Vietnam (MNN) — For the first time since 1975 when the U.S. pulled out of Vietnam, a foreign evangelist has been allowed to proclaim the Gospel openly in the country.
World-renowned evangelist Luis Palau broke a 35-year drought of non-Vietnamese evangelist activity when he entered Vietnam a week ago today. Luis, his son Andrew, and a team from Luis Palau Association were met at the airport by some 400 to 500 cheering people holding roses. (Watch a 30-second video of the arrival here.) People followed the team on their motorbikes, overwhelmed with excitement and hope for what this visit could mean.
The Vietnamese have extremely high hopes for the Palaus' month-long stay in Vietnam. The evangelical church, two million strong, has set a goal of bringing 10 percent of the country–roughly 9,900,000 people–to Christ by 2020. Their hope was that last weekend's evangelistic festival in Ho Chi Minh City would add significantly to that number.
The festival was (perhaps unsurprisingly after a 35-year absence of public Gospel proclamations from outside evangelists) met by obstacles. When Mission Network News was able to grab a quick word from Luis and Andrew less than 24 hours before the event, a major piece of the puzzle was still missing.
"We're learning the biblical meaning of the phrase, ‘We walk by faith, not by sight,' because we still don't have a written permit," Luis noted.
There was some concern that the permit wouldn't be granted for the festival, especially as the team came less than 12 hours before the start time and still had no permit to begin setting up or host the event at all. Believers generally have a good standing with the government, though, and most Vietnamese believers seemed confident all would go through.
The Palau Association's trust in the Lord was honored. Just three hours before the event's 7 p.m. start on Saturday, the permit was finally granted-but in a different location. Locals immediately got to work setting up at a soccer stadium rather than the planned field, and they began redirecting the traffic of thousands.
In the end, a slightly late start made little difference. By the festival's close on Sunday, thousands had engaged in worship, heard a clear Gospel message, listened to the testimonies of Andrew Palau and Rick Coulson, and enjoyed the music of Don Moen.
The believers in Vietnam had high expectations. When we talked to Andrew Palau just before the festival began, we asked him what the Palau Association's goals were. "Our main expectation is that many, many thousands of Vietnamese will enter the Kingdom," said Palau.
Once again, their reliance on the Lord Almighty was rewarded. Thousands came to Christ. Exact numbers are still being calculated, but follow-up should go well with Vietnam's unique discipleship system. Each believer at the festival was to bring a nonbeliever. And each person was given a card that indicated that they were a follower of Christ or not yet one. At the end of the night, if someone came to Christ, they handed in their card to indicate their decision, but then the card was given to the believer that brought them. Essentially, that believer would have the responsibility and opportunity to plug that person into a church and begin discipleship, which would help to avoid fleeting, emotional responses to the message.
The Palau team will remain in Vietnam for a couple of weeks, preaching the Gospel, encouraging leaders, and building up churches in discipleship and other areas. Pray for their time in the country, and especially for next weekend's festival in Hanoi. The April 15-16 event also has yet to receive a permit.
Praise God for the new lives that have been found in Christ. Pray that the time Luis Palau and his team spend in Vietnam will bear much fruit and will open the doors for many more evangelistic opportunities.