By Dan Wooding
HAMPTON, VA (March 29, 2000)(ASSIST) - Vietnamese Christian leader, the Rev. Paul Tran-Dinh-Ai, who was deported from Vietnam last Christmas with his wife Ruth and five children, has issued a "wake up call" to the American Church.
In an interview from his new home in Hampton, Virginia, this much-imprisoned leader, who is also known as Paul Ai, stated that he believes that God will use persecution of American Churches to "purify the Church before the rapture."
Paul, who was once a Buddhist monk, went on to say, "I am sure that persecution will come to the Church in America, although I am not sure what form it will take. It may not be like the way the Church in Vietnam is persecuted, but God will have a different way in which he will use it to purify the Church and then to wake the Church and then to help it to be ready for the rapture."
Never one to hold back on his views, Ai, who was General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God in Vietnam and also the coordinator for the Vietnam Interdenominational Christian Fellowship comprised of 18 denominations, when asked what he thought about America, he said, "Back in Vietnam, I always thought that the United States is a Christian country and when I look at the US dollar, it says clearly 'In God We Trust.' When I arrived here, I saw a lot of Churches everywhere, but also I began to discover that there are a lot of criminals and I saw things on TV and on the streets that shocked me. It looks like this is not a Christian country, after all.
"I think the ancestors of the United States, the first people who came here, used to love God and the reason they ran away from Britain was for religious freedom to worship God. But now, the younger generation is not respecting that freedom and they use the freedom for sins like the Apostle Paul wrote to the people of the Galatians Church. When many of the 1.5 million Vietnamese people came to the United States, they thought about Church, but many have since backslidden."
When asked that is his message was to the United States, he said, "I would like to say to the people of the United States, that we in other countries appreciate that the Churches, many centuries ago, had a vision to send missionaries all over the world, and through the blessing that the United States released, many nations were able to know Jesus as the Lord and Savior and I appreciate that. I was one of those people, because I was able to receive the Lord and the Good News of the Gospel because the people of the United States sent out missionaries to my country.
HIS WAKE-UP MESSAGE TO THE AMERICAN CHURCH
"But now seems to have come the time that the Church in the United States needs to awake because maybe for many centuries they have become so satisfied with Christianity, and then Americans who claim freedom, now allow all kinds of religion to come to the United States that is influencing the Church here. The United States needs a revival, but it has to begin in the Church, because God is going to shake this nation before the rapture, to bring people back to Him. Because God said in the Bible that he would bless generation after generation because their ancestors trusted in Him, worshiped him and glorified His Name.
"America is a country that is blessed, but unfortunately the generation today is not using the blessing of the Church to glorify God and bring salvation to the entire world. But I feel that it is the time that God is going to use the people from all over the world, who have been sent back to the United States, first to reward the Church in America for sending missionaries out to preach the Gospel, but at the same time, God will use those missionaries to the United States from other countries to awake the Church and warn the Church to 'wake up and be ready for the second coming of Jesus Christ!'
"If you are not awake, you are going to see big problems. God is going to shake this nation because of His love. He wants people to repent and go back to him and be saved and be ready for the rapture.
"I think the Church in America needs a fresh revival to awake the younger generation and bring them back to the Lord. The Church in America has become an old Church and seems to have become a religion, not longer the Church of God with a fresh anointing, with great activities to reach out to the lost, but instead has religious activities. There is more religion in the American Church than the moving of God."
AMERICAN CHURCH IS "TOO STAID"
He went on to say that he believes the Church in America has become too staid and full of tradition, and in many cases is not operating in the "power of the Holy Spirit."
"For instance, there are 1.5 million Vietnamese in the United States, but less than 50,000 Christians amongst them; but among them you can find less than 5,000 who are fired with the Holy Ghost. The Vietnamese Church in America is really cool, like the weather here in Virginia. I really cried out to the Lord and said, 'While I was in Vietnam, I was really on fire for you to reach the Vietnamese, and the communists put me in prison and then they deported me out of the country.'"
SENT OUT AS A "MISSIONARY TO AMERICA"
Paul said that when he left Vietnam, the leaders of 18 denominations come together to pray for him. He said he was so moved when they prayed, "Lord, we feel that Paul Ai is not moving to America as a refugee, but we send him to be a missionary to the United States of America."
Rev. Ai has now started a ministry to Vietnamese on the East Coast of the United States. He held a Vietnamese Lunar New Year celebration meeting on February 13, 2000, at Bethel Temple in Hampton, Virginia, where he is now based. "I had an evangelistic meeting here and around 100 people came, and seven of them opened their heart to invite Jesus to come in as Lord and Savior," he said. "Now I've started a small Vietnamese congregation. It's four weeks old and now we have about 30 people in our congregation; two weeks ago we started a discipleship program and I have 12 people coming to be discipled every Thursday night at my home. God has opened another door: We have Vietnamese people in Richmond and North Carolina and in Washington, DC, and Maryland and they recently came together. Now every two weeks on a Saturday I go to Richmond to train 15 people to disciple them.
"Now God has showed me that we have to train Vietnamese living here to reach out to their own people, disciple them and then train and equip them to win souls and plant churches. And the Church will be able to support them to reach Vietnamese in the United States and also in other countries; and then they will be able to raise the support to send missionaries back to Vietnam. In the end of May, I will have a small gathering of Vietnamese pastors who are filled with the Holy Ghost and live in the United States, who will come together to pray and start a small group we call 'the Charismatic Fellowship,' so thus we can fellowship and encourage each other. We plan for a big gathering of Vietnamese pastors in April of next year; at our church we will have what they call an International Apostolic Gathering for five days, and then we want the Vietnamese people come together for two days.
"We will train and share the vision with them of how to reach out to the Vietnamese living here. At our church here, we have a Bible School and we are going to plan a special program for our people to learn how to reach our Vietnamese. I feel God has called me to the United States to be involved in soul winning."
"DON'T SEND THE USUAL MISSIONARIES..."
He then appealed for American Churches not to send the usual missionaries to Vietnam, but instead those who are Bible teachers with knowledge of Hebrew and Greek, to help "build up the Christians there"; and also those with expertise in administration and computers, as well as teaching English as a second language.
When asked how the underground church in Vietnam was doing, he said, "It's doing great in winning souls, but they really need help. First of all, they need some kind of seminar to bring the spirit of unity. The Church in the United States loves the Church in Vietnam, but every denomination that goes there to minister. They want to do their own project for their own denomination. And that caused some division as people run from one Church to another. And the Church in Vietnam, especially the underground Church, is very good in soul winning, but they are not good in administration or unity. So the Church in Vietnam needs unity, but that unity has to begin from outside."
He appealed to denominations in the United States to stop "building your own kingdom" and instead "work together and help the Vietnamese church to mature and grow together for the glory of God and for His Kingdom."
I then asked him what were some of the biggest lessons he learned during those years of persecution?
"For me, my persecution in Vietnam was the way God used to train me and to put me along with Him so He could teach me many lessons that he needed me to learn, which was how to help build the Church in Vietnam, and also how to build the Assemblies of God of Vietnam as a structure," he said.
"God used that time to also teach me how to love His whole Body, not only one denomination; he made me to pour myself out, and so I was able to become the coordinator for 18 denominations in Vietnam for the Vietnam Interdenominational Christian Fellowship. For nearly three years, I brought many Churches together and every year we would hold three or four unity seminars. I would like the Church outside to use the same model: to bring all THE resources that God has given you, together for the benefit the whole Body of Christ.
"To me, persecution is in one way not good because the Church has no freedom, but on the other side, you can see it made the Church pure and the Church there is really on fire for God. And in Vietnam, I have found that the more the Church is persecuted, the fewer problems they have."
The concluded by saying, "I would like for the Church around the world to please pray for my vision and if they are interested in helping the Church in Vietnam, why not help support me to bring all the Vietnamese pastors to come here in April of next year for the special gathering for the power of Holy Spirit and the clear vision to reach out to the Vietnamese here, and for them to sponsor Vietnamese students to come to our Bible school, to train them how to win souls and plant a church."
One American pastor, who visited Paul many times, during visits to give AIDS seminars, is Bruce Sonnenberg, president of He Intends Victory, based in Irvine, California. He said, "As soon as you meet Paul, you sense the quality and depth of the commitment to Jesus Christ. But the power of the Holy Spirit is evident in a very real way as well. Whoever gave him the New Testament name of Paul certainly chose the right name. He is truly a modern day apostle."