. We ask that You would strengthen and refresh the tired church leaders of Vietnam as they move forward with plans for future gatherings of believers. Please move in the hearts of government officials to allow the June centennial campaigns to proceed. Continue to strengthen the new bond between the underground and official church groups in Vietnam. Give Vietnamese believers the grace and patience by the power of your Spirit to press forward in spite of this latest setback. Amen
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