It was 9am when the beatings began again, but this time it was different. The two young evangelists had been dragged outside the police office and into the village square and the villagers were invited to come and show allegiance to their country by beating these “propagators of lies and rebellion.” Over 100 people from the village willingly came forward to beat them.
James (31) and John (27) are both committed evangelists in the northern district of Vietnam. In 1996 they, like many in their area, had first heard the Good News broadcast on radio by FEBC (Far East Broadcasting Company). Through this Gospel challenge they became Christians and dedicated their lives to share the Gospel with the people of their district.
Illegal to proclaim the Gospel
One day when they were returning from witnessing to a new village, they were apprehended by two policemen and two village officers, who had heard rumours about their evangelism efforts. The officials took them to the village police station, where the government police were summoned to sort the matter out.
James and John were handcuffed together and told it was illegal to proclaim the Gospel and the officials began to beat them with their fists. They attacked them from behind and twisted their ears, causing severe pain. The beating continued all day and that night. Their ID cards and mobile phones were also confiscated.
The police were annoyed to learn that the three families from the village who had turned to Christ had given their ancestral idols to James and John to burn. The police shouted that they must return the idols and re-establish the people’s worship of these gods. James replied, “I cannot do that. I am a Christian.” Every time they refused to obey, the police beat them again. Their faces were swollen and their bodies ached with pain.
Beaten by the whole village
The police continued to beat them all the next day, then, on the third day, they invited the villagers to participate by beating them however they wanted. While James and John sat handcuffed on the ground, over 100 people came forward to kick or punch them. Even women came forward to pull out their hair by the roots and slap their faces.
Those who didn’t beat them jeered and hurled abuse at them, calling them “dog men” and mocking them, crying, “Call upon your Jesus now to take these chains off you. He will feed you – you will need no rice from the government.” They placed cooked rice in a pig’s trough and forced them to eat it like animals.
James and John remained silent, gaining strength to endure as they remembered their Lord when He was beaten, while the crowd laughed and swore at the two exhausted men.
Finally, the police released them to their families, who immediately took them back home to safety. John shared, “Our whole bodies were battered and bruised and we ached all over. My face was so swollen that I could not see out of one eye.”
Seven days in hospital
When they reached home, James contacted our coordinator for the area, who immediately arranged for them to travel to Hanoi, where they were admitted to hospital for seven days to treat their injuries. VOM Australia covered the hospital bill through the VOMedical fund, which caters for incidents just like this.
The authorities issued a severe warning to James and John, declaring that if they return to the village they had begun ministering to, they will be beaten to death. Neither man would sign the document when it was presented to them.
James called one of the families at the village to tell them about the document that had been issued against them. He said, “I still want to come to visit you, but we will have to come in secrecy.” The three families are very strong in their faith and told James that through their own evangelism, one more family became Christian in their village. This greatly encouraged both men and they rejoiced together in what God had done.
The power of the Gospel
James continues to teach the four families by calling them on his mobile phone. He prays and reads the Bible to them so that they will be encouraged in the faith. These four families have stood firm in their new faith and not recanted.
This is the power of the Gospel in the lives of these new believers who are fully committed to following Jesus, even unto death. The brave witness of these two young men in front of the people of the village has left many to think very carefully about the future. In the days to come there could be a further outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit upon this village and many more people could come to Christ – even the very ones who struck them.
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