Behind Closed Doors

Riza and Andy de Guzman recently went on their first mission trip as a couple trip Hanoi, Vietnam, along with 17 other Filipinos — doctors, dentists, computer programmer, accountants, engineers, teachers, and office workers — to train their counterparts on evangelism and discipleship.

As they landed safely past midnight, Riza breathed a prayer thanking God that this long prayed-for opportunity finally came. This mission was also their first time to go overseas as a couple and it fell on their 25th wedding anniversary.

Even with only a few hours of sleep, the group joined a worship service held behind closed doors — a house church in a quiet subdivision. The church helps rehabilitate its almost 500 members, mostly former drug dependents and their families.

Only about 40 people came that Sunday. Worship — singing, praying and the preaching God’s word — was in the local language. The Filipino team may not have understood the language but they were one with the locals as they worshiped, thanking God for these believers who continued to exercise their faith amidst persecution.

Vietnam is a communist state but Buddhism remains its predominant religion. Becoming a Christian means being disowned by one’s family and friends; and may even mean joblessness for some. Evangelism is totally prohibited.

Despite this state, Riza observed, the city atmosphere was welcoming and relaxed, though cautious, especially where many tourists shopped, ate or went around. Expats roamed freely in the Old Quarter portion of the city.

Progress has come a long way since the fall of Vietnam in 1975. New public highways and bridges are being built. People are into businesses. Factories abound. Tourism is booming. The countryside with its mostly rice and vegetable plantations produce abundant harvests. Despite the country’s progress, Vietnamese culture remains a strong influence — people still wear their ubiquitous triangular headgear even in the city!

The Philippine team’s major difficulty was the language barrier. Only a few locals speak English so the team kept on praying, not knowing what to expect. They knew God was with them.

Their next two days were spent training some 40 young professionals and staff from different churches. Young Christian professionals helped interpret discussions from English to Vietnamese and vice versa. They were taught how to reach cities for Christ — how to witness in the workplace, pray for the marketplace, and share the gospel by just using hand gestures, to name a few.

The team held medical and dental missions extending services only to believers in two different countryside churches to avoid being noticed by authorities. Holding placards with translations made communication easier. In one church, four local interpreters helped the doctors and dentists communicate with and attend to 140 patients.

Meetings with other Christian laborers for prayer and fellowship were done discreetly too. God’s protection and favor throughout the entire trip was quite evident. It was literally a trouble free affair, except when passports had to be surrendered at every hotel they checked in and their rented bus met a minor accident.

The local believers gladly welcomed them, but the Philippine team went home more blessed and encouraged — that even with restrictions, God powerfully moved in that place.

Riza wrapped up their mission trip, “In our country, we are blessed with so much freedom which we sometimes take for granted. One Christian friend told us that it is easy to become a Christian in the Philippines but in Vietnam it means risking everything. I am amazed that despite the restrictions, Christ is being known and proclaimed there. Wouldn’t it be great if every Christian took part in the fulfillment of the Great Commission?”