Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Saigon: April 1975

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Does God still perform "signs and wonders" in the present day? I know that is a subject of huge debate between "cessationists" (who believe that signs and wonders were for the purpose of validating the Bible, and now that the Bible is complete, are no longer needed) and "continuationists" (who don't see a reason why God would stop acting now like He acted in biblical times).

And I don't want to waste time in a debate like that. But I do want to encourage you with my belief (and my personal experience) that God still answers prayer today, just like He has always done ... and sometimes that answer takes a very miraculous form.

In my last two blogs I've shared about how God rescued me, miraculously, from what could have been a very dire outcome of a bad mountainbiking accident; and about how God reached down and touched a Muslim taxi driver in Trinidad, miraculously, giving him a reason to pay close attention to the claims of the Gospel.

But sometimes the miracles that make an impact on my life are second-hand. When I was attending college at Biola University I met a young man named Ha Jimmy in 1976. Well, he looked young, but he was probably older than your average college student ... I would guess in his early- to mid-30s at the time.

Ha Jimmy had come to Biola through a very circuitous route. He was of the Hmong tribe which inhabited the inland mountains along the eastern edge of Vietnam. The Hmong presented fierce resistance to the encroaching communists in Vietnam, and Ha Jimmy had served as a high-level officer in their forces. It was while he was thus occupied that he encountered someone who shared with him the claims of Christ, and he decided to take the leap and place his trust in the Son of God.

Ha Jimmy told me some harrowing tales of the accounts of the Christians in Saigon, in the final days before its fall to the communists. When they knew the end was drawing near, churches began hosting spontaneous nightly prayer meetings. These meetings did not have scheduled end times, as our prayer meetings often do. People would just pray until they felt too tired to continue.

During one such prayer meeting, they were all praying and no one really had a sense of how much time had passed, until someone pointed to the east-facing windows and exclaimed "Look!" Dawn was beginning to break outside. They had prayed all night long and weren't even aware of it.

Ha Jimmy said that their prayer that night had been particularly sweet. They all felt strangely energized; no one wanted to go home and sleep. So instead, they began going door to door, visiting many of the people in the community around the church.

They encountered many sick and wounded. They offered to lay hands on them and pray. They were astonished to discover that, as they prayed, many of the wounded were healed.

At one home, he said the door was wide open and the people inside were wailing. They walked in, and saw the body of a young man lying on a bed. The sheets were bloody and the young man was strangely pale and still. They were told that he had just died.

Ha Jimmy said the group felt compelled to lay hands on the body, and so they did, to the astonishment of those standing nearby. He said they didn't pray specifically that God would raise the young man from the dead -- they just prayed.

Suddenly, they felt him move, and heard him cough. They opened their eyes and saw that the young man was looking at them.

His family members cried out and fell to their knees in astonishment. "What should we do?" they cried out.

Ha Jimmy said all he could think to tell them were the words of Paul and Silas in Acts 16:31 -- "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved ... you and your entire household." He said the entire family prayed to receive Christ that day.

Several days later, Ha Jimmy says, Saigon was overrun by the communists. Because he had friends among the American forces, Ha Jimmy was able to find escape, and came to America. Most of his friends and fellow churchgoers were not so fortunate. He believes that most of them were probably killed when the Communists overthrew Saigon.

Ha Jimmy was a quiet and assuming man, not given to exaggeration, so his story made a deep impression on me. I've always wondered whether, if placed in his circumstance, you and I might experience something similar. A life lived on the knife's edge of survival is a life where there are fewer obstacles to seeing God intervene in dramatic ways.

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