The church in Tho An, located in the developing suburbs of Hanoi, is one of the oldest Protestant church buildings in Vietnam. In fact, recognized property used by a Christian congregation in this area represents a unique gift. From Tho An, the next nearest evangelical church structure is 20 miles and two million people away. But, sadly, this congregation is slowly dwindling.
Mr. Han is the man responsible for caring for the struggling church. His father was its pastor until his death. His mother, aged 90, has held onto the property for several decades in hopes that God would eventually provide leadership for it again. In the meantime, Mr. Han does his best teaching the church despite the fact that he has never received pastoral training.
Today, the majority of Tho An's small congregation is growing old yet holding onto hope for a new generation, one that will carry on the work of proclaiming the gospel. And God may be answering their prayers through a young man named Phi.
“Tho An's small congregation is growing old yet holding onto hope for a new generation”
Phi is a student and pastoral candidate at Hanoi Bible College. With support from TLI resident faculty, the college will graduate its first class soon. Following that graduation, Phi plans to serve the church at Tho An, where he first came to know the Lord as a teenager.
Formal education has given Phi the experience and credentials needed to be a pastor and public witness for Christ. Phi has a keen sense for how a text of scripture or theological point will look practically in the local church. He is also constantly thinking about communicating these truths to believers with limited knowledge and those tempted to turn away.
In towns like Tho An, social pressure can cause young Vietnamese believers to abandon the faith and slip back into traditional religion in order to maintain family relationships, marry well, or find a lucrative job. New converts often feel isolated as they watch the oldest generation of grandmothers pass away. There is also misunderstanding and suspicion in the community, with some people equating the Evangelical church with prevalent pseudo-Christian cults.
To step into this challenge will require faith and imagination. The first class of Hanoi Bible College graduates will need confidence in God's Word and his work in the church. Phi will no doubt be tested, along with his wife and young family. But with prayer his training will help him to proclaim the gospel with clarity and passion, allowing this church building to serve as a witness for future generations.