by Jim Reapsome
The dreadful events of recent weeks in Cambodia and Vietnam hang heavy on our hearts as we prepare this issue. Somehow, the academic debates of missionary work pale into insignificance when we are faced with the stark reality of oppression, persecution and martyrdom on massive scales.
The dreadful events of recent weeks in Cambodia and Vietnam hang heavy on our hearts as we prepare this issue. Somehow, the academic debates of missionary work pale into insignificance when we are faced with the stark reality of oppression, persecution and martyrdom on massive scales. At this writing, no one can imagine what will have transpired by the time our readers all over the world read these words.
Of course, many veteran China missionaries are recalling their own exodus before communism on the mainland some 25 years ago. While we have been praying for that country to open once again to the gospel, two other countries have been closed.
Following the loss of China to the Communists, there were many "lessons from China" to be learned by missionaries. We wonder if the same analysis will be made about Vietnam, although there is little basis of comparison between the massive missionary efforts poured into China and the somewhat meager missionary resources that we expended on Vietnam.
Regardless of the "lessons," our overwhelming concern now is how the churches an Vietnam and Cambodia will fare, how the believers themselves will maintain their faith, their witness and their courage. Previous experiences in other countries tell us not to be totally pessimistic, but nevertheless we must weep when one part of the Body of Christ suffers.
At the same time, even as the doors close we can thank God for the churches that were planted in Vietnam even during the thirty years of warfare. In one province alone more than a thousand people came to Christ during the last decade.
In terms of missionary expectations, very few if any mission leaders expected the response to the gospel that was seen in the last few years in Cambodia. Especially after missionaries had worked these for nearly 50 years without any appreciable response.
This should perhaps cause us to expect the unexpected, even in view of the communist takeover. It would be hard at this point, however, to be optimistic about the chances for survival for Christian nationals. God could, of course, bring about a reversal of communist policy and there is great need for prevailing prayer for those Christians likely to be executed.
The sudden collapse of the government of South Vietnam shows us once again how dependent the missionary force is on stable government. Missionaries were trapped by the withdrawal from the central highlands, but they could not have anticipated this development any more than the U. S. government did.
We have often confessed that our faith is not in human institutions-that ultimately our confidence is in God alone-but sometimes the human supports of our faith must be removed, if we are to experience complete trust in God himself.
At the same time, it is hard to commit a fledgling, suffering church simply to the comfort and care of the Head of the Body. But after all, the church in Indochina is as much a part of the Body of Christ as is the church in the U.S. At this juncture in history the U.S. arm of the Body enjoys unparalleled security, ease and prosperity. None of us here can even conceive of what it would be like to be overrun by Communists. Not even the television news can help us here. It is all so unreal.
If nothing else, events in Indochina show us once again the true nature of Christ’s suffering Body, so that we might be recalled to spiritual warfare. "We wrestle not against flesh and blood . . ." explains the cosmic nature of our conflict, whether in Congo in the early ’60’s or in Vietnam now. What this conflict might mean for Western Christians in years to come we cannot predict, but we can be sure it will come.
The Lord Jesus Christ "nourishes and cherishes" the church. Let us ask him to do that especially now in Cambodia and Vietnam. May the withdrawn and the captive missionaries, and those who have chosen to stay in Vietnam, and their families also be vividly aware of the Good Shepherd’s care in these days.
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