Click this link to hear Sunday's sermon where our pastor Bob Robers interview's the PACC delegates from Vietnam. It was even more powerful sitting in the audience. How awesome that these men were able to hear the gospel presented 4 times during the 4 services they attended. They even were singing our worship songs and we learned one in Vietnamese! It was an amazing experience to see communists visiting us, thanking us, and asking for our continued support. This delegates were so humble and kind, not exactly what I as an American would think of as communist. Listen to the sermon above to hear more about what Pastor Roberts said to the PACC delegates and his congregation.
Church evangelizing with service, not sermons
Keller congregation working to do its part in Vietnam
12:00 AM CDT on Thursday, July 26, 2007
By SAM HODGES / The Dallas Morning News firstname.lastname@example.org
An evangelical church in North Texas would seem an odd destination for a government delegation visiting the United States from communist Vietnam, where evangelism by outsiders is forbidden.
JIM MAHONEY/DMNNguyen Van Kien, with the People's Aid Coordinating Committee of Vietnam (left) and Bob Roberts, pastor of NorthWood Church, are trying to strengthen ties between the two groups.
But Nguyen Van Kien, director-general of the People's Aid Coordinating Committee of Vietnam, and others in his party spent Saturday night through Wednesday morning with members of NorthWood Church in Keller.
They went to a Texas Rangers game and the Fort Worth Stockyards, and they attended meetings. But these weren't the real reasons they came.
"The main purpose is to convey the gratitude of our people," Mr. Kien said.
Under pastor Bob Roberts Jr., members of NorthWood have been going to Hanoi and rural northern Vietnam for more than a decade to install water filtration systems and to work in schools, orphanages and medical clinics.
They play by government rules. That means no preaching and no handing out religious literature. They can, when asked, answer questions about their faith. But that's about it.
Though Vietnamese Americans and some in Congress complain loudly about restraints on religious freedom in Vietnam, Mr. Roberts is adamant that Christians should be at work there.
"If Jesus were walking on this world today, he would be serving the Vietnamese," Mr. Roberts said. "He wouldn't say, 'Change your government and I'll serve you.' "
Such pragmatism by an evangelical pastor has attracted attention.
Christianity Today and Church Executive magazine have lately done stories on Mr. Roberts and Glocal Ventures, the nonprofit he started and through which his church and others work in Vietnam.
Mr. Roberts' efforts helped draw Phil Smith, co-author of the book A Billion Bootstraps: Microcredit, Barefoot Banking, and the Business Solution for Ending Poverty, to NorthWood on Monday to brief the Vietnamese delegation, business people and representatives of private groups on how loans of $25 can make a huge difference to farmers and others in the world's poorest places.
"They have proved," Mr. Smith said of Mr. Roberts and NorthWood, "that by helping people in a Christian manner, and in the name of Christ, they do get the Kingdom [of God] spread."
The ruddy-faced, hard-charging Mr. Roberts founded NorthWood, a Southern Baptist church, in 1985. The church has grown to weekend attendance of about 2,000 and been recognized for starting many other churches.
In the mid-1990s, Mr. Roberts was eager for NorthWood to send members to other countries for service and evangelism. But the push for Vietnam came from church member Bob Prough, an oral surgeon who had been a U.S. Army helicopter pilot there.
"I was very nervous about Vietnam," Mr. Roberts said, adding that his father, a pastor, had conducted funerals for American soldiers killed in the Vietnam War.
But with Dr. Prough's encouragement, a church team made a fact-finding trip not just to Vietnam, but to the communist stronghold in the north.
Dr. Prough, now living in Stephenville, said by phone that few American churches had tried to work there, and needs were great, particularly among ethnic minorities in the mountains.
From contacts made in that trip, church members found entrée to hospitals, clinics and orphanages, mainly in Hanoi and Lao Cai province. Some 300 NorthWood members have been to those areas in the intervening years, doing health- and education-related work.
Mr. Roberts has been to Vietnam dozens of times. His wife, Niki, is in Hanoi now with a NorthWood-based group helping to write special education curriculum. NorthWood has hosted about 40 students from Hanoi, and the church walls are a gallery of paintings by Vietnamese artists.
Mr. Roberts refers to Vietnam as one of the "hard places" that U.S. churches are less likely to work in than, say, Mexico. (NorthWood is active there, too.) He's also quick to note that Vietnam has gone through major changes, becoming a top U.S. trading partner and getting into the World Trade Organization.
Author of such books as Glocalization: How Followers of Jesus Engage a Flat World, Mr. Roberts passionately argues that local churches must think globally in the Internet age.
But the Vietnamese government, while eager for economic development, remains under one party, communist control, and still restricts religious freedom, said James Reckner, director of the Vietnam Center at Texas Tech University.
A large Catholic population, and a much smaller Protestant one, are able to worship – but on government terms.
"If you went to Vietnam and tried to set up a church, you'd end up in jail, unless you got permission from the government," he said.
But Dr. Reckner agrees that Vietnam is changing fast, and notes that its overwhelmingly young population is fascinated by the West. He supports Mr. Roberts and NorthWood, and thinks they could be the catalyst for more change.
"You can become militant and be banned, or you can take a more pragmatic approach, which is what NorthWood has done, and try to establish some sort of positive promise," he said. "You never know what might develop."
Karl Ninh, president of the Dallas-Fort Worth chapter of the Vietnamese American Public Affairs Committee, also favors service trips by U.S. churches.
"The Vietnamese people need all the help they can get, but we're praying and hoping that one of these days we'll see true religious freedom," he said.
Mr. Kien, of the Vietnamese delegation, said churches in his country are not only open but often packed. He said other countries, in trying to influence the Vietnamese government, should understand that Vietnam has been subject to "foreign aggression" for centuries.
While not defending the Vietnamese government, Mr. Roberts said its leaders mainly worry that outside religious influences could destabilize the country.
The Vietnamese delegation attended worship at NorthWood Sunday, and Mr. Roberts led the congregation in applauding them. But he also preached the gospel.
"Your pictures will be on my refrigerator," he told the Vietnamese as he ended the sermon. "And every time I go get ice cream, I'll be praying for you. I'm serious. I will."