Sometimes a pastor needs to go undercover. Pastor Dinh leads an urban church in one of Vietnam’s major cities, but he also works with a network of Christian leaders who help VOM serve the persecuted. Knowing that his “city” clothes would mark him as an outsider in Vietnam’s rural areas, Dinh dresses like a village farmer to blend in while working among Vietnam’s tribal groups, who are among the most persecuted in the country.
In this disguise, he delivers aid and encouragement to persecuted believers in remote villages and learns how churches are doing in places few Vietnamese pastors visit. And when persecution occurs, Dinh is one of the Christian workers who become the hands and feet of Christ to suffering believers.
While Dinh ministers among Vietnam’s tribal groups, an increasing number of families and individuals across the border in Laos are being kicked out of their homes and villages for placing their faith in Christ. Another network of front-line workers is providing aid and encouragement to these faithful believers, as new incidents occur almost weekly.
The persecution of new believers is in part the result of tireless work by Christians who are sharing the gospel and then teaching believers sound doctrine. The willingness of new believers to face great loss, such as expulsion from family or village, shows that they have been set free from the fear they lived under as animists. “These people have nothing to start with,” VOM’s Asia Pacific regional director said. “And then to lose community. The villagers literally tear down their houses and throw their stuff out on the side of the road, and the Christians know all they had to do was say, ‘I recant!’ And they won’t.”
A group of pastors in Myanmar’s Communist Wa state showed similar courage while imprisoned for months in horrific conditions. Beginning in 2018, the United Wa State Army (UWSA), which controls a semi-autonomous region of eastern Myanmar ruled by Communists with deep ties to China, arrested and imprisoned at least 120 pastors. As one pastor was arrested, he was told, “Your belief in Christ is a crime.” For eight long months, Pastor San endured constant pressure to recant his faith, but like so many others, he told the warden, “I am happy to follow my Lord, whatever the cost.”
After his eventual release, Pastor San returned to his village only to find that the UWSA had bulldozed his house and church building. With tears streaming down his face, he cried to the Lord for strength. His wife and four children, who didn’t know he had been released, rushed to embrace him and joined him in weeping over their losses. The pastor’s family had been living under a tarp since their home was destroyed.
Today, after receiving assistance from VOM, Pastor San and his family have a new house. Although the pastor continues to lead a church, he is prohibited from returning to a Myanmar village where he led a second church.