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September 2004

Vietnam, September 2004

Dear Friends,

One reason these men are smiling is because their reward is so great in heaven, as that is what Jesus promised those who suffer persecution for His sake (see Matt. 5:1-12). They are all house church pastors, and they represent three of the fifty-four ethnic groups living in communist Vietnam. Each traveled over 500 miles to attend our pastors’ conference at the beginning of this month. They all live in a country that has been ranked fourth on the persecution index by Open Doors Ministries, right behind North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Laos.

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Most all of the genuine Christian pastors in Vietnam lead underground house churches, as essentially only two very compromised and government-controlled denominations are legal. Every other group, from the Presbyterians to the Assemblies of God, are illegal and underground. Ominously, the Vietnamese government has just passed a new “Ordinance on Religion” effective November 15 that will permanently outlaw all house church organizations. The house church movement is growing so large in Vietnam that the government is becoming concerned, but the believers are fasting and praying fervently that God will intervene.

Pastor ________ has been told by the local authorities that he must ask permission if he wants to travel for any reason outside his little village of 300 families, and he has been detained and interrogated by the police on numerous occasions.They’ve threatened him with fines and labor if he doesn’t stop preaching the gospel. One of his arrests was broadcast on local television, and viewers were warned to avoid him as he is a law-breaker. He intends to continue preaching throughout his region and planting churches.

Both pastor _________ and pastor _________ have experienced similar harassment from local police in their provinces.Shepherd Serve has been blessed last month to provide all three of these pastors (and seven others like them) with bicycles to help them reach more villages with the gospel.

Altogether, fifty-two pastors and leaders joined our underground conference, some coming from as far as Hanoi, one thousand miles away. I enjoyed three full days of wonderful ministry to them. We paused only after lunch each day for an hour so everyone could take their traditional Vietnamese nap. They moved all the chairs aside and slept lying on the floor! (About 20 of the 50 snored.)

One of the neighbors close to our conference site reported to the authorities his suspicion that something was going on. The police came to investigate, but they arrived on the night of the last day of the conference after everyone was gone, including me. Had they come on any of the three previous nights, they would have found scores of pastors sleeping in the conference room. Once again, the Lord was one step ahead of the devil!

The Vietnamese translation of The Disciple-Making Minister is progressing well, and we now have the right connections in place to distribute copies to leaders all over Vietnam. This book is a revision of a book I wrote about 15 years ago that was titled The Christian Disciple’s Manual. It was a request for that book twelve years ago by six Vietnamese pastors that opened the door for my recent trip there. The revision should be completed by the end of October, as I only have about five chapters to go. (I’m correcting all my previous errors!)

Also, because of the gifts of Shepherd Serve partners this past month, we were able to buy food for hundreds of very needy orphans in Myanmar (see photos below), as well as purchase 300 pairs of reading glasses that we will give to Myanmar pastors at our conference there in December. Thanks to everyone for making all of this ministry possible, and to God be all the glory.

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We Still Send Books

We still constantly receive letters from pastors overseas requesting our books, and we are doing our best to answer their requests with your help. It is very humbling to hear back from some of those pastors who express what an impact a book has made in their lives. For example, here is an excerpt from a recent letter from a pastor in Nigeria:

I picked up two of your books from a pastor friend in January of 2003 and I took the time to go through the books, but one of the books known as God’s Tests did a lot of things in me at the point of my frustration, discouragement, downcasted in heart, and rejection. Before I got in touch with that book I have made up my mind to close the church and look for a job in another state, but it was at that timing I got in contact with the book God’s Tests and it helps to settle my problems that till today I am still in the ministry work.

And from a pastor in Myanmar:

This is to express my inner hearts-felt thanks to you through reading The Great Gospel Deception book….I was so blessed and happy of the book. Of the book, the Lord opens my spiritual eyes and give me a heart of love and mercy toward the orphans. Therefore, many times, I knelt down to pray before God to give me the vision and revelation for further ministry. In fact, I have been teaching in a Bible School for four years. But there is no way that I could stop His calling. So, I left from the Bible college and now I am feeding the orphans.There are so many orphans in our country. — Joshua Ni Kio, Shalom Children Home (Joshua started his orphanage in April of this year. We were blessed to give his orphanage a new treadle sewing machine last month to make clothing for his orphans, as well as provide food.)

That last letter is another reason why I’m convinced that the most important thing we can do is to help Christian leaders proclaim a biblical gospel…the only gospel that results in genuine transformation by the Holy Spirit and self-denial. When a such gospel is proclaimed, in the end, even orphans benefit. You can read The Great Gospel Deception (in English) online.

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October Plans

I had been scheduled to teach at a pastors’ conference in Liberia, West Africa, in October, but it was rescheduled to next year. So apart from all the usual administrative tasks and a real attempt to complete The Disciple-Making Minister in October, I’ll be using frequent flyer miles on USAirways (before they become worthless in light of their financial troubles) to do some teaching and “friend-raising” in Florida, Connecticut, Georgia, Virginia and Arizona. If you’d like me to visit you in October, just let me know…I’ve still got plenty of frequent flyer miles!

God bless you for standing with us as we continue to strengthen the Church by serving her shepherds!

David