May 8, 2014

President's Evangelism Participation Signals Turning Point


Adventist Church President Ted N. C. Wilson last month became the first
non-indigenous person permitted to speak at an Adventist evangelism event in
Vietnam since 1975, a major step for the church since the government granted
permission for the denomination to resume operating there in 2008.

Local Adventist
leaders hope the milestone is one that can boost growing evangelism efforts and
lead to increased membership and ministry outreach in this Southeast Asian
country. The Adventist Church here is still considered—at least in some ways—in
early stages of growth.

participated in a “Mission to the Cities” reaping evangelistic series from
April 24 to 26 at the Phu Nhuan Seventh-day Adventist Church in Ho Chi Minh
City, a municipality of more than 8 million people.

“We are grateful
to the government for helping to facilitate this opportunity,” said Khoi Tran,
secretary of the Ministerial Association for the Adventist Church’s Vietnam

Wilson baptized 35
people, most of whom were young people, who joined the Adventist Church at the
end of the series. They have studied and prepared for baptism during the weeks
prior to the evangelistic series.

Ten local
evangelistic volunteers worked for one year prior to the event to bring the
Seventh-day Adventist message to the knowledge of many people. A team of young
literature evangelists also helped prepare for the evangelistic series. The
reaping evangelistic series welcomed more than 160 visitors in addition to
local church members who attended. On the final night, attendance spilled
outside the building.

participation also marked the first time for a president of the Seventh-day
Adventist world church to participate in evangelistic outreach in Vietnam, Khoi
said. During his visit, Wilson also traveled to the capital city of Hanoi to
meet with the government’s vice director of the Committee for Religious
Affairs. Wilson visited the headquarters of Adventist Development and Relief
Agency in Vietnam and also visited a small fourth-floor church that was established
by a blind member.

In the capitol
city of Hanoi, with approximately 6.5 million people, the Seventh-day Adventist
Church has only two churches, with a combined membership of fewer than 100
members. The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Vietnam has approximately 11,300
members worshipping in 15 churches.

Expanding outreach
has been challenging in the country of more than 90 million people, Khoi said,
but a few milestones in recent years signal the potential of an encouraging

Since 2008,
Adventists have been able to conduct outreach and service projects in Hanoi
beyond what the denomination had established prior to 1975. In 2009, the church
here celebrated the eightieth anniversary since the arrival of the Seventh-day
Adventist message. At that ceremony, the church held the first ordination of
pastors in the country since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. And in 2012,
an Adventist World Radio (AWR) studio was built and is producing programming.
Wilson described AWR as “a great blessing to the outreach of God’s work in
Vietnam and around the world.”

Ministry through
literature evangelism is also expanding, especially among Adventist young
adults, and several health expos are reaching communities with comprehensive
health ministry.

Still, the
Adventist Church has established operations in only a handful of the nation’s
58 provinces and municipalities. It can now minister to only six of the 54
cultural groups, many of whom have their own language, Khoi said. Also, most
members live in rural areas while more citizens are moving to cities. “It is a
challenge to shift our focus to mission to the urban areas,” Khoi said.

“Both of those
challenges require workers to be sent, but we don't have a proper Bible training
school yet,” Khoi said.

Nearly 80 percent
of Vietnam’s citizens identify themselves as not affiliated with any religion,
according census data. Nearly 10 percent are Buddhist, and almost 7 percent are
Catholic. Less than one percent are Protestant.

Visitors to
Vietnam are fascinated by crowded traffic patterns. In Ho Chi Minh City, a city
of some 3.5 million motorbikes, Wilson was told that if you can successfully
cross the street here in heavy traffic, “you can go anywhere.” Wilson used the
analogy during his preaching, telling local leaders that God wanted them to
“cross the street” and realize the vision that He has for evangelizing Vietnam.

“We surely believe
this event is a deciding step, opening the way for more public efforts to the
cities,” Khoi said. “Please pray for Vietnam as we put our hands and efforts
together to prepare a people for Jesus' soon coming.”