A firmly packed dirt trail cuts between palm trees, bamboo, and vines deep in the rainforest. A man and a woman carrying a child walk down it toward a home where a group meets together. The sound of the group’s singing increases as they get closer.
In remote towns and villages across Vietnam and Cambodia, small groups of believers gather in homes or under the shade of trees every Sunday. While religious freedom exists in these countries, local laws make church gatherings difficult.
In Vietnam, few churches have official government recognition. To be officially recognized, churches in Vietnam need a certain number of members. Then gatherings must take place in venues designated for religious purposes. However, government approval can take years. Nearly 60% of the population is still unreached with the Gospel, especially in northern Vietnam.
A handful of indigenous groups in Cambodia follow Jesus, but more than 80% of the population identify as Buddhist. When a Cambodian leaves the Buddhist faith, they often risk rejection and isolation from their community and family.
People in Vietnam and Cambodia need your prayers! In these Stories of Hope, you’ll hear the stories of pastors and congregations who are patiently waiting for their own church buildings.
Pastor Testimonies – Vietnam
As a young man, Duong was addicted to alcohol and gambling. After an encounter with an evil spirit, he experienced mysterious mental and physical symptoms. Duong’s parents urgently searched for a cure. A sorcerer offered to help in exchange for their valuable livestock, but Duong did not improve. His parents lost hope and wondered if their son could ever be healed.
One day, Duong’s father visited a relative who told him about Jesus. When he returned home, he shared what he learned with his family, and that day they all decided to follow Jesus. Suddenly, all of Duong’s puzzling ailments disappeared!
Today, Duong is a pastor of an ICM-developed church. His love for God’s word comes through in his sermons. His prayerful relationship with God as well as in the way he cares for his congregation and family unmistakably reflects his gratefulness for God’s love and care for him. Membership in Duong’s church has doubled since the church’s founding in 1992, and it continues to grow.
Hao grew up in a Christian home. His father was a missionary to the Bru, a small ethnic group in northwestern Vietnam close to the Laotian border.
The Bru have long lived in the crosshairs of political tensions among China, Russia, and Vietnam. This forced them to relocate. Most are rice farmers who use buffalo or oxen to sow their fields. Their culture is steeped in traditional religious practices such as worshipping ancestors and spirits in nature.
Hao’s father wanted the Bru people to know Jesus and worked for many years to plant Christian churches in Bru villages. Hao wanted to be a pastor like his father, but when he applied to Bible school, he was rejected. His application lacked a required recommendation letter from an ordained pastor. Hao cried out to God to intervene.
The Lord heard his prayers. A vice president from one of ICM’s partnering ministries in Vietnam wrote the much-needed letter for Hao. After completing school, he returned to his hometown to pastor a church there. The church has grown to more than 150 members. Nearly 100 people in his congregation have been baptized.
Pastor Testimonies – Cambodia
People in Devy’s small Cambodian village lived day to day without knowing what they would eat. Years in these difficult living conditions caused several health problems for Devy. He prayed to his ancestors for help and sought fortune tellers for healing, but recovery never came.
As an adult, Devy moved to a nearby city and worked in construction. Once again, he fell ill. Without anyone else to turn to, Devy went to his sister and brother-in-law for help. What he did not know at that time was that his sister and brother-in-law were Christians.
After they brought Devy to church with them, he said,
“When I saw them singing to praise God, it looked joyful, and I felt really happy. Finally, I told my family that I decided to believe in Jesus, too. To God be the glory, my life has changed remarkably after I accepted Jesus into my heart. My health has been better. I don’t get sick like before. God called me to be a pastor and plant churches.”
Today, Devy is the pastor of a church in a village in Cambodia much like the one where he grew up. Because the church does not have a building, the congregation meets under a tree or in a church member’s house.
According to Devy, youth in the village typically do not finish school. Most move away to work in Thailand or a nearby textile factory. A church building would provide Devy’s congregation with a place for church services and programs as well as a facility that can be used as a school. He hopes this will help spread the Gospel to more people in the village and help more children finish their education before they find work.
Pray that God would provide a proper church building for Devy and his congregation, so they can better serve the community and teach more people about Christ.
Samang was a traditional Buddhist from childhood, but he longed for something more spiritually satisfying. When he was a boy, he witnessed Christians worshipping joyfully under a tree. As he grew up, he struggled with depression. He felt hopeless and wanted to feel that same joy he saw in the Christians. Somehow, he believed in his heart that God would take care of him. Not long after, Samang began to believe in Christ. Inside, he finally felt the joy he yearned for in his spirit.
Today, Samang is the lead pastor in a church in a larger Cambodian village. He and his wife rent a house to hold services. The house is also a dormitory for children who travel to this village to attend school. While the children stay in the home, Samang and his wife teach them about Jesus and disciple them. The children can also learn English and participate in sports. A new church and dormitory would expand and improve what Samang, his wife and their congregation offer to their community. Samang hopes this will happen soon!
Pray for these pastors, their families, and their congregations. Pray that their ministries would flourish and that they would reach many more people for Christ.
* Names and locations have been changed to protect identities.
Resources: The Joshua Project