Reflections from Vietnam, Where I First Sensed My Call to Fulltime Evangelism
Vietnam was where a single 25-year-old Ravi Zacharias first sensed his call to fulltime evangelism. Today, decades later, Ravi revisits the country and shares deep memories of revival and the influence the gospel has had after all these years.
Photo by Ravi Zacharias. Independence Palace, also known as Reunification Palace, in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Our trip to Vietnam took us from Ho Chi Minh City to Danang, Chan May and to spectacular Ha Long Bay, just eighty miles east of Hanoi. Nearly 2000 islets pop out of the ocean here in Ha Long Bay, and it is awesome to see this natural wonder, a World Heritage site. As Margie said, “Every part of the world has a different touch of God's beauty.”
It was in Vietnam that I first sensed my call to fulltime evangelism. I was only 25 and single when I came here. Courtesy of the US Air Force and military, I got to various cities. My memories of being in the military bases and in the hospitals are as fresh as yesterday. Being in the Vietnamese and tribal churches was the blessing of a lifetime. I also covered the length of the land by Land Rover and motorbike, almost all the way to the DMZ. Some of those trips were really dangerous. Near that line are buried six Christian & Missionary Alliance (C&MA) missionaries who paid for their commitment to their calling with their lives. I remember standing there and saying a prayer for my own calling.
As we left Ho Chi Minh City, I asked one person if he had heard of Tin Lanh, which really means “Good News.” The Alliance Churches in Vietnam were called Tin Lanh. The C&MA did more as a missionary organization that any other. If I remember correctly, they were the National Protestant Church of Vietnam. Their work in Indo China is of historic proportions; I am privileged to be part of the C&MA. Our missionary leader at the time in Vietnam was literally one of the last to be airlifted to safety in a helicopter from the roof of the US Embassy, as the Viet Cong were storming the city. Between civilians and military on both sides, over two million Vietnamese lost their lives. We all know from the Vietnam Memorial the tens of thousands of US service men and women who paid with their lives. The stories I heard here seemed almost surreal.
When I mentioned Tin Lanh, this person's face lit up. He said he was raised in a Tin Lanh church. So there you have it. What a testimonial! For his own sake, I didn’t push the conversation too far. I didn’t want him to take any risks. But as we drove past a well-cared for Tin Lanh Church, the memories were deep. My time here was life changing. I little realized that a simple visit of four months would trigger a revival in the land, starting with the youth. God did a miracle through a handful of people. But no evangelist reaps a harvest without the dedicated labors of others sowing the seed and building relationships. It was true here just as it was true of Cambodia. The long obedience of many precedes the response in such dramatic ways.
My interpreters here were such special people. When I left Saigon in August of 1971, I left a little bit of my heart here. It is now Ho Chi Minh City and Ho Chi Minh’s statue is all over the place. But in one setting, looking at the hills, I saw a cross. You may be able to catch it in the picture. The cross has left its mark here.
I can say much more. But I shall resist. I hope to return. I have been invited here. Caution will be the better part of wisdom. But I just want to ask for your prayers for the Vietnamese people. They have suffered much. May God bring another revival here.
Thank you for your prayers for us. It was truly a thrill to bring Margie here. The missionaries who sowed the seed here will not go unrewarded.
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