March 20, 2023

Final Deployment: Vietnam

My last deployment with Vets With A Mission is complete. My final tour of duty is finished.

“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under Heaven.” —Ecclesiastes 3:1

The contrast in Vietnam today compared to my first return visit in 1989 is staggering. Saigon, a city of 11 million people, has skyscrapers, new cars on the streets, shops, restaurants, hotels, coffee shops, and many high-end stores. It’s come a long way since the grinding poverty we witnessed in 1989.

Hue, the former Imperial City, the intellectual and educational center of Vietnam, has also been transformed. The streets are bustling, and disappointingly tall buildings are popping up near the beautiful Perfume River. Four and Five Star hotels are common in all bigger cities.

It certainly seems as if the nation is prospering, even as it recovers from the drastic government shutdown during the COVID pandemic. The government nearly wiped out years of economic growth with its severe lockdowns, more severe than our own government’s.

The name “Vietnam” evokes different thoughts. For some, like me, it was a place of death, destruction, poverty, and hopelessness. To others, it’s a war they heard or read about. To others, it’s an exotic Asian country. It is all of these things and more.

Sitting on the front row on plastic chairs awaiting the start of the Franklin Graham Crusade, many thoughts flooded my mind. The memories of the war years were still very real to me. But by God’s grace, those memories were no longer painful. Thirty-four years of bringing hope and healing to Vietnam were also bringing wonderful memories of seeing changed lives.

The children from the polio orphanage we assisted in the very beginning are now adults who have become Christians. Now they have overflowing joy instead of hopelessness. Former adversaries are now my friends because of the work of God’s grace and mercy in my life.

Over the two nights of the crusade, thousands of Vietnamese from all walks of life, from districts far removed from the bustle of Saigon, streamed forward each night to grasp for the hope that salvation in Jesus Christ offers. HOPE. That’s something every breathing human being on the planet needs. It doesn’t matter what country you call home; hope is as essential as the air we breathe.

Dr. Franklin Graham’s message was a very simple presentation of the Gospel. Not because the Vietnamese are uneducated but because the truth of Christ’s sacrificial death for the human race is not complicated. Blessing us even more was when longtime Christian artist Michael W. Smith began to lead the crowd in worship; thousands streamed towards the stage, singing his songs … in English! If you closed your eyes, you could imagine you were back home attending a Christian concert.

My final deployment with Vets With A Mission (VWAM), founded by Vietnam veterans who met Christ after Vietnam, is complete. My final tour of duty is finished. No regrets, fear, or painful memories from the past. Just God’s peace!

The Gospel has the power to transform people, which can transform nations. Only the Holy Spirit knows what will happen going forward. I return home and continue to pray for the same move of the Holy Spirit in my country, bringing us back to our spiritual roots.

“With God, all things are possible!”

Something to pray about!

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