2016 Vietnam – David Ha

By Faith, Not Sight, Into Rest

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. – Hebrews 11:1


He was expectant. He wanted to see many people wrecked by the Spirit on this missions trip. The message was powerful. As he sat in his blue plastic chair in the front row of this small house church, he could see the impact the Word was having on the people behind him. A girl in a pink cardigan in the row behind him was staring at the ground, eyes full of tears. He knew she was one of the many in the room that would fall under His glory during the altar call. He anxiously anticipated for it to happen.
As the speaker wrapped up her message about forgiveness and exchanging a heart of stone for a heart of flesh, he readied himself to play guitar to provide the background music for the altar ministry. He was excited to be able to look out into the crowd and to actually see what was about to happen.
He picked up his guitar and started to play an old but simple song.

He began to sing, “Create in me a clean heart, O God…”

The speaker asked if there was anybody in the crowd that was wanting to forgive someone in their lives.

“And renew a right spirit within me…”
One girl raised her hand. This is it, he thought in suspense.

“Create in me a clean heart…”
He waited.

“O God…”
And waited.

“And renew a right spirit within me.”
And waited some more.

What’s going on?, he thought. Why isn’t anything happening? Why isn’t the girl in the pink cardigan responding? Why isn’t anyone else responding?

He sang the song again and again but still nothing. Only that one girl who raised her hand at the beginning.

Is this it God? Just this one? Why aren’t you moving powerfully? Why aren’t you encountering more people with your Spirit? Why, God?

Suddenly, a heaviness swept over him. A sinking feeling that took over his being from head to toe. Guilt. He knew God was trying to tell him something.

Even if I came to encounter just this one person, it’s worth it.

As soon as he felt this word from God, the girl in the pink cardigan, the one he had spotted during the message, began to weep. And another person in the back of the crowd. And another person near the front right. And another. And another. The spirit of God moved swiftly across the crowd, bringing many to tears and forgiveness.
As the other members of his mission team went out to pray for those in the crowd, he found himself awestruck and humbled by his lack of faith.

I’m sorry Lord, he thought.

He continued his song.
“Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation and renew a right spirit within me…”

It’s very easy to live by sight. As one who is more sensing than intuitive, it is just easier for me to act and react based on what I see with my eyes. People getting laid out at an altar call? Boom, Spirit fire. Someone weeping their eyes out after a sinner’s prayer? Conviction and salvation. But when there are little to no visual signs of the Spirit moving, I begin to doubt whether God is actually doing anything. Being on such a powerful mission team, I knew God would move powerfully in Vietnam. But I still had moments of doubt and unbelief.

There were times during the trip where I would have periods of doubt based on what I could see with my eyes, and it made me anxious. The scene I described in the prologue was at a small house church in Ho Chi Minh City. The “he” that I mentioned is none other than myself. Only one girl had responded and raised her hand to the altar call. In my anxiety I thought, God, why aren’t you moving? What are you doing? Why? Why? Why? But God was still stirring up people’s hearts and many were moved to tears, even if they didn’t raise their hands.

Another time, our team was ministering to Christians and non-Christians alike at a café evangelism outreach. Based on what we saw, we didn’t think many of the non-Christians were receiving anything. In fact, the whole ministry was a very jumbled experience because of technical/sound equipment issues, a very small space to minister in, and the distraction of waiters taking and bringing in drink orders. Many on our team, including me, thought, How unfortunate. We wasted an opportunity to outreach. But the next day, we found out that many who had brought non-Christian friends heard from these friends that they wanted to give their life to Christ! In spite of what we had thought, God still moved powerfully.

The final instance that God told me to stop doubting was on our final day of ministry. We visited a tribal church near the Cambodian border, a 5-hour drive away from Ho Chi Minh City. After doing our normal lineup of ministry and having fellowship with the church members, a few of the families asked us to pray for them inside their homes. We were originally supposed to pray for only one family and leave as it was getting late and we still had a 5-hour van ride home. But each time we prayed for a family, another person would come forward and ask us desperately to pray for them as well. The second family we prayed for was a widow and her two teenage sons. The anniversary of the father’s death was actually the following day. They knelt in the middle of our circle. We prayed that they would be able to mourn properly and receive healing and comfort. My hand was on the second son and as we prayed, I could see that he was stone cold. No expression. I anxiously prayed, God, why aren’t you touching this boy? He needs Your comfort. Father, please touch this boy. Please do something. As we finished up our prayer, we all stood up and I hugged the younger son. Still nothing. So then I went to hug the older son, who had been powerfully moved by the prayer time. I embraced the older son and he instantly began to sob on my shoulder. My heart broke for this young man and I held him for a while, silently shedding a few of my own tears. Our team leader, Louis, the only other male on our team, hugged the younger son, and the younger son began to break down in tears as well. It was amazing to see God use the only two men on our team to release the Father’s love for this family. It was a powerful moment for not only this family and our team, but for myself as well.

Even in the details that we cannot control, God was moving for our favor and good in the Spiritual. Because Vietnam is a Communist country and their government doesn’t allow any unsanctioned religious activity, my expectation was that our team would have to do everything very covertly. While we did do our best not to draw attention to ourselves, for the most part I didn’t feel like we were in any real threat or that we were ever close to getting caught. Our local contact, Brother Sang, was able to inform us of when we had to be careful because he knew which areas were more sensitive. He told us not to hang around outside too long in a big group and to turn off our lights after certain hours. But on the last day, one of our team members, River, a Vietnamese native and New Philly alum, told us that there was so much grace over our team. She told us stories of previous foreign ministers who had been met with a lot of resistance. One story was about how a mission team was ministering at a revival service and halfway through, the police came in, stopped them on the spot, sent them home, and blacklisted them from coming back to Vietnam. To hear stories like this and to not experience any safety issues is truly proof of God’s grace.

There were times where I doubted God’s ability to move in Vietnam. But God was saying, I love these people. There were also times where I doubted that God could use me as a powerful spiritual warrior. But God was telling me, I can use even a young and sometimes dense intern pastor like you. We are to live by faith and not by sight (2 Cor 5:7).

While I had moments of doubt and unbelief during this trip, God was calling me out of my lack of faith and anxiety into a place of faith and belief and rest. 2016 is the Year of Rest for New Philly. In the book of Hebrews, it says that faith is the foundation to rest. Faith in God’s word, faith that Jesus Christ is our rest. I have faith that God truly loves Vietnam and is working mightily there. It is a faith based on God’s power and word and His son, Jesus Christ- not based on what I can see with my own two eyes. My eyes, they saw a nation that was broken and battered from war after war and invasion after invasion. My eyes saw a church in Vietnam that was divided by a political spirit. My eyes saw a people oppressed by a government that can’t decide whether they want to adopt capitalistic ideals or maintain full control over their nation. But my spiritual eyes saw healing from sorrow. They saw love from brokenness. They saw a new generation with the fire of God, rising up to break down division and proclaim freedom for Vietnam. I have faith that God will take away any pain from Vietnam’s past, present, and future, and through the people’s faith in Christ, take them into His perfect rest.