To Vietnam and Back
I first met Pham Linh in February of 1999. I was arriving in Vietnam as a part of a teaching project sponsored by Canadian Baptist Seminary to teach the book of Genesis to a group of church planters and Christian students. My partner wanted to make sure that I understood the risks of such a venture, as this was a trip that needed to be shrouded in secrecy. To say that my friend was hyper-vigilant in matters of security would be a severe understatement.
It was during that trip that I met Pastor Linh. He had been a young theological student in 1975 when Saigon fell to the Communist regime in the north. I learned that he had been given an opportunity to leave Vietnam, but refused to go, preferring to stay to help the church which would undoubtedly be under considerable stress over the coming years. He was now the leader of a group of “house churches,” a part of what was also known as the “underground church” in Vietnam. It was partially through his encouragement and request for help that we wrote the first “little book.” Linh would use this evangelical catechism to teach new believers, and, at one point, required every one of his house church pastors to memorize the questions and answers and be able to explain the passages which accompanied them.
In recent years, family issues and his personal health challenges brought Linh to the US for extended periods. It did not take long until he found a multi-cultural church near him in New England and became a pastor to the Vietnamese from that congregation. At the invitation of friends, he also made connections with the Vietnamese community in California, where some of his medical treatments were to take place.
A few weeks ago, we had a long conversation with Linh, and he asked if the “little book” (his nickname for Simple Truths from the beginning) was available in Vietnamese here in North America. We assured him that it is. So, he asked if we could send him some for use in the churches in New England and California. We sent the copies that he requested, along with several other publications that we thought would be helpful. He “warned” us that, because he is “certain that the books will be a blessing,” we may need to send more “to help the Vietnamese pastors in America.”
We have considered, from time to time, mapping the “escape” of the little book, from its beginnings in Vietnam in 2006 until now – translated into more than 40 languages and used in ministries around the globe. Perhaps someday we shall.