2016 Vietnam – Inai Kang

Heart of Stone Becomes Heart of Flesh

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. – Ezekiel 36:26

This past January I had the amazing opportunity to be a part of New Philadelphia’s first mission trip to Vietnam. From January 18th to January 27th our team of twelve got to be the first team from New Philly to break the ground in Ho Chi Minh City. I was given the honor of being the team photographer. This is a job that really allows you into the personal and intimate moments that people, even your teammates, are having with the Father during ministry time. Looking through the photos while I have been editing, I was constantly reminded of how beautiful each of my teammates are- how they carried out each of their roles with such excellence, and in the same way looked out for each other. Looking through the photos I am reminded of the beautiful people of Vietnam that we had the privilege of ministering to and getting to know. The beauty of Vietnam is hardly describable. Its nature, architecture, people, and the food! Where can I begin? I will begin with a confession. A confession that almost prevented me from going on this missions trip at all. So, here it is: even till the moment we landed in Ho Chi Minh City, I had no heart for Vietnam.

When I first got my team assignment back in December, I remember saying, “Why, God? I specifically asked you for anywhere else except Vietnam.” I had never had any desire to visit Vietnam let alone go on a mission trip where questionable accommodations and/or experiences would only further ruin my opinion of a country. And let’s not forget the Communist part- not exactly the easiest environment to go and declare the Gospel. But at this point I had already committed, and people were already beginning to send in fundraising support. There was no way I could back out without looking like a total poor sport. So, I did what any faith-filled Christian would do. I gave it to God and told Him, “I have no heart for this country. You’re gonna have to share with me what’s on Yours.”

I wish I could say that from that moment on that all the training, the preparations, the fasting and praying were all easy and He immediately showed me His heart for Vietnam. But this wasn’t the case. It was rough. I found myself questioning my going on this trip over and over and then thinking, “Was I not supposed to go at all?”

The first ministry opportunity we had was at Vietnam Full Gospel Church in Ho Chi Minh City. The people seemed to really have a passion for God and were very receptive to us, a group a foreigners teaching them funny children’s dance ministry songs and dances. I was busy trying to get all the good shots and angles and when it came time for altar calls it was no different. As I was taking pictures, our team preacher, Pastor Myunghwa, called up any who wanted to experience a greater measure of the Father’s love. In my short church photography experience I knew that this call was guaranteed to provide great shots! I took one or two and then God highlighted a girl to me through my lens. I obeyed, put down my camera, and placed my hand on her shoulder. In that touch God allowed me to feel the tiniest bit of His immense love for that girl.

After that night of ministry, each ministry after was the same: God would highlight, I would obey. And as our native, Brother Sang, said, I would cry every day. I really did! At every altar call, every time of intercession or worship leading up to a ministry event, God would allow me to feel His love for the people of Vietnam.

At one point our team was on our way to minister to the Stieng tribe near the border of Cambodia, and Pastor Myunghwa called for us to start praying in preparation for the service. Again, God filled my empty heart with His, and even went so far as to visually show me how much He loves the Stieng tribe. Needless to say, there were a lot of tears shed in the car.

If praying for certain topics is hard for you, then I hope my experience in Vietnam can bring you the same comfort it brought me. God’s love is greater than any heart of stone that we allow within ourselves. Stone hearts or empty hearts, if you just ask God to show you His heart, He will let you catch a glimpse. And that is all you really need. God’s love is so much greater than anything we could possibly imagine. All He really needed from me was to be a willing conduit to pour out His love on Vietnam. In Ezekiel 36:26 the Lord says, “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” I said to Him at the beginning of the trip, “Show me your heart, God.” And without fail, He did.

God loves Vietnam so much. The immensity of His love for Vietnam is even harder to describe than the beauty of this land. The Lord is already doing an amazing thing in the hearts of this young generation of Christians. They burn with a desire to encounter Him. I hope that you can join me in praying for them. Pray that the centuries’ old spirit of idolatry will come to an end. The streets smell amazing, but that’s because there is incense burning everywhere. Pray that the spirit of division that is strong between the church denominations will come to an end. Pray that neighboring churches, ones that practically share a wall, will be able to put their differences aside and worship together. And pray for our native pastor, Brother Sang. Pray for the safety of his family, for blessings in his ministry and prosperity over his business. Brother Sang’s heart for God’s kingdom work is so great! I really wish he were here to tell you about it himself. If you think praying for the topics I just shared will be difficult because you have never been to Vietnam or because you have never met Brother Sang, don’t worry. Just ask God for His heart. He will give you the words to pray, and if you’re like me, He will also give you the tears to shed.