In early 2006, Nancy C thought it would be great to take some of our ladies on a retreat to Vietnam--Hanoi no less! I thought so too. Vietnam was promoting tourism at a bargain basement price. We could just take a regular commercial tour and do our own ministry along the way. Living in Singapore, it’s only a short hop-like crossing the Bay Bridge during rush hour to dine in Berkeley, or heading out to the Island from mid-town on a Saturday afternoon. The ladies signed up, we prepared messages, Betty booked the tour and it was on. I was thrilled. I don’t think I realized how boarding that plane to Hanoi was going to affect me though. I sat silently in my budget seat on Tiger Air and with the rush of the plane taking off I was thrust back to 1991 to a coffee shop in Singapore…
Pastor James Singleton was once again casting his World Evangelism Vision to Mike and me. We loved hearing it. He was talking about looking into the Restricted Access Nations with an eye to the future. Then, from nowhere,he shot out Vietnam. I was shocked. Under my breath I said, “How could we possibly even consider going there?” I knew he heard me and I was immediately ashamed. “Lisa, that’s woman’s thinking. You better get over it.”—like it was a disease! I bit my lip. He said it so matter-of-factly and I was pierced because if what he meant by that was “fear and prejudice mixed with unforgiveness”—he was right! I didn’t even know I felt that way.
As he carried on without missing a beat, I sat there trying to get over the “woman’s thinking” thing. I realized I was looking at a man who was no stranger to war. A man who had been there for the island invasions of the south pacific and more. A man who had seen man’s inhumanity to man up front in living color. A man with reason to be prejudiced and afraid, but he wasn’t. He had a big God. He had forgiven. And, for the past 50 years he had been going after all of them for Christ’s sake…
I was wrong. It was easy to ask for forgiveness.
That day in 1991, I began to pray for Vietnam.
Arriving in Hanoi, we were transitioned effortlessly into a carefully choreographed plan of campaign beginning with taking the government sanctioned tour conducted by the government sanctioned tour guide. We shopped in the government sanctioned shops and saw the government sanctioned sites-the first of which was the home and tomb of national hero, Ho Chi Minh. All along the way I looked for visible signs of Christian presence. Not one. Not one person. Not one piece of literature. Nothing. I know there is a witness there, but compared to the need… the need was so awesome. On the whole trip the only person we were able to witness to was a Vietnam War Vet-- also touring, also searching.
Along a street where barbers were set up in the open on the sidewalk, a man was selling postcards 10 in a pack. He wanted one U.S. dollar each-outrageously overpriced… of course I bought 2. Twenty postcards-what was I going to do with 20 blurry postcards?
Back in Singapore it was amazing how the “missions talk” had turned to Vietnam. Those in the know said go to the south, that’s where the LORD is working! And truly, there is good work going forward in the south and in Ho Chi Minh City where the government seems to be just a bit friendlier to the cause. But I kept thinking of the north, of Hanoi, of what they had been through, of who they were and I began to pray that the LORD would open the door for us or some of the folks we co-labor with to go. It was then I believed the LORD would have me send out the 20 postcards with a call to pray.
Each postcard was sent to a person or family asking them to commit to pray for an open door to Vietnam. Maybe you got one. Many responded with thanks for the card or saying they would pray. But, 5 people wrote specifically committing to pray daily for this matter until the LORD answered! I want you to know, He heard you and he did answer.
English as a second language is the ticket for much mission work in the Restricted Access Nations. L and S were reaching the lost in China while teaching English. With hearts turned toward Vietnam, they sought a position in Hanoi and the Lord has granted them a place. They will be heading over very shortly. It’s great to get teachers in, but it’s not enough. That’s only a partially open door. They needed to have contacts with the local church. We had none but were still praying for that open door.
Just last week I received the quarterly newsletter from the ministry we cooperate with in China. The director related the joy of expanding the work into Vietnam and explained the missing piece as being the local church contacts. Then came the divine appointment… the answer… on the way home from the survey trip to Hanoi, he sat next to a man with a big Bible. This couple had been working with the local church in Vietnam for many years and after spending some time together, he was willing to share his contacts. The missing piece provided. A new pipeline for the Gospel is open. How glorious is the LORD!
This is how I know God still answers prayer. I wanted you to know too.
Can I send you a postcard? Let me know. :)
1 Cor. 15:57-58
“ But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ.
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”