It came as a surprise to me, the request to return a call to an invitation to speak in Ho Chi Minh City over the Easter Weekend. In my mind, it did not seem likely that I would be able to go, given our own programmes for Holy Week. And also, the invitation came a little close to the dates of travel (6-8 April) I felt. Still, it has always been my policy to remain open for one never knows how the Lord might lead. So I returned the call. As the country director shared more, I felt a certain drawing to go – it would be nice to visit Vietnam; and interestingly, what was previously scheduled for that Saturday had just been cancelled, thereby setting me free to go.
Still, l had to settle a few details first. Firstly, I needed to seek the Lord if this was His bidding. Secondly, I would like Serene to be in agreement, seeing that I would leave her and the family for the weekend. Thirdly, my Senior Pastor would have to grant me leave from a major Church weekend. Although an answer was required rather promptly, I was graciously allowed to process the above without any pressure. It would be about a week and more later that I finally said “yes” to the invitation. When I shared it on Facebook, a sister immediately asked if she could tag-along. I said “ok” but she had to find another sister-in-Christ to go with her. And she did. With two sisters coming with me, I thought it’d be good if I had a brother with me. As I considered bringing my son, someone promptly offered to sponsor his air ticket. And so, that settled my two ‘tag-alongs’ and also one ‘dragged-along’ – haha!
As expected, the days and weeks leading up to the trip were packed with teachings and activities. All too soon, it was time for us to head to Ho Chi Minh City. On Good Friday morning, the entire family accompanied David and I to the airport, and saw us off. A short 1.5hr flight and we landed in sunny and hot Ho Chi Minh City. We were met by a staff of International Christian Fellowship (ICF). Hopping into a taxi, we experienced our very first taste of Vietnamese driving in Vietnamese traffic, with numerous motorbikes weaving in and out. Arriving at Elios Hotel, we proceeded to lunch … yes, Vietnamese food. After lunch, we walked to the pastor’s office for a short briefing and meeting by this Singaporean businessman-cum-pastor who has been in Vietnam for the past 16 years. He explained that ICF is a church plant of Methodist Missions Society catering to expatriates working in Vietnam. Church licenses are difficult to come by in communist Vietnam so it is deed the Lord’s favour that the government approved MMS’ appplication and ICF was born 1.5 years ago.
That night, we assembled at the 3rd floor of the local Hoa Hung Church, where ICF meets. It was a small worship hall with a simple set-up. The leaders did not know how many would turn up as it was their very first Good Friday service. They had applied for permission to hold this special service and approval was given by the communist government. Being a work day, it would be a challenge for some to come for that service at 7pm. Well, praise the Lord, about 50 turned up that night – really encouraging.
The next day, Saturday, was a free day for us. We took the opportunity to be tourists and walked around the city, taking in the sights, culture and people. We soon got used to crossing the roads with confidence. That night, we met up with a sister who accepted Jesus as Saviour just a few weeks ago in Singapore at one of my Old Testament teaching sessions, for dinner. Yes, Vietnamese food again!
On Sunday, we gathered at ICF for the 10:30am Easter Sunday Outreach Service. This time, the congregation size was about 80 – 90. We celebrated through praise and worship, led by the ICF Worship Team. I preached “Made for Life”, challenging many to consider the resurrection power and life we have through Jesus Christ. The response was encouraging as hands were raised to indicate re-dedication and a desire to appropriate a life of meaning and purpose in Christ. At the call for salvation, one lady at the back raised her hand. I then invited her to step forward and together we prayed with her as she declared her faith in Jesus as Saviour and Lord!
It was a very short ministry trip – not too demanding, with even time for us to rest and fellowship over drinks and meals. That said, we knew that the Lord was with us and He is doing something exciting in Vietnam. Regardless constraints and restrictions, it is indeed a land with many opportunities for the gospel to be preached and the love of Jesus to be shared with the Vietnamese people. I am so thankful He gave me the privilege to visit Ho Chi Minh City and to speak to the expat community there. I believe this is just an exploratory trip that will open new doors for more to come. In the meantime, we will keep praying for the country and for God to prepare the ground for a mighty outpouring and move of His Holy Spirit!