HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam — Christian sources in Vietnam
report that some 40,000 people gathered in a hastily constructed venue in Ho
Chi Minh City to worship God, celebrate Christmas and hear a gospel message on
Dec. 11 — an event of unprecedented magnitude.
A popular Vietnamese Christian website and other reports indicated up to 8,000
people indicated a desire to follow Christ in response to the gospel message,
Compass Direct News reported Dec. 14.
For the last two years, authorities surprisingly granted permission to
unregistered house churches in Ho Chi Minh City to hold public Christmas
rallies, and last year more than 10,000 people participated in one in Tao Dan
Stadium, Compass reported.
This year house church leaders approached the government in October and asked
for a sports stadium seating 30,000. Authorities denied the request but offered
a sports venue holding only 3,000, located 13 kilometers (eight miles) out of
the city, Compass reported. This was unacceptable to the organizers, who
pressed for another stadium for about 15,000 in the city, and officials gave a
verbal promise that they could have it.
The verbal promise did not translate into the written permission that is
critical in the country, Compass reported, noting that church leaders say such
promises are empty until they we have the permission paper in hand. However,
Christian leaders believed that planning for the event had to proceed without
permission and sent out invitations far and wide — only to have authorities
deny the stadium they had promised.
Led by pastor Ho Tan Khoa, chairman of a large fellowship of house church
organizations, organizers were forced to look for alternatives and found a
large open field in the Go Vap district of the city. When permission still was
not granted five days before the scheduled event, Compass reported that several
church leaders literally camped for three days outside city hall, pressing for
Authorities, who often work to sabotage united action among Christians, tried
urgently to find ways to talk the leaders out of going ahead, promising future
concessions if they would cancel the event, Compass reported. But organizers
stood firm, ultimately telling the deputy mayor that refusal to grant
permission at that point would have far-ranging negative ramifications in
Vietnam as well as internationally.
Finally, at the close of business Dec. 9, just 48 hours before the event,
officials granted permission that had required clearance all the way to Hanoi.
But the permission was only for 3,000 people, and many more had been invited.
Organizers had less than two days to turn a vacant field into something that
would accommodate a stadium-size crowd. According to Compass, they had to bring
in ample electricity, construct a giant stage, rent 20,000 chairs and set up
the sound and lighting. The extremely short time frame caused contractors to
double the prices they would have charged with ample time.
Organizers also rented hundreds of buses to bring Christians and their
non-Christian friends from provinces near the city. Thousands of students
sacrificed classes to help with last-minute preparations and to join the
celebration, Compass reported.
Just after noon on Friday, Dec. 11, word came that police had stopped busses
carrying 300 Steing minority people from the west to the event scheduled for
that evening. Organizers, fearing all buses would be stopped, put out an
emergency worldwide prayer request.
Christian sources told Compass that authorities either did not or could not
stop buses from other directions, and that by evening the venue became the
biggest “bus station” in all of Vietnam. By 6 p.m. the venue had filled to
capacity, and at least 2,000 had to be turned away.
Christians described the event, called “With Our Whole Hearts,” in superlative
terms, Compass reported. For house churches, large gatherings are both very
rare and very special, and for many this was their first glimpse of the
strength of Vietnam’s growing Christian movement. Thousands of Christians
joined a choir of more 1,000 singers in joyful praise, Compass reported.
Sources said the main speaker, Duong Thanh Lam, head of the Assemblies of God
house churches, preached with anointing and people responding to his gospel
invitation poured to the front of the stage “like a waterfall.” With space in
front of the stage insufficient, the sources said, many others in their seats
also indicated their desire to receive Christ.
Organizers along with many participants were overwhelmed with emotion and
gratitude as the event closed, Compass reported. People spontaneously hugged
each other and cried, “Lord, bring revival to all of Vietnam!” Other comments
included “Beyond our fondest imagination” and “Nothing could stop the hand of
The event raised more than $3,280 for a charity helping needy children. People
were quite surprised to read a positive article on the event in the
state-controlled press, which often vilifies Christians.
Compass reported that house churches in the north were hopeful that they could
hold a similar event. Organizers in Hanoi have heard encouraging reports that
they will get permission to use the national My Dinh sports stadium for a
Christmas celebration, though they do not have it in hand. Sources said they
have sent out invitations across a broad area to an event scheduled for Dec.
The Dec. 11 gathering in Ho Chi Minh City also made history in that it was
streamed live on the Vietnamese web site www.hoithanh.com and viewed by
thousands in Vietnam and by Vietnamese people around the world.
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Compass Direct News, based in Santa Ana, Calif., provides
reports on Christians worldwide who are persecuted for their faith. Used by