Canadian Mennonite
Volume 12, No. 7
March 31, 2008


From Tofield to Johor Bahru

Tim Miller Dyck


Tim Miller Dyck

Attending the MC Alberta delegate sessions at Tofield (Alta.) Mennonite Church earlier this month (see page 16) provided an exciting opportunity to hear about God at work in many ways and places.

One of these was a presentation by Edmonton Vietnamese Mennonite Church pastor Thomas Pham. With God opening doors in a mighty way, his congregation and Calgary Vietnamese Mennonite Church have seen God’s Spirit moving people to faith in amazing ways.

Pham described how Malaysian manufacturing, construction and clothing companies have been heavily recruiting cheap labour from Vietnam. The workers need to pay between $1,500 and $2,000 to be able to go. Since the poor are being targeted, the recruiters loan them the money, which later is taken off their wages. They are told that they will be paid so well if they leave home that they will pay off their debt in a few months. The reality is that many need to work for three years to break even, said Pastor Pham, as they make around $1.50 per day. There are an estimated 120,000 Vietnamese workers in Malaysia.

Last year, a group of Albertan Vietnamese Mennonites, including Pham, went to the large industrial Malaysian city of Johor Bahru to tell their people about God’s love. He spoke of being overwhelmed by the response at the specially organized services aimed at the Vietnamese migrant workers.

“When I arrived there, bus after bus loaded with workers came to that place,” he said. “The seating capacity was about 250 and it was packed. The kids were staying outside. The leaders of the Chinese church had to set up a projector to project the service downstairs. . . . The service was three hours long, but they couldn’t leave. At the altar call, the platform was full; there wasn’t enough room and so some kids have to stand on the floor.

“At another location, to do outreach, again buses of workers unloaded. I did the message there and gave out the altar call, and over 300 responded to the gospel. It was amazing,” he said.

It wasn’t just the Vietnamese in Malaysia who were hearing the good news of Christ. There were all kinds of things that God had brought together, connections seen and unseen.

“These kids that become Christian, they speak about the Lord to their parents and their parents accept the Lord. For many of these kids, this is the first time they have heard the gospel. The Lord sent them to Malaysia in order to evangelize them. There is no way to do that in North Vietnam. It is not allowed.

”The Lord opened a wide door for us to do mission work in Malaysia. The Malaysian government won’t interfere, even though it is a Muslim country. We just focus on the Vietnamese and it is okay,” Pham said.

God didn’t prepare this ground without the work of others. I heard more of the story from Vinh Le, assistant pastor at Calgary Vietnamese Mennonite. He told me of his church’s trip to Johor Bahru to prepare the soil about a year before the Edmonton group arrived.

“We don’t feel really touched from God to go to Taiwan, but we felt a strong call to go to Malaysia, without any contact, without any connection,” he said. (He and his wife paid for their trip using money from their wedding gifts.) “We just booked a hotel and looked for Vietnamese. We found the first one in the hotel. He immediately accepted Christ. We were amazed. We were so excited.”

They connected with a local Chinese Christian church that wanted to start a ministry to the Vietnamese people and began holding services in Vietnamese. “At our first service, we had 96 people. We were running around looking for black hair, calling them over and asking if they are Vietnamese. The second service, there were 430 people, and the third service even more than that,” he said.

God, the master guide, connects our steps of faithfulness in Tofield or Edmonton or Calgary to lead us to joy-filled places we never could have found on our own.

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