2017 Vietnam – Kate Park

Use Me
(audio mp3)

Some of you may already know, but this is a special season for me because I’m making a career change and stepping into my calling as a full-time minister. With this, there was a lot of work to get done as I wrapped up the duties of my previous job, and passed everything onto the person who would be taking my position, and also as I prepared to enter seminary. So truth be told, I was not interested in going on a missions trip this year, but I couldn’t say no to God’s gentle nudge. I felt Him telling me that I needed to go on this trip because there was something He wanted to show me before I enter into full-time ministry.

I started getting revved up as I looked through the pictures, documentary videos, and testimonies of last year’s New Philly missions trip to Vietnam. My heart leapt as I saw shrines and actual idols being torn down from a person’s home as they declared God as their only object of worship in their household. I felt like this symbolized what was in store for my own missions trip, as well as for the nation of Vietnam. Throughout the six weeks of preparing for the missions field, God continued to build my expectations. I was excited to see how God would use me and our team to minister to His people. A part of me was also hoping that God would give me an encouragement boost as a minister. Perhaps I was going to make my preaching debut on the field. Or maybe God was going to use my praise leading to set people free from their sins and set their hearts on fire for the Lord! Thus as much as I was excited, I slowly started to feel the burden on my heart. As the date of departure approached, I felt like I was not ready for the trip, that I didn’t pray enough or fast very well. Was I seeking God’s face and heart throughout all of this? Was I driven by God’s love? Or was I doing this out of my own zeal? Would I do a good job on this trip? What if I ended up being the weak link that would bring the entire team down? What if I sabotaged what God had intended for this trip? I knew these were all lies of the enemy, but I had a hard time letting the truth sink in. So I was torn between my expectations of what God was going to show me, and how much I was lacking to meet those expectations.

With all this battling inside of me, our team left for Vietnam on January 16th. Aside from the minor fiasco that happened at the airport (I left my valid passport at home and brought my expired passport. Long story short, I had to go on a death-defying cab ride to go home and back within 50 minutes. Praise the Lord I survived that ride and made it on time for the trip!), the trip was very relaxed. There was an ease to the entire trip. Yes, our hands and feet were busy as we made our way to tribal villages in different regions of Vietnam. But in the midst of all this, I felt peace. Through that peace, God had directed my focus from merely doing work to being relational and observing what He was doing. As I began to listen to the stories of all the people I met through the course of this trip, I began to see the bigger picture.

I started seeing how God was already working in Vietnam as soon our team met Brother Sang, our local contact through Native Partners for World Missions (or NPWM). He is a relentless man who has a vision of Vietnam becoming a Christian nation and even a missionary-sending force by 2027. Brother Sang has been stewarding this vision since 2007 and continues to bring tribes and churches together, regardless of denomination, to work together in raising up Christians in Vietnam. He has had nine failed business ventures, but each time he gets back up on his feet knowing that everything that he is doing is to extend the kingdom of God. Brother Sang is fully aware that God will provide for this vision that He Himself has planted in Brother Sang. Now, Brother Sang runs a very successful business that allows him to connect with all kinds of people, even non-believers, to join in on God’s plan for Vietnam. In faith, he has bought land to build a retreat center for churches to come together. Brother Sang basically emptied out his pockets to acquire this land and asked us to pray for funds to come in. Within just a day, he got a call from the bank saying they will give him a loan to pay for the lease!

Our team also met a childhood friend of Brother Sang’s, Pastor Dom Yu. Pastor Yu grew up in the church with Brother Sang, but left the church to live a carefree life. Long story short, he ended up on a boat in an attempt to run away from his hometown at the age of 19. He encountered God in a massive sea storm. As he feared for his life, he asked God to reveal Himself. He heard God tell him to pray and command the storm to cease and the waters to be calm. Pastor Yu did so out of desperation and after getting through the night, he woke up to waters so calm that the surface of the sea was like a mirror. Then, he felt the call to return back to his hometown to minister to the people through music. After completing his studies in seminary, he began teaching people how to play different instruments. Then, he was funded to open up a large cafe, which is now called “Hillsong,” where he continues to train musicians and worship leaders. He closes this cafe on Sundays and uses this venue as a church.

On the third day, our team was allowed into a rural restricted area where an ethnic group known as the Hmong tribe lived. This tribe had been victims of wars and persecuted by various organizations and people groups, which drove them further in to the forest and mountains, cut off from mainstream society. Brother Sang told us that these people have never seen foreigners in at least 40 years, meaning for most of the Hmong people, we were the first foreigners they would ever see. There, we met Pastor Jin, who told us how the Gospel reached the isolated Hmong community. One person in the tribe heard the Gospel through the radio that was broadcasted out of Manila. From there, he spread the Good News to the rest of the tribe. The government prevented the Hmong people from building a church, but seeing the goodness that the Gospel brought to the community, now they have a church in the middle of the village where everyone can come and worship.

My jaw dropped every single time I heard these amazing stories of how God had encountered each person, but it reached the pinnacle when our team went to a drug rehab home in Ho Chi Minh City. This center was founded and run by Pastor Phuong. His mother had to raise him and his siblings after his father left the house, but because the income was not enough for the family, Pastor Phuong had to go out and work at the young age of 13. With the pressure of earning money for the family, he ended up stealing and committing all kinds of petty crime to put food on the table. Further down the road, he ended up getting involved in drug dealing, becoming a drug addict, joining a gang, and even trafficking women for more money. Eventually, he ended up getting HIV, which is considered a death sentence in Vietnam, but this only made him to go deeper into the kind of lifestyle he was already living. Months later, as Pastor Phuong reached what he thought was the end of his life, he ended up in the back room of a hospital, where other people with HIV would stay until they passed away. He told us that no person who walked in would leave the room alive, and an average of 8~9 people died every single day. But a missionary came to visit him in this hospital ward, shared the Gospel, and Pastor Phuong accepted Christ as his Lord and Savior. By this time, he was just skin and bones. But after his encounter with the Lord, he started to gain strength and muscle began to build in his body. He became healthier each day and eventually walked out of that room free of HIV! Test results all came out clean and he was reassured of this supernatural healing through the birth of his son, who was also tested negative for HIV. Since then, Pastor Phuong has opened up his home to become a drug rehab center, where addicts break free from their bondage through worship and prayer. Every morning and evening, twice a day, the people at this center worship and pray. The fruit of this ministry is so good the government even officially credited his facility and supports his work.

I was in such awe of how God was ALREADY working and moving in Vietnam. As I was going from ministry location to location, it felt like God was taking me by the hand and showing me His works, that had nothing to do with the effort of man. I could see that God was showing me that my role as a minister had nothing to do with what I can do FOR Him, but rather how I could join Him and walk with Him.

I’m not sure how God will be using me as I serve as an intern pastor at New Philadelphia Church. But through this missions trip to Vietnam, I learned God’s ideas are far more creative and better than anything I could have imagined! I need to allow God to move in me and through me. Who knows? Maybe God will use me to do some crazy things like some of the people I met in Vietnam. Whatever it may be, I am ready. I am ready to be a vessel for the expansion of God’s kingdom.

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.” Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” – Isaiah 6:5-8