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Former guerilla soldier now follows the “Lord of Heaven”


Vietnamese Mennonite Pastor Hai* and his wife Thuy* stand next to one of their cash crops, black pepper, which is drying on the ground at the right.

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May 25, 2007
- Don Sensenig

HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam – Vietnamese Mennonite Pastor Hai* is a small, wiry man whose cheerful smile belies a lifetime of struggles. For 14 years he was a guerilla soldier, then a policeman for 12, before he decided to seek the “Lord of Heaven” he had heard about, and leave his life of force and violence which had included the persecution of Christians.

Not surprisingly Hai faced harsh opposition from his former comrades in arms. He understands prison, painful physical abuse and extreme social pressure.

But now life has other challenges. Hai shepherds three small Mennonite house churches north of Hochiminh City, one which meets in the small front room of his frame-and-bamboo house, located down a winding sandy path off the main road.

To minister in the other two congregations, he cycles over 20 miles carrying his wife on the back of the bike. One group meets on Saturday, the other on Sunday afternoon.

Hai and his wife Thuy* support themselves growing fruit and black pepper on their small plot of land. Because of his long service in the cause of the revolution and the struggle against the previous government and American military forces, Hai is entitled to a monthly pension from the government, and a substantial brick house. But when he chose to follow the Lord and become a pastor, he forfeited these benefits.

“We’ve decided that there is much more value in worshiping the Lord and caring for his people than just being comfortable,” Hai said with a cheerful smile.

The sign above the altar of every Christian meeting place in Vietnam, expresses Hai’s foremost mission now: Ton Vinh Duc Chua Troi! – Praise the Lord of Heaven!

*Not their real names
The author worked in Vietnam from 1963-73 with Eastern Mennonite Missions.