THE HISTORY OF THE STUDENT GROUP OF THE ASSEMBLIES OF GOD OF VIETNAM
By David Khiem
Talking about the success in the history of the Assemblies of God of Vietnam, we should include the hard work and the perseverance of the Vietnamese students who were willing to sacrifice themselves for the sake of the Church and for the glory of God's name in the outpouring days of the Holy Spirit in Vietnam. It is said that, "Young people are the pillar of the Church." The students of the Assemblies of God play an important role in this statement. The students are a source of encouragement and positive motivation in today's Church and will be the strength and the source of good leaders in the future Church. Throughout history, students have contributed to spread the fire of the Holy Spirit in many parts of the country. In the persecution days, students were in the forefront in being willing to pay a precious price for the safety of the Church and God's people.
Students in the North
The North of Vietnam is considered as the root of the Communist party where people are immersed with communist ideas and are faithful with them. It is in the North of Vietnam where the growth of Christianity is more stifled. In a restricted country such as Vietnam, being outspoken about the Christian faith can lead to imprisonment.
In 1998, it was reported that Jebrame Cruz "a Filipino graduate from the Asian Center for Missions (ACM), has been sowing Kingdom seeds in the hearts of out of school youths, students and professionals." Jebrame started with a burden for Russia. It was during the 1995 National Youth Missions Congress where he had the chance to sign up for an exposure trip to Vietnam. He joined a group who flew to Ho Chi Minh where he was moved by the sight of millions of Vietnamese worshipping Buddhist idols.
Jebrame was called by God to focus on Campus ministry work and began to witness by a friendship evangelism strategy. He had a friendly tie with students at the university canteen, coffeeshop, and even the public park. He used his English language aptitude to share the Gospel with curious Vietnamese students who were drawn to him because of his English skills. He used the Icebreaker card game and students enjoyed it. Jebrame discipled for four students and two school youth and through them he shared audio-tapes and books on practical Christian living. He said, "I have a heart for Vietnam. I can stay there as long as God wants me to. I really feel that the Vietnamese need the Lord badly." "Jebrame believers that God is at work in Vietnam. He knows that no amount of government restriction can stop the work of the Lord in this communist country where there are now an estimated 1.2 million Christians out of the total population of 78 million (in 1998)."
Students in the South
Meanwhile, in the South, the Lord has called Duc, a young leader who was in charge of young people in the South district of Saigon in 1995. The Lord has put in his heart a burden for the Vietnamese student, while there were a lot of persecutions upon the Churches through out the country due to the restoration of the Assemblies of God Churches. Repression, interrogations and imprisonment have increased to Church leaders. Many missionaries were kicked out of the country. Christian students were limited to get a job in the Government Company and to pursue of their study in abroad.
In these circumstances, the Holy Spirit was at work. Duc who came from Christian and Missionary Alliances background was filled with the Holy Spirit with speaking in tongues. With the divine calling of the Holy Spirit he came together with Khiem, Cuc, Thao and later with Minh. They started the first meeting of a student cell group at Laxarus Church on Au Co Street, Ho Chi Minh City on April 26th 1995. Under the counsel of Rev. Tran Dinh Ai who was a Superintendent of the Assemblies of God at that time, the student cell group was formed by the gathering of five students at the beginning. They decided to become a group that stood on its own feet. The group had its own leadership, supported itself, and actively proclaimed the gospel.
In the midst of persecutions and hard situations, these first students were willing to sacrifice themselves to contribute their time, money, wisdom, talents and long perseverance to keep the student cell-group moving going forward. Because this was a new ministry of the Assemblies of God church, they lackied finances, materials, training, and leadership experiences. Even so, the fire of the Holy Spirit was revealed through the hearts of these students. Under His leadership the students began to focus on reaching out to university students in Ho Chi Minh City.
There were many students from different parts of Vietnam getting to know the Lord. The Student cell group turned into a Student Church in 1996 and it became a mission center of the students of the Assemblyies of God. With a burden to reach out the students in all parts of the country, the Student Church sent students to the East and West to build the Student Church. Also, they went up to the North to contact Christian students in Hanoi Capital. Many cell groups have been established in these areas. While based in the South, the Student Church has formed many cell groups around Ho Chi Minh City. A strong force of students was built and the outreach focused on training students for evangelism.
In this year, the local police persecuted the Student Church. After being asked for an amount of money, an American missionary couple was arrested by police and was asked to leave the country. The Student Church had to move to Bac Hai Street and to gather in the house of a member of the Church in 1997.
In the same year, the Student Church began to work along with missionaries from different countries to have training courses in Vung Tau City. Students have a chance to evangelize after every training course. Through these students hundreds of people come to know the Lord in Vung Tau City. This contributed much to the development of the Assemblies of God Churches.
At the end of 1997, there were many threatening words by local police to the owner of the house in Bac Hai Street where the Student Church was gathering for worship service. One time the police suddenly broke into the house while the students had an Evangelism training course in English, but praise the Lord for His protection. After observing around one policeman said, "Next time if you study English, you need to inform and ask permission from us."
In 1998, the leaders of the Student Church felt that it was not safe to keep the service in this place. Therefore they moved to another place where they were welcomed by a Pentecostal pastor. From this place the Student Church began to make contact with student groups from other denominations and built up a strong relationship with them. With a burden to spread the good news to students, all the members of the student group went into universities, dormitories, and public parks to witness with students. They were arrested many times, but the Holy Spirit was always with them and taught them what to say in hard situations.
Especially, on Christmas day 1999, an historical event of the Student Church happened. They gathered more than 1000 students from different denominations and from different universities to celebrate Jesus' birthday and to preach the Gospel. This was the first big meeting of all denominations since the communist Party took over the South of Vietnam. The Holy Spirit was moving among the meeting to protect this celebration day and to convince students to trust in the Lord. There were 300 students came to surrender their lives to the Lord at that night. The meeting was surrounding by municipal police, but the hand of the Lord stretched out to protect his children. One of leaders had to run out of her hometown to escape from the hand of police for three months. From this event, many Churches began to apply this model of evangelism meeting to preach the Gospel and they too were successful.