Evangelist Luis Palau made history on April 9 when he preached at the Protestant centennial celebration in Vietnam, becoming the first U.S.-based evangelist to preach at a major event there since the 1975 communist takeover. The 76-year-old evangelist preached on two consecutive nights at the Thanh Long Stadium in Ho Chi Minh City, which was not the venue the event organizers had originally sought. Event organizers had planned to hold the event in an open field, but government officials allowed the event only on the condition that it be held in the soccer stadium.
Organizers requested permission to hold the event months in advance, but the government granted approval just three hours before it was to begin. These delay tactics seem to have become standard procedure for the Vietnamese government. For the past two years, the central government’s Bureau of Religious Affairs has waited until the last minute to approve Christmas events held by house church groups.
It was an “absolute miracle” that the event was held, said the leader of Vietnam’s Evangelical Fellowship of house churches. Hundreds of volunteers and technicians worked heroically to move equipment from an open field in one part of the city to the soccer stadium in another part of the city. Organizers had to notify thousands of people of the venue change. They used word of mouth, website announcements, Twitter, Facebook and text-messaging to get the word out. The evening began at 9 p.m., just two hours late.
Luis Palau began his message at 11 p.m., delivering a clear evangelistic sermon. When the service ended, after midnight, about 800 people came forward to receive Christ. On the following day, Sunday, April 10, more than 12,000 people filled the stadium, and more than 1,000 came forward at the call to follow Christ.
Dr. Nguyen Xuan Duc, president of the Vietnam World Christian Fellowship, told Compass Direct News that he was very encouraged about the future of the church in Vietnam. “These are watershed days for Protestantism in Vietnam,” he said. “There is no fear, but rather wonderful spontaneity and irrepressible joy. Events like this happen in spite of the government and without the blessing of some overly conservative church leaders. What we see is young, vibrant, lay-led, internationally connected and very media-savvy.”
The Palau team traveled north to Hanoi, where they planned to host a similar event the weekend of April 16–17. At the time of this writing, government officials had not approved the event.
“Again they said today, ‘Of course you have the permission, but not in a large open field,’ said Palau in a statement to BosNewsLife. “It will be held in a covered coliseum, which means smaller crowds, and less visible,” he added.
Source: Compass Direct News, BosNewsLife