2017 Vietnam – River Trang Ha

Your Praise Will Ever Be On My Lips

I have a confession to make. I don’t love Vietnam as much as you might think I do. In fact, out of the many missions fields that I’ve been to, this is the place where I struggle the most- the place where I was born and grew up, the place where I was hurt the most, and the place that I wanted to run away from. There has always been a wrestle in my heart to love my own country and my own people, to stay even when it hurt, and to keep on walking out the purposes that God has for me here.

The Vietnam that I was born into in 1989 was a very different place. At that time, Vietnam was still under a trade embargo imposed by the US since 1975, the end of the Vietnam War. The whole country was still in so much pain from the many wars it had endured. Poverty was rampant, and poverty brought shame. People tried to escape this fate by running away to other countries, turning to idol worship, or earning their livings by any means.

Growing up in this country, I understand the mentality of the people: the good, the bad, and the ugly. This place also saw me in my darkest moments: the roots of idolatry in my family for generations, the brokenness in my family, my own journey of loneliness and isolation. My life took an unexpected turn when I became Christian while studying abroad in the US. Then God called me back to Vietnam after graduation. The last 3 years have been an incredible journey of testing and trials- so much so that I even felt like a missionary in my own country.

Fast forward to this spring, when once more, God called me to join a missions trip with a team from New Philadelphia Church. The team landed in Ho Chi Minh City, the economic capital in the south of Vietnam. For the last decade, Vietnam has received so much foreign investment under the condition that it open up to more foreign influence. The door for Christianity, therefore, has opened. Our team was able to minister in places that we could never have dreamed of before. Two groups that were special in this regard are the Sting tribe in Binh Phuoc Province and the Hmong tribe in Dak Nong Province.

Last year when the first New Philly team came to the Sting tribe, it was the first time that many of them saw foreigners, aside from images on television. With this year’s team we took a step further into the Central Highland, to the Hmong tribe guarded inside a military base. This area has a long history of political turmoil, which makes it extremely sensitive in terms of contact with foreigners. However, God opened a miraculous door with a wedding happening the day after we arrived. With some wedding decorations, our car entered the military base as guests of the bridegroom. We had the chance to perform children’s songs and dances at the wedding. Later on, we invited the wedding guests to a church nearby for a time of sharing testimonies and the Word of God. Pastor Anna preached a powerful word on Ezekiel 37, the valley of dry bones, as a prophetic sign over Vietnam. In this land of so much pain and destruction, the dry bones will come alive and become an army of the living God.

Once back in the urban areas, we had the chance to visit and minister to a variety of audiences, from an underground church inside a coffee shop to a Christian rehab center for drug addicts, to young adults in the city, to a traditional Presbyterian church with many elders, and even to a Nigerian expay congregation. Seeing people crying out to receive the touch of the Holy Spirit, many for the first time, I saw a glimpse of God’s heart for His people. God loves His children, and that was the reason why He sent us, among many other vessels, to love on His people.

Throughout the trip, I kept hearing the verses from Isaiah 43:19 “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Vietnam is changing so fast, and the movement of Holy Spirit is upon His people to bring about the new things that no eyes have seen, and no ears have heard. There are no barriers and no limitations. Whether it’s age, nationality, cultural differences, or geographical distances, the Holy Spirit is crossing all the boundaries to bring about changes.

Throughout the trip I felt like God was gently asking me a question- if I’m able to let go of the past to take hold of the future He has for me. Vietnam has a sad history with page after page of destruction, but God is writing a new story for this land. My family also has a sad history, but He is writing a new story for us. On the team’s last day of ministry, there was a song that played over and over again in my mind: “Your praise will ever be on my lips, ever be on my lips, your praise will ever be on my lips, ever be on my lips.” I don’t know yet how the new story will be written, but I know that I will continue to love Him and follow Him wherever He calls- whether it’s in my own country or in other nations. And His praise will ever be on my lips.