Vietnam (MNN) — Vietnam: the mere mention of the name brings to mind certain images. For many people, those images may be of a country 40 years out-of-date.
After emerging from decades of war and isolation, what is Vietnam like today? Jonathon Shibley with Global Advance says, “From an economic standpoint, the country continues to grow, at least in the cities. There’s a lot of business development. Really, our strategy since we’ve been going in is to connect with as many in the Christian business community as possible.”
Over the last decade, the country has seen fast development and now boasts one of the strongest economies in Asia. Running on a parallel trajectory, Shibley adds, “There is a large new growth of Christianity and a hunger to know more about God and to grow in Christ among believers. However, because Vietnam is one of the few remaining countries in the world following a communist ideology, “There is a certain element that exists of some persecution and harassment.”
It means that sometimes, Christianity is perceived as a foreign influence. In some areas, the publication and distribution of Christian materials is difficult and highly restricted. Given that, Marketplace Missions makes perfect sense. “Any time that you go in and you’re there to connect and you want to be a blessing and you want to help things that are going to cause prosperity, from a sustainable standpoint within the nation, it’s going to be welcomed,” says Shibley. He just returned from Vietnam, where he spent a week teaching the biblical principles of the marketplace. “We had about 150 business leaders, most of them believers, from all types of industry–from apparel to hospitality, manufacturing, pharmaceutical, construction, just to see the potential that they have, the influence to be salt and light there.”
They also launched a secondary business-as-missions program. Vietnam is a source and, to a lesser extent, a destination country for people subjected to sex trafficking and conditions of forced labor. The trafficked are often vulnerable people exposed to homelessness, poverty, and lack of food security. Vocational training is one way to fight the problem. Shibley explains, “There’s a huge issue with orphans and with drug addicts; [we’re] trying to create a long-term strategy to bridge those groups with apprenticeship-type opportunities in the marketplace as they get of age, to be able to work.”
Vietnam today stands as a symbol of hope and healing, in light of its painful past. For the leaders today, Shibley acknowledges they’ve been through a lot over the last four decades. But, the followers of Christ have remained committed to the Truth. For that reason, he says, “We believe God has a mark on this country, and we want to stand in the gap for what He’s doing in this nation.”
There are still a myriad of challenges facing Christians in Vietnam. As Shibley indicated earlier, in certain pockets of the country, the persecution of Christians is alive and well. “Pray for perseverance–that God would continue to reign and rule in their hearts.” He’s quick to add that sometimes affluence is a more insidious enemy than we might want to admit. To that end, pray that “as the country grows in prosperity, that the idols of consumerism do not detract from the message of Christ.”