After converting to Christianity as a Buddhist with suicidal tendencies more than a decade ago, one man has been consistently risking his life while getting more than 100,000 children’s Bibles into the hands Vietnamese youth who previously had no hope.
As a 33-year-old smuggler and father of two from Ho Chi Minh City, Bao has fearlessly faced increased persecution in a heavily Buddhist and ethnic-animist nation to boldly deliver God’s Word over the past two years while partnering with Open Doors' Children Bible Project.
Only just begun …
But he maintains that this merely scratches the surface of meeting the need for Christ in Vietnam, where he says statistics indicate that approximately 2 million people are in desperate need of Bibles – as Christian churches continue to suffer greater restrictions and are forced to gather in secret, with Buddhism being the only faith that evades persecution by the government.
When he was 19 years old in high school, God delivered Bao from his desire to kill himself.
“I thought life had no meaning,” Bao told Open Doors USA. “I felt empty – I wanted to commit suicide. My house was near a river, and many times I walked past it and thought, ‘What if I just jump into the river to die?’”
Some of Bao’s Christian friends who knew his suicidal thoughts invited him to church and he kept returning – initially just to kill time in his hopeless life.
“Each day, though, I wondered, ‘Why is it that Christians have a strange joy in their lives?’” the Christian convert shared. “I couldn’t feel it, but I wanted to, so, I challenged God, saying to Him, ‘If you are real, show me.’”
It was not long before God revealed Himself to Bao during a worship service, and his life was soon turned upside-down.
“It was just an ordinary day of worship, but I felt God’s Spirit come and touch me,” Bao recalled. “My life completely changed, and I had a desire to serve Him.”
A disciple to children
Coming to Christ as a young adult, Bao had a soft spot in his heart to reach out to youth and accepted an invitation from his church to serve as a teen at a children’s camp for pastors’ kids.
“I found that the children there were very special, and I knew that God had a big plan for all of them,” he continued, noting his growing love for Christ that spurred his continued involvement in children’s ministry and teen programs. “I see a young army of God. When a child comes to God and He changes him, that child can become a good servant of God. I feel very happy to give a part of myself to serve these future warriors.”
God’s general: Recruiting young and old soldiers for Christ
In addition to sharing his faith with children, Bao’s outreach has extended to adults living throughout the Communist-dominated regions of Vietnam.
“Six years ago, he was traveling through central Vietnam, sharing Christ, when he came to the home of a local man and stayed with him to share the Gospel,” Open Doors reported. “It was time well spent. Bao led him to Christ, and he began sharing the Gospel with many. During that time, Bao says, lots of people came to know God.”
God opened the eyes of many more through Bao.
“That area was a quiet [Communist] area,” he shared about his early adventures for Christ when he led more than 20 people to Jesus. “They didn’t know that God is love. They have to suffer under [spiritual] bondage. That’s why when the Gospel came to them, their hearts were broken and they cried out.”
His account of his early journeys resembled the ministry of Paul and Barnabas, when they went city to city spreading the Gospel in the land of the gentiles.
“I and another person who stayed in his house took care of the new believers” Bao continued. “When the new believers became mature, we would go with a group of believers to a place far from the main town.”
He experienced opposition from the authorities, as did Paul in New Testament times.
“Government officials heard about the burgeoning movement and took steps to crush it,” Open Doors explained. “Police stormed the worship time, stopping the service and forcing people to flee, scattering in all different direction – except Bao and the owner of the house.”
Bao stayed silent while his Bibles and Christian teaching materials were confiscated before he was thrown in jail by day and released by night. Most house church leaders dared not to speak with him after that day because government officials warned that their food supply would be cut off if they stayed in contact with him.
“Because the tension was too high and for the good of the people there, I left the area,” he recounted, noting that a few still kept in touch – even Bao was warned that further contact would mean more government persecution of the community, which was harsh because the state provided most of the farm supplies for the predominantly agrarian area.
A new calling
God had new plans for Bao in 2016, when he started the dangerous Children’s Bible Project for Open Doors, as he consistently tries to evade government detection.
“We’re trying not to let them know where we come from or who we are,” Bao informed. “We try to hide ourselves.”
He was pleased to see that both children and adults are being blessed by the Children’s Bibles.
“What matters most is that the Word of God comes to everyone,” Bao insisted “When I distribute Children’s Bibles in the big churches, they honor the book not only as a free gift, but as material to teach God’s Word. They also use this book for evangelism. And I believe that it’s going farther, and that its impact will spread wider. God’s Word must be easy for people to reach. The Children’s Bible is one of the easiest ways to let different kinds of people know about Him. I believe this is the job of a sower. We continue to sow, and God continues to make it grow.”
He is confident that a great revival in Vietnam is already underway.
“We have to prepare the next generation – to give them the vision so that they can see the Word of God and live in faithfulness,” Bao concluded. “They will be the ones who do miraculous things. I believe this generation will be the one to do mighty things for God.”
Even though nations such as North Korea (no. 1) and Iran (no. 8) are on the World Watch list as two of the top 10 nations persecuting Christians in he world – constantly covered in the news for their horrific treatment of Christians – Vietnam is not far down on the list when it comes to persecuting believers for their faith.
“Christians in Vietnam have faced heavy persecution on a number of occasions, with the country ranked No. 17 on Open Door's World Watch List,” The Christian Post informed.
In late June, Catholic priests in central Vietnam’s Thua Thien Hue province were beaten when plainclothes police tied to tear down a cross on their church’s land.
“The 8:00 a.m. attack on June 28 was launched when authorities arrived at the Thien An monastery in Hue to take down the cross and saw church members taking their photos as they approached,” Thien An priest Khoa Cao Duc Loi told RFA’s Vietnamese Service. “They threw stones at the priests, and beat three or four of them, [and their attackers were accompanied by] women and thugs [who helped police to pull down the cross]. They prevented us from putting it back, and priests held on to the cross while police tore at their shirts and dragged them by their hair.”