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For some who are not aware of our call to Vietnam, I will take a moment to clarify it and explain the process in which we have become missionaries to this special land at this special time. I have gone back and forth to Vietnam for several years and the Lord had impressed upon me years ago that the most significant thing that is lacking at this time here in Vietnam is adequate Bible Training for Pastors and Leaders. Then in 2012 the Lord called my wife and I to move here as full-time missionaries to offer the training needed. As I laid the calling down before the Lord, I really wanted to understand clearly what it was He was calling us to. So here it is.
One of the main purposes of SALM67 Ministries is to establish a Bible College/Bible Institute that eventually will be entirely operated by Vietnamese pastors. The Lord has supernaturally provided the land and facilities as well as the curriculum through a partnership with BTCP. In
addition, Luther Rice Seminary has committed its help in teaching the curriculum and will offer a certificate of graduation to all students. Our very first class was scheduled to start in mid-January, and to show their support, a team from Luther Rice came over to help us get the institute off to a great start. What an incredible blessing it was to have this team travel nearly 36 hours to be with us - in good shape and ready to teach!
Our first day Dr. Ron Long, the missions director at Luther Rice and our key contacty for our partnership with the university, opened up the session with a word on behalf of the Seminary and the Lord. It was a powerful message that spoke of how the Word of God should be lived out in the life of the pastor. Dr. Dan Yaw (Pastor of Northside Baptist Church, Lakeland, FL), Dr. Dan Lewis (Chairman and Advisor for IAGM) and myself were the teachers for the first session on Hermeneutics - the study of how to properly read and study the word of God
As we taught through the three full days of the first session, it was amazing to watch the students hang on to every word from the mouths of their professors. In most schools and in most classes, students would be dropping off as the material they were studying became more difficult, but that was not the case here. We have a total of 20 pastors and leaders officially registered for this first class of the Institute, but on the first day more than 30 students showed up and by the last day, there were 36 students total. The additional people were coming just because they loved hearing the Word of God and learning how to read and study the Word of God. Just a testimony on how the Lord is moving on the hearts of the people here.
I had the honor of teaching the class on the Power of God’s word and it was amazing to be able to pour into the people of God the understanding of just how powerful God’s Word is and how important it is to preach that word accurately.This truth is well illustrated in this passage from Hebrews.
I spoke about how His word penetrates the hearts of those who hear it and how it causes a response. The author of Hebrews says, the Word is alive, it is active, it is sharp, it pierces and it judges the thoughts and intentions of the heart. When it is properly studied and powerfully preached, it causes some amazing things to take place in the life and heart of those who hear it.
The next three days we spent walking the students through their text books on how to read, study and apply the powerful word of God in their life and ministries. We believe whole heartedly this is the beginnings of a dream come true.
Growing up poor in America you learn to do without so much including cable TV, telephone, the occasional meal, etc., but you always had the little things you never noticed. After coming back and forth to Vietnam over 11 times I realized how blessed I was growing up. We always had a bed and pillows when I was little. We for the most part had electricity, furniture, and clean running water. We even had dressers to put all of our clothes in. After being in a 3rd world country for some time you realize you are truly 95% richer the majority of the world. Living like they live has a tendency to wear on you. We have no furniture, no central A/C, no sanitary septic system, but you know that even though it is hard it is worth it. After a while however you begin to not miss the things that lavish a western home, but the things that go unnoticed. After several years of simply laying my books and Bibles on the floor, tonight I have this little wooden night stand that serves as the best source of material comfort I have ever known. No electronic gadget, nor Christmas morn toy has ever brought as much joy into this heart as this little piece of furniture that millions of Americans will not even notice as they leave their houses today. This night tucked away in this small fishing village in South Vietnam, this missionary is HAPPY to have a taste of home. Truly "The Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want for nothing".
Jesus said that the very things He created had places to call their own but He didn't. The life of the Son of man was not focused on the things of this life that we think of as important, so much so that He lived without His own house or home. When He was to come into this world His mother and father knew of this feeling, for "there was no room for him in the inn." (Luke 2:7) Jesus did not even have something of His own, He was even "rejected by those who were suppose to be His own."(John 1:11) Think about this for a moment. Let it not escape you. The Lord (Boss) of All creation, no wait not just The Lord, but the One who brought forth all creation by the sound of His voice and the work of His hand. He had not a home, He was not accepted by His own people.
We like to think that Jesus was loved by everyone, fun to be around and the life of the party. If we were in school, He would have been the odd man out so to speak. Isaiah the Prophet declared this characteristic about the coming messiah, "He has no stately form of majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of SORROWS, and acquainted with GRIEF". (Isaiah 53:2-3) This tells me that it was Prophesied about Jesus to have a difficult life, a life of not just knowing SORROWS, but a man who had gone through so much it became His identity. It is a cop out to downplay what Jesus endured and encountered during His time here on earth by saying "Well He is God, and I am not."
I sit in this foreign country where I am unfamiliar with the customs, language and way of life and I am frustrated and starting to become bitter. We are staying at a Pastor's house who is also my father-in-law. It is nearly the polar opposite of the kind of comfort I grew accustomed to in the US. There are lots of kids who come in and out, there are family friends who stop by and act as though they live there. What is mine is yours in this society and I am not used to it. It is nothing to step out of my room to use the restroom and find some people laying on the ground that I have never seen before. It has just thrown me for a loop. It is one thing to share a house with someone, but to constantly share with someone you have never met and yet are suppose to welcome them and treat them like they are your little brother, or older aunt. It is tough. Not only that, but they ignore you simply because you don't known their language, and they don't know yours. Hard, lonely, uneasy and uncomfortable.
I began to think that I would like to have a couch; I would like to have A/C; I would like to have a room set aside for a office, or a western style bathroom, I would like to have a yard with some privacy; I think I would like to have my own house. As I pondered these feelings I began to think about how hard it is on me, not only ministry-wise, but in my daily living activities. Anger, frustration, and even evil thoughts (Whatever is not in line with God's heart) began to set in and come out. I needed to pray so I grabbed my Bible and asked to be helped and shown freedom from this and maybe experience some sort of comfort. I opened to 2 Peter 1 and read the following:
He has given us precious promises so that we can partake in the divine nature and escape the lust for the things of this world. Truly to be Godly is to know that your God was a man of Sorrows, He understands, and desires you, even though you may endure sorrow, to still be focused, and holy. Not falling into the trap that the flesh sets up as a way to ensnare us to the things of this world. The desire to be comfortable flees once we realize that He became so uncomfortable to bring us to Him and that, if even for a season, it is ok for us to become the same. For we will be in great company.
With the land purchased and work started on the Bible College construction, we sat down with the Pastors of the Vietnamese Baptist Church and really laid out what our vision was and how it could assist in their work in growing their church. As we talked, it became clear that what the Lord had laid on our hearts – open a Bible College so pastors can be trained in His Word – was the same vision the Lord had place upon their hearts. It soon became apparent that Lien and I are the Lord’s answer to their prayers. This left me with a since of AWE as we realized that if we are God’s answer to their prayers, He will provide for all that is yet to be accomplished.
We decided during this meeting that since the property was purchased and construction already begun, we would actually open to students beginning in January 2014. What a great sense of joy – but also a great deal of stress involved in meeting this timeline. We still need to find a curriculum of study and a partnership with a Bible College or Seminary, among other things. As I sat back and thought about the work in preparing all the material and the central course guide, I was getting overwhelmed, for it is a lot of preparation. Then I realized again that since Lien and I are God’s answer to their prayer, that these doors would be opened and all we will need will be provided.
It is estimated that the cost for monthly training for 20 students is $50 per student. This covers material, travel, food, lights, and other needed resources that may arise. Again $1000 a month to run or operate a Bible College is a big obstacle for two missionaries from Florida. I thought “there is no way we will be able to afford this every month.” Then I realized once more, “Lien and I are God’s answer to their prayers” and every door will be opened that needs to be opened and everything needing provision will be provided for. Listen to this great Bible verse the Lord used to confirm this within our heart.
The Apostle Paul makes it very clear that God is more than able to sufficiently and abundantly provide for every good work. Offering a powerful yet conservative approach to Bible training for the next generation of Pastors that will ultimately shake this nation is surely a “GOOD WORK”.