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by Lawrence San Diego
Missionaries boldly obey God's calling to change the world with the power of His Word and the grace of His love. And it is through this obedience that they, too, are changed from glory to glory.
When Rico* of Compostela Valley decided to finally take part in the Great Commission, it was during a national gathering of his church. Their leader spoke of persecution of Christians in Vietnam and challenged everyone at the event to heed the call of the Lord of the Harvest.
That moment, Rico was already weeping uncontrollably. "I couldn't respond. I was crying and crying. I knew I've been called by the Lord," he recalled.
The worship and youth pastor was already poised to go to Japan as a missionary. But when he was twice denied of a visa, his frustration only led him into deep prayer.
"It's not really the Lord's plan, so I asked for a sign. What is it that you want, Lord?" asked Rico.
"Then a vision appeared to me in a dream: a vast rice field. Where are the people, I asked. Then people suddenly appeared, people wearing the Vietnamese ao dai."
Days after his dream, he expressed to his leaders his new calling. After training at the Asian Center for Missions (ACM), Rico, with his wife Melissa*, flew to Vietnam for a four-month cross-cultural exposure trip.
Courage in a Difficult Place
After the usual tour at war museums and historical sites, Rico had to confront both the good and bad news for God's workers in Vietnam: The people are ready to hear the Gospel, but the government strictly wouldn't allow it.
Local Christians face various restraints. There should not be a gathering of more than 10 believers. They are afraid to sing in worship, since neighbors can report them to authorities. In the provinces, persecution is much severe. Christian farmers can no longer avail fertilizers, and their livelihoods are targeted
"It's also a difficult situation for missionaries," Rico said. "The police are always a problem. They would knock on missionaries' doors in the middle of the night and threaten them. Sometimes they would ask for bribe money."
Despite these risks, Rico remained steadfast. The miraculous healings and spiritual revival he witnessed in underground churches affirmed his God-appointed mission in Vietnam.
"The Lord has given me courage and greater faith. If I die here, it is okay, as long as I'm doing what the Lord wants me to do," he said boldly. "God reminded me that I've been crucified with Christ. If I am called by the Lord, I have nothing to fear."
Singing Pastor Introduces Christ
When Rico was invited by a local teacher to her class, he was surprised when the students requested him to sing.
"They heard Filipinos are great singers," the pastor recalled with a smile. "So I sang 'I Love Your Lord,' but first I explained to them why I love the Lord so much."
With just one song, a window of opportunity was opened for the teacher and her students to know who Jesus is, and the amazing gift He has for every Vietnamese.
"The Lord really worked in their hearts, because the teacher and the students were amazed to learn that through Jesus, it is possible to have eternal life," said Rico. He is glad the seed of the Good News was surely planted in the teacher's heart. She is now open to know more about Christ.
A Wife's Struggle
While Rico fully embraced his calling, his wife Melissa was less than enthusiastic during their missions trip to Vietnam.
"My heart was not 100 percent there," Melissa confessed. "On our first week, while I was riding the bus, I said, I don't like these people. There is no future for us in this place."
But God rebuked her one afternoon as she saw Vietnamese schoolchildren and office people on their way home riding their motorbikes.
"I began to ask, if Vietnam's population is 87 million, and only 0.5 percent of them are Christians, surely the Lord will not return soon. How can the Gospel spread if there are only a few missionaries, not to mention it goes against their law? There are still a lot more who haven't heard about Jesus. If we go home, what now?"
Melissa asked forgiveness from God, and her perspective was radically changed. When their exposure trip ended, she enrolled at Asian Center for Missions for formal training.
Like her husband who heeded the call to harvest, Melissa also now obeys with joy and determination to transform Vietnam for Christ.
*Real names withheld for security purposes.
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A single Filipina who has been shy and sheltered all her life finds herself teaching English and the Gospel to hardened convicts in Thailand's prisons. She sees them breaking free of the chains within their hearts.