Pentecost came to South Vietnam in 1972. While a cruel war raged, between the North and South, the Holy Spirit was planting the seeds of Pentecost in the hearts of the Vietnamese people. From these seeds has grown a strong and robust tree that has survived the winds of persecution and blossomed into one of the most outstanding Pentecostal revivals of the century.
Rev. Nugyen Than Liem along with Rev. Dan Olofson, from the Philadelphia church in Stockholm, Sweden, and Rev. John Hurston of the AG, USA, played a significant role in the establishment of the Pentecostal Church in Vietnam.
At that time Rev. Liem was a minister in Tran Tiem Khiem's government as well as a Colonel in the South Vietnamese Army. Through his influence and direction, the fledgling church received strong support from the South Vietnamese Government.
The newly planted church was founded in difficult political times. The social fabric of the culture was under severe stress and there was much suffering and uncertainty in the nation. In its short life, from 1972 to the Communist takeover in 1975, it adopted different names which reflected the evolving and broadening focus of its ministry. At different times it was known as: The Assemblies of God, The Pentecostal Assemblies of Vietnam, The Protestant Relief Assemblies of Vietnam and, for a short time, The Pentecostal Assemblies of Vietnam.
Rev. Liem was strongly committed to the indigenous principles of self governing, self supporting and self perpetuating. He insisted that the Assemblies must be controlled by Vietnamese leaders for the Vietnamese people. This principal still resonates in the hearts of the Pentecostal leadership.
While the proclamation of the gospel and disciplining of believers was the main focus, there was a strong humanitarian emphasis. Rev. Don Olofson gave leadership in meeting the needs of the people, especially the medical needs. Hospitals, Health Clinics, and Drug Detoxification Centers were built. New communities (Hamlets) were established for the poor and refugees coming from the north. These communities were Christian and many thousands accepted Christ as Savior through this ministry.
Bible training centers were established and Bible Correspondence Courses were administered throughout the country by an American missionary (name has been withheld for security reasons) who moved to Vietnam from Hong Kong.
Despite the military situation, Pastors, Evangelists and Missionaries from several countries ministered in Vietnam. Teams of young pastors came from the Philippines and South Korea; others came from the USA, France, Norway and Mauritius.
Rev. Kinkade operated a Christian Center in Saigon which became the center for Pentecostal activities and ministry. When he left Rev. Clendenmen took over the center.
Evangelist Katherine Kulman visited and conducted Healing Crusades. She held a meeting at the Veteran?s Hospital and prayed for the patients. Many were healed. Rev. Liem witnessed the healing power of God for the first time. His faith was strengthened to believe that God would send a Holy Ghost revival to Vietnam. Evangelist Kulman encouraged him to plant Pentecostal Assemblies throughout Vietnam. She built an auditorium at Veteran?s Hospital where the patients could hear the preaching of the Word of God. Miss Kulman made a significant impact in Vietnam.
In 1975 the war was coming to an end and the Communist takeover was inevitable. The new regime would change everything and declare all Pentecostal Churches illegal.
The Disruption of the work in 1975
On April 23, 1975 Rev. Olofson met with the pastors in Saigon. He greeted the pastors and shook the hand of Rev. Liem and said hearty thanks. Rev. Hurston also shook Rev. Liem?s hand and thanked him. Rev. Olofson indicated that in a few hours he would return to Bangkok. Rev. Hurston and his wife left Saigon two days later to return to Seoul Korea. Rev. Liem expressed his regrets.
There was no discussion of any plans for maintaining the Pentecostal Assemblies in the absence of the two leaders. The overthrow of the government was very close.
Rev. Liem likened his situation to the withdraw of the Allies at Dunkirk which left the French at the mercy of the Nazi armies in June, 1940. The fall of the government was near and the Americans would withdraw and leave them at the mercy of the Communist government.
The fall of Saigon was catastrophist for the Christian church; some pastors were able to escape to the West. Those who stayed were either killed or imprisoned. All properties were seized and many Christians died. The infant Church was cut to the ground.
Rev. Nguyen was imprisoned, where he stayed for 13 years. His family was disenfranchised and survived by staying with different friends for short periods of time. They were assisted by friends outside of Vietnam who were able to smuggle funds and supplies to them.
The Canadian Connection:
Immediately after the war, there was an exodus of South Vietnamese refugees who escaped in boats of all descriptions. They became known as The Boat People.
The Nguyen family made several attempts to escape but were not successful. Tu, the eldest daughter, attempted to escape 22 times. In 1979 she was successful in getting a passage on a refugee boat which took her to a refugee camp in Malaysia. Tu was fluent in English, French and also spoke some Chinese. The Red Cross used her as an interpreter in the camp, processing refugee applications. After three months she was sent to Newfoundland (NL), Canada, sponsored by a group of business men in St. John?s.
Tu was a professional teacher. She had, however, lost all of her documentation and was not certified to teach in Canada. The sponsors sent her to see Rev. Earl Batstone who was Executive Director of the Pentecostal day schools in NL. Tu shared the history of her family and the story of her escape. When Rev. Batstone learned that she was the daughter of the General Secretary of the Pentecostal Assemblies in Vietnam, he took personal responsibility for her welfare.
Rev. Batstone assisted her in obtaining a teaching license and securing a teaching position as a French Specialist in the public school system. She became a part of the Batstone family.
The process of bringing all of the family to Canada began immediately. Working through federal and provincial government agencies they were successful in bringing the family to Canada under the Canadian Family Reunification Program. The family arrived in St. John?s, Nl, Good Friday, April 1984. Rev. Batstone's home church, Elim Pentecostal Tabernacle, sponsored the family and the Batstones became their Canadian parents.
They remained in NL. four years. Two of the boys, Can (Kevin) and An (Andy) completed high school there. In 1986 the family moved to Toronto. The Batstones maintained a close relationship with the family and continued to work for the release of the father, Liem Nguyen, from prison. This was achieved in 1987 and he later moved to the USA where he now resides.
The family was blessed of the Lord in Toronto where they became involved in business ventures. Can (Kevin) the second youngest became a very successful businessman and maintained contact with the Pentecostal believers in Vietnam.
Revival and Renewal
Rev. Roland Cosnard, from the French Pentecostal Fellowship was in Vietnam previous to 1975. He returned to Vietnam again in 1988 to look for Rev. Liem Nguyen. He took a picture of Rev. and Mrs. Liem Nguyen to the market places of Vung Tau, Da Lat and Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). He inquired if anyone knew these people and their whereabouts. He had no success in the market place and became very discouraged.
A few days before returning to Nimes City, France, he decided to try once more in Ho Chi Minh City. He went to the Post Office and stood on the steps with the picture in his hand. Mr. Le Quang Trung, a believer before 1975, passed by and identified Rev. and Mrs. Liem and told Rev. Cosnard where he was staying, after undergoing re-education in prison and returning in 1987.
Mr Trung contacted Rev. Tran Mai, administrator of Trung Ninh Giang Church, and advised him of the good news. They arranged for Rev. Cosnard and Rev. Liem to meet. A special meeting was arranged and Rev. Cosnard was invited to preach.
That night hundreds of young believers around Ho Chi Minh City met in a secretive place to hear the preaching and teaching of the Word. Rev. Cosnard prayed for some people. Suddenly the Spirit came in mighty power; many fell down to the floor sobbing violently, and began to speak in other tongues.
The Holy Spirit came upon the believers as He did in the beginning. The believers thirsted for God's Word and waited for the Spirit to baptize them and speak in other tongues. The people sang, cried and spoke a new language. It was very loud. After two hours everyone went home.
Rev. Liem considered it a good time to research and study God's Word. He suggested that Rev. Tran Mai secretly hold Bible classes at Troung Ming Giang Church for some young people.
Since that outpouring the Pentecostal message revived again and began to spread throughout Vietnam.
Two years previous to Rev. Cosnard's visit to Vietnam in1988, and the fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit, many believers in Vietnam had spent many days fasting and praying to receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and power to preach the Word according to Acts 1:8.
After the visitation of the Holy Spirit in the meetings with Rev. Cosnard, the Holy Spirit moved in response to the prayers of the believers in many meetings held by the Troung Miing Giang Church in November of 1988.
The moving of the Spirit spread to many churches in different places. The Christian Missionary Alliance church reacted strongly against the revival. They opposed receiving the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues. Many pastors and believers were expelled.
From the beginning of 1989 there were many groups of Pentecostal believers meeting in private houses. This was the beginning of the Pentecostal House Movement.
In the middle of 1989 some pastors who were expelled from the CMA, joined together with the collective leadership of the larger groups to set up the AG of Vietnam. Pastors at the meeting were: Tran Din Ai, (Trang Bom Lu Gai Church), Rev. Bui Thanh Se ( Tuv Ly Vuong Church), Rev. Vo Van Lac, (Lu Gai Church), Ly Xuan Hoa, Teacher, Mr. Bui Trong Tin and Mr. & Mrs. Thai Ba Hoang. Rev. Tran Dinh Ai was a student of Pentecostal Theology previous to 1975. He associated with Rev. Luciano from the Assemblies of God in the Philippines.
The newly formed Assemblies of God did not last very long due to disagreement on leadership and other fundamental points of view. Many leaders left and formed their own independent group under different names. The AG continued under the leadership of Tran Din Ai. He was imprisoned for three years and on his release he moved to the USA. He appointed Pastor Lam as his successor. Today the AG is one of the many Pentecostal/Charismatic groups in Vietnam. Others affiliated with several of the mainline denominations: Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist, Outreach Gospel, and the Evangelical Fellowship. Rev. Bui Than Se formed a group known as Association of Benevolence Assemblies. Today there are literally hundreds of smaller groups. More than thirty seven of them have expressed a desire to affiliate with the Pentecostal Assemblies of Vietnam.
The Pentecostal Revival continued to grow throughout Vietnam. At the present time a conservative estimate places the number of Pentecostal and Charismatic believers at 1.2 million. There are thousands of Home Church groups with thousands of pastors who continue to work to support themselves.
Re-birth of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Vietnam.
Can (Kevin) Nguyen, son of Rev. Liem Nguyen, and Rev. Earl Batstone, retired General Superintendent of the Pentecostal Assemblies of NL, Canada, visited Vietnam in 2005 to make contact with the Pentecostal believers and pastors. They visited some house churches and conducted a pastor's seminar on the Holy Spirit. They also made contact with the leaders of several of the larger groups. Rev. Batstone presented a model which would unite all Pentecostal groups in Vietnam under one umbrella, without the established groups having to surrender their autonomy or name. While there was general acceptance of the model, they were not ready to embrace it at that time due to the uncertainty of the political situation.
Rev. Batstone counseled them to begin immediately to petition Government for a license to operate free churches and train their pastors. There were loosely organized fellowships of Evangelicals, Pentecostal and Charismatic groups. However, the Government would not recognize a fellowship of Pentecostal/Charismatic groups, but a denomination with structure, constitution, documentation of their historic roots and accountability procedures. The leaders of the groups were reluctant to initiate contact with the government for fear of reprisals or lack of support from the Pentecostal Fellowships in the West.
Rev. Batstone and Kevin discussed the situation with Rev. Se. He agreed to restructure his group under the name of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Vietnam. The PAOV would be open to all who wished to associate with them and were in agreement with the Statement of Faith.
In July 2006 the PAOV was officially formed. Rev. Liem, now living in the USA, co-founder of the Pentecostal Relief Assemblies of Vietnam and General Secretary of the AG of Vietnam previous to the war in 1973, officially signed all of the documents and proof of assets which existed previous to 1975 and were in his name, to the Pentecostal Assemblies of Vietnam, under the chairmanship of Rev. Bui Than Se. Thus the PAOV became the inheritor of the defunct Christian Relief Assemblies of Vietnam.
Rev. Batstone assisted in the formation of a constitution, statement of faith and organizational structure. Kevin contacted all the Pentecostal Fellowships who were partners previous to 1975.
The Philadelphia Church of Sweden agreed to continue the relationship established by Rev. Olofson and pledged support for the newly established Pentecostal Assemblies.
The PAOV applied and received membership in the World Pentecostal Fellowship in August 2006. Pastor Se and a delegation from Vietnam attended the Pentecostal World Conference held in Surabaya, Indonesia July, 2007 for the first time ever.
The Government of Vietnam has responded positively to the application for a license and authorized the PAOV to register all of its churches at the provincial level. Negotiations are still continuing for a National license with anticipation that it will be granted within a year.
The PAOV was also granted a license to operate a Bible College and train its pastors. They have established a college, Master's Theological Institute, and opened three extension centers to train pastors and lay leaders.
The following International Pentecostal Fellowships have officially partnered with the PAOV; The Pentecostal Assemblies of Sweden, Full Gospel Assemblies of South Korea(Yong Gee Cho), The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada, director of Master's Theological Institute, Global Prayer Ministries, under the direction of Rev. Charles Crane, coordinates the support of the Open Bible Faith Fellowship Churches in Canada and will establish English Second Language schools.
Rev Se writes, The Pentecostal Assemblies of Vietnam is an indigenous church, committed to the principles of; self governing, self supporting and self perpetuating. It is committed to: the purpose of worshiping God, proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the people of Vietnam and abroad, promoting the leading of the Holy Spirit in its churches, serving society in the name of Jesus and helping to alleviate the suffering of Vietnamese people, fellowshipping and serving with all believers of like precious faith, carrying out the Great Commandment, to love one another, and to fulfilling the Great Commission.
We earnestly request your prayerful support of the developing Pentecostal Assemblies in Vietnam.