Seventh-day Adventist Church President Ted N. C. Wilson last month became the first non-indigenous person permitted to speak at an Adventist evangelism event in Vietnam since 1975, a major step for the church since the government granted permission for the denomination to resume operating here in 2008.
Local Adventist leaders hope the milestone is one that can help give a boost to growing evangelism efforts and lead to increased membership and ministry outreach in this Southeast Asian country. The Adventist Church here is still considered—at least in some ways—in its early stages of growth.
Wilson participated in a “Mission to the Cities” reaping evangelistic series from April 24 to 26 at the Phu Nhuan Seventh-day Adventist Church in Ho Chi Minh City, a municipality of more than 8 million people.
“We are grateful to the government for helping to facilitate this opportunity,” said Khoi Tran, secretary of the Ministerial Association for the Adventist Church’s Vietnam Mission.
Wilson said he emphasized the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s focus on Revival and Reformation, the 777 Prayer initiative and the “Word of God” as the foundation of faith. He baptized 35 people, most of whom were young people, who joined the Adventist Church at the end of the series. They studied and prepared for baptism during the weeks prior to the evangelistic series.
Ten local evangelistic volunteers worked for one year prior to the event to bring awareness of the Seventh-day Adventist message to many people. A team of young literature evangelists also helped to prepare for the evangelistic series. The reaping evangelistic series welcomed over 160 visitors in addition to local church members who attended. On the final night, attendance spilled outside.
Wilson’s participation here also marked the first time that a president of the Seventh-day Adventist world church participated in evangelistic outreach in Vietnam, Khoi said. During his visit, Wilson also traveled to the capital city of Hanoi to meet with the government’s vice director of the Committee for Religious Affairs. Wilson visited the headquarters of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency in Vietnam and also visited a small fourth-floor church that was established by a blind member.
In the capitol city of Hanoi, with approximately 6.5 million people, the Seventh-day Adventist Church has only two churches with a combined membership of less than 100 members. The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Vietnam has approximately 11,300 members worshipping in 15 churches.
Expanding outreach has been challenging in the country of more than 90 million people, Khoi said, but a few milestones in recent years signal the potential of an encouraging future.
Since 2008, Adventists have been able to conduct outreach and service projects in Hanoi beyond what the denomination had established prior to 1975. In 2009, the church here celebrated the 80th anniversary of the arrival of the Seventh-day Adventist message. At that ceremony, the church held the first ordination of pastors in the country since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. And in 2012, an Adventist World Radio (AWR) studio was built and is producing programming. Wilson described AWR as “a great blessing to the outreach of God’s work in Vietnam and around the world.”
Ministry through literature evangelism also is expanding, especially among Adventist young adults, and several health expos are reaching communities with comprehensive health ministry.
Still, the Adventist Church has established operations in only a handful of the nation’s 58 provinces and municipalities. It can now minister to only six of the 54 cultural groups, many of whom have their own language, Khoi said. Also, most members live in rural areas while more citizens are moving to cities. “It is a challenge to shift our focus to mission to the urban areas,” Khoi said.
“Both of those challenges require workers to be sent, but we don't have a proper Bible training school yet,” Khoi said. “Please pray for the Lord to open the way that we will soon have a seminary to equip more people to be sent out for Christ.”
Nearly 80 percent of Vietnam’s citizens identify themselves as not affiliated with any religion, according census data. Nearly 10 percent are Buddhist, and almost 7 percent are Roman Catholic. Less than 1 percent are Protestant.
Visitors to Vietnam are fascinated by crowded traffic patterns. In Ho Chi Minh City, a city of some 3.5 million motorbikes, Wilson was told that if you can successfully cross the street here in heavy traffic, “you can go anywhere.” Wilson used the analogy during his preaching, telling local leaders that God wanted them to “cross the street” and realize the vision that He has for evangelizing Vietnam.
“We surely believe this event is a deciding step, opening the way for more public efforts to the cities,” Khoi said. “Please pray for Vietnam as we put our hands and efforts together to prepare a people for Jesus' soon coming."