My Missions Trip to Vietnam – Ho Chi Minh City

During the Summer of 2010, Michael C., Tiffany W., Chris C., and myself went on a prayer journey to Vietnam partnering with OMF (Overseas Missions Fellowship). What is a prayer journey you ask? I had no idea what it was either when I first heard of the trip. A prayer journey was defined as praying while we walked and observed the country that we were going to.

Vietnam is a relatively small country located in South East Asia, with the South China Sea to its right, and having Cambodia and Laos as neighbors to its left. In 111 BCE, Vietnam was ruled by the Chinese until 938 AD when they broke away and had their own leadership until the late 1800s when the French came and took over. In 1941, Ho Chi Minh arrived in Northern Vietnam, and started the rebellion and expulsion of the French out of Vietnam. This eventually led to the Vietnam War, in which the country split into the North and the South. Russia and the United States became involved, the former trying to ensure that Vietnam remained a communist country, while the latter fought to drive the reds out.  The US fought from 1955 -1973, while the Southern Vietnamese army finally surrendered in 1975. Afterwards, the Northern changed the entire country into a communist state, and massacred thousands of people. Vietnam only recently opened its doors to foreigners in the mid-90s, and joined the World Trade Organization in 2007. Vietnam’s major exports consist of rice, coffee, tea, rubber, and seafood. The Vietnamese currency is called Dong, and the exchange rate at the time was 1 USD to 18000-20000 dong, which meant that I became a multi-millionaire within seconds.

Our trip began in Chiang Mai, located in Northern Thailand, where we trained for several days at the Mekong base, where we got acclimated to the time difference, heat, and humidity. When we first got to the airport, we had some trouble getting through customs, as we didn’t have an address on our customs cards. While Mike and I managed to talk our way through customs, Chris and Tiff were stuck with an overzealous customs officer who held their passports hostage until we found our contact, Rodney. This seemed nearly impossible as we had no idea what Rodney looked like, or if he really was going to show. Thankfully, Rodney found Mike and I wandering around the airport, although we should have figured out that the lone tall white guy was probably the man we were looking for…Anyways, we got to learn about OMF’s beliefs and how their style of missions. OMF follows Hudson Taylor’s belief in helping the indigenous people become self-sufficient and star their own churches. OMF’s goal is to train locals to be pastors of their own congregations and to have them send missionaries to other parts of the country and the world. It is far more effective to have a local preaching the gospel to their own people group than to have someone who is unfamiliar with the local customs and traditions to preach something new. It is also important to have the the locals support themselves in order for them to not become dependent on outside help. For example, when churches are built in other countries with funding from wealthier countries, it causes the locals to expect handouts and become dependent. When they fund their own buildings and build themselves up, they are no longer dependent on outsiders, and they are able to help themselves.

From the OMF website:

  • We believe in the one, holy, sovereign, creating and redeeming God, eternally existing in three Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
  • We believe in the divine inspiration and entire trustworthiness of the Bible, its infallible teaching and supreme authority in all matters of faith and conduct; and its normative value for all peoples, at all times, in all cultures. We believe that all people without distinction are made in the image of God, but all are now sinners and have incurred both God’s holy wrath and their own shame and guilt. All are therefore in utter need of redemption.
  • We believe in Jesus Christ our Lord, the incarnate Son of God, uniquely God-man and the only Savior. We believe in His virgin birth, sinless life, sacrificial death, bodily resurrection and ascension. We believe He has achieved the final defeat of Satan and all evil powers.
  • We believe in the justification of sinners by God’s grace, through faith in Christ alone.
  • We believe in the Holy Spirit and His convicting, regenerating, sanctifying and reviving work. He guides and empowers individuals and churches in their service to God and all people.
  • We believe in the unity and priesthood of all believers who together form the one, holy, universal, apostolic church.
  • We believe in the visible, personal return of Jesus Christ in power and great glory to judge both the living and the dead. We believe that the Scriptures set out only two destinies for humanity; the joyful prospect of eternal life in the presence of God for those who have received Christ and the agonizing prospect of eternal separation from God for those who have rejected Him.
OMF values:

1. We TRUST in God

  • Praying as an expression of faith is an integral part of our life and service
  • Depending on God for holy living, fruit in our work and for all our needs
  • Inviting others to join us in a life of faith and prayer

2. We are a FELLOWSHIP

  • Pursuing our vision and mission together
    Caring for and supporting each other and sharing resources
  • Encouraging and enhancing each other’s effectiveness

3. We are Passionate to Reach the UNREACHED

  • Keeping a sharp focus on the neglected frontiers
  • Constantly evaluating and innovating in line with our vision
  • Taking prayerful risks and persevering with the task
  • God has given us

4. We Practice INCARNATIONAL Ministry

  • Identifying with the people and living an appropriate lifestyle
  • Learning culture, language and worldview
  • Working in ways that encourage indigenous movements

5. We PARTNER in Ministry

  • with sending churches globally
  • with local churches in the ministry context
  • with likeminded Christians and mission agencies
6. We LEAD from the MINISTRY Context
  • Strategy is developed by those engaged in the ministry
  • Structures, administration and policies are designed to serve the ministry
  • Home and field work together to accomplish the ministry objectives

7. We Celebrate DIVERSITY IN UNITY

  • Valuing the diversity that God has given us – such as ethnic, denominational, generational, personality, gifts, gender
  • Respecting one another and maintaining our unity in Christ
  • Fostering unity and cooperation among Christians

After learning about OMF’s beliefs and what we were going to do as a prayer team in Vietnam, we decided to take a break and explore Chiang Mai. The first night, the 4 of us went to the night market, which is one of the largest in the world. The Chiang Mai night market covers several blocks and goes into some temples. The vendors at the bazaar had toys, trinkets, food, purses, clothing, and many other offerings, but the main attraction for me was the food. A majority of the money I had brought on the trip was spent on food stalls, and trying new foods. The second night, Calvin, one of the missionaries stationed in the Mekong office, took us to visit another night market located on castle grounds, which was still surrounded by a moat. Chris and Michael were feeling a little under the weather, and wanted to stay, so it was just Calvin, Tiff, and myself. Tiff rode on Calvin’s scooter, while I rode another, and we drove into the market and bought some fruit and a mango and coconut sticky rice dish and headed back to the Mekong center, where we shared with Chris and Michael.

Driving in Thailand is crazy, as the traffic is ‘reversed’ relative to the traffic in the States. They drive on the other side of the road, and not only do you have to dodge cars and other vehicles, you have to avoid pedestrians as well. This was also the first time that I had ridden on a scooter since I took the M1 class a few months before. The reason I took the class in the first place was to know how to ride, just in case the Vietnamese government caught onto us and decided to come after us. My plan was to get a motorbike, and ride away to safety while the soldiers would be chasing me with their AK47s…thankfully this did not happen, and I don’t think I would have been able to ride to safety as I had a hard time keeping up with Calvin in Thailand, which is nothing compared to the traffic in Vietnam.

After a fun night with Calvin, we had to head out to Ho Chi Minh City the next day. We took a short flight and got to the city. Ho Chi Minh City used to be Saigon, but was changed when the northern Vietnamese took over. Saigon was the base of operations for the US during the Vietnam war, so even though the communists took over, Ho Chi Minh City is still more relaxed in comparison to other parts of the country. It was so hot and humid when we arrived, the traffic was even crazier, the smog in the air was worse than any place I had been too, and the noise in the city was amazingly loud. We went to check in at our hotel, where they asked for our passports, which is one of the methods that the Vietnamese government has for keeping track of foreigners. The hotel staff report to government officials who is staying at their hotel and for how long. After we checked in, we stopped to get some ice coffee at the hotel’s restaurant.

Coffee in Vietnam is amazing, I’ve never had coffee nearly as good in the States. However, my digestive system is not used to the diary that they use in the coffee, which caused me to have crazy stomach problems for the rest of the night, so I had to stay in the hotel to rest while the rest of the group went out to explore. I eventually felt better so Rodney and I went out to explore. While we were walking around and checking out the food stalls, a couple on a scooter drove right in front of us, and I lifted my hands in indignation of almost getting hit. This was a very big mistake. I am a foreigner visiting another country, not only is it a different country, but it is a communist country, which typically don’t like foreigners. The locals know local officials, who could throw me in jail for any ambiguous reason, and let me rot there. The woman on the back of the scooter looked back at me, and told the man driving the scooter to turn around. As they pulled up I prepared for the worst, and the woman asked me, ‘do you want lady friend tonight?’ Wait what? I thought I was about to get thrown in jail, but instead I got propositioned by a prostitute, which was relieving but disturbing at the same time. I said no, and Rodney and I kept walking. When prostitutes see potential clients, they tend to flock like seagulls to a stale bagel, and these 2 other women on a scooter pulled up immediately and pulled at my arm asking the same question, ‘No no, that is the complete opposite reason why I came here.’ Afterwards, Rodney and I went back to the hotel.

In retrospect, we should not have even been out that night, as there was a World cup game going on. Many people bet on the games, and many times they borrow money from the mafia and loansharks. If they lose, they typically can’t pay the thugs back, and resort to robbing people on the street. Rodney and I were sitting at the cafe watching a game, and this one man was telling us to not go out. He was concerned that someone would try to beat us up for money, and said that it is much safer to stay at that cafe and watch the game with him. He informed us that 30 people were found dead in the river, and that they had jumped off the bridge because they couldn’t pay their debts off. We later found out he had put 6,000 on 2 games that night and he lost both bets. The amazing thing was that he didn’t even seem phased that he lost, it was just another bet to him, maybe he was the mafia…

We stayed in Ho Chi Minh City for 4-5 days, and we walked around the city. We talked with a few students that we met at the multiple colleges around the city. Many of them were in school to become tour guides, which is a respectable position in Vietnam, as you work with foreigners, a sign of social status. We also went to a few temples, which were very ornate, and had many statues of Buddha covered in gold leaf. A lot of people would go into the temple to burn incense to appease the spirits and their ancestors. Almost all of the houses and business have shrines either in the front or the back, where they have food and incense. The construction crew in the building right next to us would burn incense and offer food to the spirits every morning before they started working. One of the days, we went on a Mekong delta tour, where we got to see how the locals really live, although we were told that the government hires actors to pretend that they live in those villages. We met a lot of tourists, and a majority of the people that we met were from Australia. The Australians said that it is usually cheaper to go travel than to stay in Australia. We also met a lot of guys who were there to get prostitutes, and they were talking about how easy it is. It’s pretty disgusting to see how bad human nature can be, and how low they are willing to go just to get some. At our hotel, we would be constantly bombarded by children and handicap people selling gum, tissues, sunglasses, and other trinkets. We also saw a lot of old men and women begging for dong. Seeing these people who have to scrape by to get enough to eat broke my heart. The Vietnamese government really has no way to help these people who are at the bottom of the social ladder, and have no other resources or people to turn to.

After our time in Ho Chi Minh City, we had to move onto Hue, which will be in the next post. Thanks for stopping by! I’ll post the pictures eventually…

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Comments
One Response to “My Missions Trip to Vietnam – Ho Chi Minh City”
  1. Nhi Pham says:

    Hi there!
    I’m inspired of your testimony to Vietnam and it is very motivating. Our school suggests to have a short-term (about 2 weeks) mission trip to Vietnam, not only touring some places, but especially is to share the gospel, having Bible studies, worshipping time, helping some organizations like orphanages, churches and maybe teaching English at school too!
    Please contact me at #405 541 3415 or email me at nhipham2901@gmail.com. I really need some info for the first trip. I’m going to help my school planning and scheduling for the trip so we’re looking forward to a fun, purposeful trip to Vietnam.
    Thank you so much!

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