Hitting The Ground Running

Once we arrived home, we immediately began to travel to the various churches that had agreed to let us talk about God’s work in Vietnam in an effort to raise the additional support we needed to continue with the Bible Institute.  We also had a few conferences through March, but nothing had yet been scheduled after March. So we planned on meeting our scheduled dates, while trying to arrange some additional ones. The very first Sunday we were up in Orange Park, Florida at a church plant called Watermark. Pastor Tim Larson and his wife Elisabeth were so gracious to us and we was so blessed to fellowship with them and share about all that God has done and is doing in Vietnam. The kicker is Elisabeth is from Vietnam and speaks fluent Vietnamese so we extended an open invitation for them to join us any time on the mission field. We were excited to have such a good start to our five month journey. 

Preaching the Word

Preaching the Word

 The following Sunday we were back up in Jacksonville at The Springs Church for two services and then journeyed all the way down to Lakeland at Northside Baptist Church’s evening service with Dr. Dan Yaw. What a busy, but wonderful day in the Lord it was. God really ministered to our hearts through each of the services and the generosity of both places. Dr. Yaw’s church sponsors over 36 missionaries each month. I love churches who take “To the Ends of the World” seriously. Praise God for Northside Baptist Church and all the churches that are just like it.

Visiting Churches to share how the Lord in moving in Vietnam   

Visiting Churches to share how the Lord in moving in Vietnam

 

Lien and I had the opportunity to visit several other churches in Lakeland and share about Vietnam as well as preach. One Sunday morning I was preparing to get up and share, when all of a sudden the Spirit of the Lord came upon my heart making it difficult to do anything but share the burden he put on me. It was again from the book of Philippians where the Apostle Paul said, “For me to live is Christ”. As we stood there worshipping, the Holy Spirit overwhelmed me with how hard it had been for us the last several months and how so many Pastors and Christians around the world have suffered and died for the sake of Christ, and yet here in America we attach blessing and prosperity to the Christian life. I shared how as I slept on the floor at my Father-in-law’s house in Vietnam complaining about how hot, and uncomfortable I was, the Lord told me to look over at my Father-in-law laying on the ground next to me and asked me if I was better than him, then proceeded to ask me if I was better than Jesus, “For He did not even have a place to lay His head.” Again I answered no, and began to repent for my selfish actions. As I shared with trembling I realized to “Live is Christ” is to Dream other Dreams from the American one. For Christ did not come to live in luxury and comfort, but to sacrificially love and preach the “Kingdom of God is at hand!” 

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
— Philippians 1:21
Rev. Lance Sumner and his wife Deena, pastor of the Connection Church in Jonesboro, GA

Rev. Lance Sumner and his wife Deena, pastor of the Connection Church in Jonesboro, GA

We were up in Atlanta for almost 3 weeks and we visited some wonderful Churches and awesome folks. One of those wonderful churches was the Connection Church in Jonesboro, GA. whose pastor is Rev. Lance Sumner. Pastor Lance and his wife Deena opened there arms to us real wide as if they have known us forever. It was truly a God-thing and immediately they became dear friends. The Connection Church did not hesitate to add us as one of their missionaries that they pray for and support financially ever month. We were so blessed but on top of that Pastor Lance made a commitment to come in December to Vietnam and train the National Pastors on Pastoral Care. What an amazing blessing and a shot of joy so early in our time back.

Our Arrival Home

On the plan coming back to the States after three months in Vietnam.

On the plan coming back to the States after three months in Vietnam.

We were in Vietnam for over 3 very productive months. Here are some of the highlights in terms of events and milestones while we were there:
•    Three Christmas Outreaches
•    A New Years Day Youth Rally
•    The Bible Institute opened and completed the first class
•    Nine Baptisms
•    Over 44 new believers in all

We also had a chance to celebrate the TET Holiday before we left for home to raise our support in the middle of February. Let me share a little about TET. For most, the memory of the TET Offensive during the Vietnam War is still fresh in your mind and for some TET Holiday is an unknown. TET Holiday is basically the lunar calendar New Year or in other terms, Chinese New Year. It is the largest holiday in Vietnam. Everything shuts down two weeks before and about a week and a half after. It is an incredible time of cleaning, eating, celebrating, and fellowship with family and dear friends. Also, there is exchange of MONEY! If you are younger than another person that person has to give you what is called in English “Lucky Money”. It is just a symbolic gift to start off the New Year with blessing and hopes it leads to a very prosperous remaining year.  We went with the Church to visit families and pray with them and their families. It was a wonderful time.

We left just a couple days following the holiday and our hearts were heavy with the thought of leaving all our family and friends in Vietnam, but knew we needed to get back to the States to raise the support we needed to continue the word we have been called to do.  As we were preparing to leave I was having some health issues that seemed to be an attack from the Enemy. So I locked the door in our little room and started to pray and ask God to remove it and strengthen me. As I prayed, He spoke to me a Bible verse - Philippians 4:19 - which says “My God shall supply all of your needs.” I read it and began to weep as I heard the Holy Spirit say, “Paul’s God is your God, and it is your God who will meet all of your needs.” I erupted in worship and prayer and called for Lien to come in and pray with me as I shared with her what the Lord had just spoke to my heart. With all of the uncertainty as we were leaving swirling around our hearts and minds one thing we were assured of, “Our God will meet all of our needs.”

And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
— Philippians 4:19

Update on Central Vietnam Outreach

Ministering to House Churches in Central Vietnam

Ministering to House Churches in Central Vietnam

We heard from the Pastors in Central Vietnam that with the food supplies, gift bags and Bibles we had sent earlier in the month, they were able to minister to so many people, the majority of whom had never even been to church. They went out to eight different House Churches around the region, where four people prayed to receive the Lord and over 60 attended Church, hearing for the first time in their life about a loving Messiah who came to bring them Salvation. The Pastors reported back with such jubilee because they had been given the resources to help some very needy people.  We just praise the Lord!

Handing out food supplies to those in need in Central Vietnam

Handing out food supplies to those in need in Central Vietnam

Preparing the Pastors for Their Harvest

Rice fields in Vietnam ready for harvest

Rice fields in Vietnam ready for harvest

In a nation that is completely littered with rice fields, the harvest time comes in several different seasons. From what I have observed, however, the largest harvest season is the one we are in right now. As I ride Pastor Hai’s moto-bike around to different events, I have watched as these vast fields of green grass, like blades, stretch toward the sky. It is a beautiful sight to behold when the wind is gently blowing upon it, causing the blades of grass to sway to and fro. I have watched this past month as these bright green blades begin to turn light brown, a sign that they are ready for harvest. Just last week as I was riding to a near-by city, I watched as the reapers were coming through with their tools, machines and livestock to gather what they have sown. What a beautiful sight to anyone who has ever seen the laborers reaping their rewards. So it is in this Season of Christmas across this nation. It is time for the laborers to reap their Harvest. 
     
After Typhoon Haiyan went through the Philippines, it was headed right toward Central Vietnam. What most people do not know is that at that time Central Vietnam was already experiencing severe flooding. In one of the poorest areas of this poor nation, any type of natural disaster is catastrophic in nature due to the fact that the people live in shed-like houses and eke out a meager living from their farms and rice fields. So when the flood hit, it wiped out all of their crops and put them in a bad spot for weeks to come. Then along came the Typhoon headed right for them. The largest storm ever recorded in history was about to make land fall when all of a sudden it turned sharp north and completely missed the region. The only effects Central Vietnam received from the storm were rain and of course it was the one thing the area really did not need. 

Christmas Outreach heading to Central Vietnam

Christmas Outreach heading to Central Vietnam

So just like the fields that were turning shades to give an indication that it was the time for the harvest, so it was for the people of God. We needed to act and to act fast. We were able to partner with two Pastors in the region and gave them the necessary supplies to go meet the needs of the affected people. They were able to go and share the Gospel with them as they gave them 10-lb bags of rice that would feed their family for about 14 days. They then began to share with them that they would be offering more assistance to them, their friends, and other family members who are in need this Christmas. They were invited to come and partake in the Christmas celebration, which included the presentation of the Gospel, after which they would receive their gifts, supplies, food, and a New Testament Bible.  

We raised support to send to these pastors 50 food bags for 50 families, and 100 gift bags for their Children along with 320 New Testament Bibles. Working together with the National Pastors we will be able to reap a harvest for the Lord this Christmas and truly it will be the largest Harvest season to date. 

Experiencing theTrue Meaning of Christmas

Christmas_Kids.jpg

Christmas for so many will come and go and the only thing that has been altered is their bank account and blood pressure. However here in Vietnam, the Church has seen fit to use the Christmas season as an opportunity to reach those who have never heard the Gospel. We were able to participate in one of these events last week due to the kindness of several Korean business men, who live and work in Saigon, and donated gifts and goodie bags to the Church to distribute.

The Church saw this as a great opportunity to spread the message about Christ and His birth and was able to get approval from the local authorities to have a public outreach. Over 200 people showed up who had never previously been to Church or even heard the Gospel message. The Lord really blessed that night with a mighty showing of His gospel in many forms from dance routines, dramas, song, and the preaching of His word. It was an amazing time of Christ-centered outreach that blessed the people in every area. It was estimated that 30 people or so prayed to receive Christ at the invitation.

After the event, we were able to hand out the over 200 bags (donated by the Korean businessmen) consisting of food, shampoo, toothpaste, tooth brushes, flip-flops, silver ware, soap, back packs, and candy.  It was truly a blessing to all of us to see the kids running around as though it was Christmas morning, and the adults looking through their bags in total disbelief over generousisy of any individual. 

I have been blessed to be in ministry for over 12 years and I can remember some amazing times from the Christmas celebrations I have seen over the years, especially when we were blessing those who are less fortunate. I remember the trip to the projects that first Christmas when I was a youth pastor and seeing God do some miraculous things in the life of the youth group and those to whom we ministered. I remember going to Mexico and seeing extreme poverty like I have never seen before and watching God bring true joy in the midst of it. I remember year in and year out as a Pastor giving away Christmas toys for hundreds of families in our area and sharing the gospel with everyone of them. I will also remember this one. For it never ceases to amaze me how rich the Gospel message is when it is accompanied by generous love. When the Maker is honored the power of the Holy Spirit is welcomed, and when He is welcomed much is accomplished. Read this from Proverbs:

Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.
— Proverbs 14:31

The Hair Dresser Receives Christ

The day she heard the Gospel for the first time, she prayed to receive Christ.  That night, she also took down all the idols she had in her house, vowing to serve the One True God.

The day she heard the Gospel for the first time, she prayed to receive Christ.  That night, she also took down all the idols she had in her house, vowing to serve the One True God.

It never ceases to be a blessing to me when I have the priviledge of witnessing first-hand how the Lord leads another person to Himself, for it is usually done in such a miraculous way.  In Vietnam it is a custom for the ladies to go to the beauty shop once or twice a week to get their hair washed, head massaged and be generally pampered. The cost is around $1 USD so it is something the ladies can afford to do and actually need to do after working hard all week. My wife decided to join her aunt one afternoon for one of these special treats. 
 
As they arrived, the young lady who has just opened her shop was in great dismay. She began explaining to my wife that she just met this man on the internet from America and he began telling her about this Jesus who is the One who created her and had a plan for her life. My wife said, “Yes, this is right. God does love you and He does have a plan for your life and it is found only in Jesus Christ.” So for about two hours she asked Lien questions as Lien eplained about the Gospel. Lien suggested that she go out with us that night to drink coffee, so she could hear more about the Gospel. Lien returned home to share with me her experience and our plans for the night. 

We went to our favorite coffee shop to talk with her and I simply began with just how awesome God is and how awesome His love is for us. I walked right down the tracks of how one could become a child of God through faith in Jesus. I asked if she would like to place her faith in Jesus and pray to begin her relationship with Him as His child. She agreed and right there, in our favorite coffee shop, as the place was closing, she prayed to make Jesus Lord of her life. As soon as she finished praying, she asked if I could take down the Buddhas from her house. She had been a Buddha worshipper her whole life and had never heard the Gospel until earlier in that day. Once she prayed to receive Jesus into her heart, she knew she was only going to serve the One True God and needed to get rid of the idols she had erected in her unbelief. The Apostle Paul explains it like this: 

This is the Gospel itself, which has reached you as it spreads out all over the world. Wherever that gospel goes, it produces Christian character, and develops it, as it has done in your own case from the time you first heard and realized the truth of God’s grace.
— 1 Thessalonians 2:13

A Powerful Divine Appointment

One afternoon Lien and I were visiting Church members who had not been to Church in a while, as well a those who had been hurt or who simply wanted us to come and pray with them. This was an amazing afternoon for the Lord and He truly gave us some divine appointments. One of them was so powerful that I thought I should share it with you. 

A couple, who are leaders in the Church, had asked a while back if we could pray that the Lord provide them the ability to buy the land next to them so they could build a new house. We did pray and the Lord answered our prayers.  So they bought the land and started building their new house. Following the example of those who had been sharing the Gospel with the people building the new Church, they began to share with those who were building their new house. When we had arrived that afternoon to pray with them, they asked that we pray for the workers to receive Christ, for they had been sharing with them for weeks. We did pray and, well, as the Lord has a tendency of doing, He answered our prayers.

This couple shared the Gospel with those building their new house.  Two workers were led to the Lord as a result!

This couple shared the Gospel with those building their new house.  Two workers were led to the Lord as a result!

Once we finished praying with the couple, the woman went and asked the workers to come and hear the Gospel once more. As the men came and stood before us, I asked one of them for his name and he replied “Cuong”. Lien said, “It means Strength” so I began sharing with him how we think we are so strong and we are able to handle all that life gives to us. But then things start to happen. We loose our jobs, we don’t have food, we loose loved ones, our bodys get ill, and we soon realize that we are not “Strong (Cuong)” at all but actually we are weak and in need of help. I stepped right into the Gospel about how we cannot save ourselves, but God, who is All Powerful, has offered us salvation. I asked if he wanted to be saved by this strong God today and he immediately said, yes. 

After we prayed and congratulated them on their decision to receive the Lord Jesus as their God, they left to go home. The woman began to share with us that Cuong was once a school teacher, but fell into trouble and lost everything. He had became very poor and even spoke out loud several times while working on their house, “What is the use living, I would be better off dead.” Little did I know that he who thought he was “Strong” actually had become very weak due to his troubles, but God knew and rescued him.

Reaching out to Victims of Typhoon Haiyan

The Bible is clear about reaching out to help the poor and needy especially when it is in our ability to do so.

"Do not withhold good from those who deserve it when it's in your power to help them." (Proverbs 3:27)

The Lord has called us to be rescuers to those who are poor and helpless, especially since He has given us the ability to do so. Those of us living in the US cannot even begin to imagine what it is like to be one of the poorest of the poor in a Third World country like Vietnam.  They have areas of impoverished people groups that are unmatched in the world. One of those areas is found in Central Vietnam.  

As you know, Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines with such force and destruction that it simply ravaged the lower Islands. It was headed right for Central Vietnam at a high rate of speed but miraculously transitioned to a Northern direction which left the blunt of the wind off the shores of Central Vietnam. However the rains still fell in excess throughout the region. Any other time the rain would have been gladly welcomed, but at this time, flooding had already been a problem before the Typhoon came near. This left this poor region in a shambles. Made up of rice fields and poor farmers, Central Vietnam’s economy depends on the land, so when floods hit, severe famine results for those who live in the area.
 
This is where we step in as the Church to "Rescue the poor and Helpless."  We have been partnering with pastors in this region to send food through them to those most in need.  We also see this as an evangelism effort, as they will use this opportunity to share the Gospel and then invite them to a Christmas celebration in December.   Our goal is to not just rescue the people impacted by the typhoon, but from Satan himself and the grips of Hell. 

Christmas Care Package going to those in Central Vietnam impacted by the recent Typhoon.

Christmas Care Package going to those in Central Vietnam impacted by the recent Typhoon.

Our goal is to be able to provide a Christmas Care Package containing food and a Holy Bible to every family who attends this event.  The food supply bags will include 10lbs of rice, nine bags of noodles, one bag of sugar, one bottle of oil and a Holy Bible. These supplies will be enough food to last a family of 4-5 a whole week, but the gospel and Holy Bible will last them an eternity. We are also putting together Christmas gift bags as a blessing to the children that will include a book, pens, pencils, stickers, and candy. The cost of the food care packages with the Bible is around $10 each and the children’s gift bags cost about $2.50 each.  Our goal is to have 100 families attend this Christmas celebration and hope to hand out 300 gift bags to the children.
 
Please pray for this effort and that everyone attending this special Christmas celebration truly hears the Gospel and sees God’s love in action with these care packages.

We thank you for your prayers and if you feel led to help us financially with the Christmas Outreach Packages or with our Transportation Fund, please visit the Get Involved/Support Our Work page here.

We love you all so much and we are so grateful to partner with you in bringing the gospel to this great land. We will be sending out an update on all we have experienced thus far real soon, so keep looking for it. God bless you each for your roles in "rescuing the poor and helpless" in this generation with the love of God and the good news of salvation. 

Out of the Blue!

We had a very busy summer visiting wonderful Churches and meeting some very special people that desired to be involved in what the Lord has called us to do. However it was also very exhausting for we had traveled around a lot to visit these places and it seemed as though every weekend we were on the road and living out of our suitcases. We were more than ready to be back in Vietnam when the time to leave came around. 

As we were preparing to leave I had a preaching obligation at Emporia Baptist Church near Pierson, Fl. I had been there several times before and really enjoyed the people and loved preaching to them. While I had never met my father, I always knew he had lived in Pierson, so when I would visit Emporia, I would always inquire of him to see if anyone knew him. Well the Saturday before I was to go up there and preach, I was at my mom’s house looking through her phone book and I looked up his name. Much to my surprise it was in there. I asked my mom if his address and number sounded familiar and she said that it did. So, I thought to myself, “Why not give him a call?”

I called and a tender voice answered and I knew it must have been his wife. I asked if Mike (My dad’s name) was there and she stopped for a second and asked who it was that was calling. I paused and explained to her who I was. She knew of me and my sister but had never met us and with a broken voice began to tell me this. 

The dad I never met.

The dad I never met.

“I am so sorry Shaun, he died exactly a year ago today. He had a heart attack in April of 2012 and never really recovered. One night he went in to go to bed and never woke up. I miss him so much Shaun. It has been a really tough day.”

I was shocked to hear the news. After it all settled in I was even more shocked that a year to the day that he had passed I was on the phone with his grieving widow. They had been married for 54 years and despite the affair he had had with my mom, she stayed by him. Now after his passing, she was left mourning and missing her spouse. I had all of these feelings of rejection, pain, sorrow for never meeting him, and all kinds of weird things going through my mind. Then I realized that I am feeling these for a man I had never meet, but his wife is suffering the lost of him on the one year anniversary. I immediately began to comfort her through the words of our Lord and the promises of God. I shared with her that the Lord had not forgotten her and was using me as His instrument to encourage and strengthen her. 

We were able to set up a meeting a couple of days later with my half-sister who is my age. I was able to share my testimony with them, pray with them and even encourage them to seek the Lord during this time of sorrow. They gave me some pictures of him and told me all about him. She gave me a letter written by his grandpa to his dad when he was born. It spoke about extreme faith in an extremely faithful God. It also disclosed how he, as a young man, started in ministry as a Free-will Baptist Preacher. When I read that I could do nothing but laugh, for that is exactly how I began as a Senior Pastor. We spent the final week of my time in America having them tell me about a father that I never meet, as I, in return, shared with them about a Father that I always had. God has a way of working things out for the “Good for those who love Him and is called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28). To go from being rejected and pushed out as if you didn’t even exist to the one who would bring comfort and a word of salvation is tremendous. God has a way of making things right, even when they been wrong for a very long time. 

Bible College Construction Begins

Finalizing the purchase of the land for the first Bible College in Southern Vietnam

Finalizing the purchase of the land for the first Bible College in Southern Vietnam

The Lord has been so gracious to the ministry here. In a nation that is stricken with poverty it is so difficult for the believers to have anything to tithe and it is doubly difficult for a church or ministry to be able to be purchase land, but only through God’s great mercy were we able to purchase land that surrounds the current church property in order to build the first Bible College. Construction has begun on a central meeting area and an area for bathrooms and showers.  Funds are still needed to purchase an additional strip of land in order to build the dorms room necessary for the Bible College students. A grand estimate needed for land and construction and furnishing of all the buildings is roughly around $115,000 (USD). To the Vietnamese, this amount seems inconceivable, but we know that we serve an awesome God and He will provide in His time.

I stopped thinking
“WHY ME?” and started saying, “WHY NOT ME?”   

I stopped thinking “WHY ME?” and started saying, “WHY NOT ME?”

 

Because of my background in construction, I wanted to help with the building of the initial walls and foundation, thinking it would be a walk in the park and fun to be able to just labor. My job was to take the rocks and bring them throughout the property line. No problem right? Wrong, it was so hot that it tired me out after just one trip. Wheel barrel after wheel barrel I became more exhausted and started to wonder why in the world was I doing this. Here are some of the things I was thinking as I was working above.

Why do I have to do this? I mean the Lord used me to help purchase this and supply the funds for this to be done, I mean come on I am an American Missionary with a Master Degree and working on another one, why am I carrying these rocks? I am going to be one of the Professors. No Professor is suppose to work like this!
Work begins for the Bible College

Work begins for the Bible College

All of these thoughts passed through my mind as I loaded and unloaded these heavy rocks in the scorching heat of this tropical nation. Then I realized I was grumbling, and complaining and realized that there was not a servant’s heart and attitude within me. Then I caught myself meditating on what the Lord had showed me weeks earlier on the plane, “Have God’s attitude within you”. I stopped thinking “WHY ME?” and started saying, “WHY NOT ME?” I started to be filled with great joy as my body tired out under the strenuous work and the scorching heat.

 

Travel to Central Vietnam

We were given to opportunity to meet with a church in central Vietnam and I really had to recall the Word the Lord had given me on the airplane about not grumbling and complaining.  We traveled by bus – not a recommended source of travel in Vietnam – and endured 20 hours of incredibly cramped and uncomfortable travel conditions.

Bus Ride to Central Vietnam

Bus Ride to Central Vietnam

However the Lord really used it to encourage me to be thankful. During this trip, we were able to scout out some land and pastors who we would be more than likely partnering with us in the future to build the extension campuses of the Bible College. We had a chance to preach in one of the churches and it was a great experience. The church in this region has not yet been touched by the Lord in the way the church in the south has, but it is surely blessed and powerfully moving toward great things with God and for God. We had a chance to share from John 1 and the eternal nature of Jesus the Christ. It blessed our heart to be able to try to wrap our minds around this eternal God who created everything, and then came and “Dwelt amongst us” (John 1:14).