Christianity is growing even amidst persecution in Communist Vietnam, but according to pastors in the places where the church is growing the fastest, the growth is not due to an increase in church buildings but to an increase in the number of motorbikes available for church planters.
“New religious laws enacted in 2018 have reinforced religious restrictions for Vietnamese Christians,” says Voice of the Martyrs Korea Representative Dr. Hyun Sook Foley. “Persecution of Christians is very strong in the north of Vietnam, especially in church planting among the 34 ethnic minority groups which are still mostly unreached. But despite the strong persecution, the difficult hills, the narrow roads, and the extreme remoteness, that is where the church is growing the fastest.”
Representative Foley notes that pastors working in the area often pastor literally hundreds of tiny house churches, and they rely on motorbikes to take them from congregation to congregation.
“More than 300,000 people from the Hmong ethnic group alone have converted to Christianity since the 1980s, but that doesn’t mean there are large churches,” says Representative Foley. “It means there are literally hundreds of thousands of tiny groups of Christians meeting in home gatherings that are officially illegal. Even today, an estimated 10,000 Hmong and Montagnard Christians in the Central Highlands of Vietnam are stateless because local authorities have refused to issue them ID cards, in many instances in retaliation for their conversion to Christianity. In a setting like this, erecting church buildings is not only impractical but illegal. That’s why Vietnamese pastors rely on motorbikes as a kind of mobile church.”
Pastor “Đông” (name changed for security reasons) is typical. A pastor from the Dao ethnic group in the Cao Bang province, he became a Christian in 1998 at the age of 16 when he was miraculously healed from a disease which caused him to faint frequently. “Since 2003, God called me into His ministry,” says Pastor Đông. “At present, I am pastoring a church of 150 members. By God’s grace, he called me into the leadership team of Cao Bang province to provide spiritual support to more than 200 house churches in four Dao villages. Even though I am very busy with leadership, I still prioritize sharing the gospel with the lost. I have witnessed to 200 non-Christians so far in 2020, 60 of whom received Jesus Christ. I also spend time visiting these new believers, especially those who are the only ones in their areas to believe in Jesus. These people are the target of cursing, physical punishment, abuse, and mental threatening because of their new faith.”
Pastor Đông was one of ten pastors for whom Voice of the Martyrs Korea and its sister missions in Australia and the Netherlands purchased motorbikes in 2020. Representative Foley notes that the motorbikes are attracting ethnic minority pastors to return to serve their villages after completing Bible schools in the cities, because the motorbikes make an otherwise impossible ministry feasible and even attractive.
For Vietnamese church planters, a motorbike is a mobile church
“One of the pastors who received a motorbike this year graduated from a Bible school a year ago. He was offered a position as a pastor at a city church. However, he refused and returned to his hometown in one of the ethnic minority areas. The motorbike gave him a vision for ministry among his own people that was more rewarding to him than the idea of serving a more prestigious city church.”
Voice of the Martyrs Korea classifies Vietnam as one of five remaining Communist nations in the world, also including China, North Korea, Laos, and Cuba. “Each of these nations, including Vietnam, maintains strict laws against religion,” says Representative Foley. “Christian persecution is not a thing of the past in the Communist world.”
Representative Foley says that the cost to provide a motorbike to a pastor in Vietnam is 1,300,000 KRW. Donations given to Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s “Communism is Not Dead” (CIND) fund in January will be designated for the Vietnam motorbike project. Interested individuals can give at www.vomkorea.com/donation or via electronic transfer to
국민은행 (KB Bank) 463501-01-243303
예금주 (Account Holder): (사)순교자의소리
Please include the name “CIND” on the donation.