May 26, 2015

How Surrender Changes Everything

Post by Brittany Tedesco

At the end of April, Vietnam held a big celebration to commemorate 40 years of communism, beginning with the Fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975.

During the final days of a long and bloody war, North Vietnam's Communist Party claimed multiple victories as its forces captured city after city en route to South Vietnam's capital city of Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City. There, the South surrendered, and American forces finally, reluctantly pulled out of Vietnam.

But before that happened, in early April, many Americans started leaving Vietnam—along with over 110,000 Vietnamese refugees whom American forces evacuated.

On April 29, the North destroyed the South's main airport...but more than 1,000 Americans were still in Vietnam.

In what's known as the largest helicopter evacuation in history, Marines worked through the night, flying out Americans and thousands of Vietnamese, crowded at the U.S. embassy. Many more Vietnamese, frantic to escape a country ruled by the Communist Party, clamored to get inside the embassy for a chance at freedom.

When the last helicopter carried away the last of the Americans, a few hundred Vietnamese remained at the embassy, initially unaware that they'd been left behind. These were captured by the North Vietnamese and sent to "re-education" camps.

The population of Saigon was greatly reduced because of all of the Vietnamese who were able to escape to the U.S. or to other countries. Some Vietnamese, however, chose to stay. Su was one of them.

Su is a ministry leader who has paid dearly to share the gospel with the tribal people in Vietnam's Central Highlands. He's spent a total of seven years in dungeon-like prisons. After one bout in solitary confinement for 25 months, he was carried out on a stretcher, nearly dead from malaria, beatings, and interrogation.

During one of Su's visits to Christian Aid Mission, our Southeast Asia Director asked him why he chooses to live in Vietnam when he could easily find asylum here in the U.S. after the torture he experienced in his own country.

Su answered, "My body belongs to Jesus Christ. If He wants me in prison, that's fine. If He wants me preaching, that's fine. Wherever He wants me, that's fine. My body is His."

A hard labor camp in Vietnam where several pastors are imprisoned.

He chooses to live out Romans 12:1: "Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship."

As we Americans know, people from all over the world come to our country for a better life—a life that offers more economic opportunity. But achieving a comfortable lifestyle clearly isn't Su's goal.

A few years ago, I asked a ministry leader from Nigeria how he was liking his visit to the U.S. I actually expected him to gush about how much he was enjoying the relative luxury, compared with his neck of the woods where creature comforts are scarce.

Perhaps he might mention the air conditioning or plentiful restaurants and big box stores. No village markets here!

Other than remarking on how orderly our roads are (compared to the roads he's accustomed to, clogged with bicycles, animals, and cars with no discernible driving pattern), he wanted to get back to Nigeria ASAP.

In fact, he finds such satisfaction doing Kingdom work in a life of relative poverty that his mind was back in Nigeria even before his body arrived. He had work to do, and lots of it!

Later, I asked another African ministry leader how he enjoyed the American buffet he visited for dinner, expecting a glowing report.

But other than eating way too many hotdogs, after trying them for the very first time, he was eager to go back home.

Our processed pigmeat wasn't enough to keep him here.

And neither was the prospect of comfort and prosperity.

Several leaders of indigenous ministries assisted by Christian Aid Mission came to the U.S. as students, but didn't allow themselves to get so comfortable here that they forgot the call upon their lives to go back and reach their own people.

One such leader who works in the Middle East studied at a Christian university in the states, knowing it was just a temporary stopover.

He's currently back home, ministering to the Syrian and Iraqi refugees who've poured into his country. He's never before seen such openness to the gospel among Muslims.

In a candid moment, he mentioned how much his family could use a little break. His wife counsels traumatized people every day, and his young sons have been exposed to a myriad of horrific stories and images. Comfort isn't his goal, though.

Like Su, he views his body not as belonging to him, but to God.

While the world espouses a captain-of-my-own-ship mentality, do we Christians really see our bodies as belonging to God and not to ourselves?

Syrian refugees who fled their homes to escape ISIS terrorism.

How does one get to the point where we care more about God's Kingdom than our own comfort? What's the secret?

Several years ago, I ran into an old friend from high school. I knew he'd always questioned the reality of God, but up to that point, we'd never discussed his doubts in-depth.

Our conversation was very interesting. It started as an evolution-versus-creationism discussion. He put forth his arguments against the existence of God...but as we kept talking, he eventually admitted that he was scared to give his life to God because of what God might require of him. He loved money and wanted to pursue success. God might sideline his plans. So he's not an atheist after all...just someone who doesn't want to surrender.

Surrender. That's the secret.

In our human nature, we do whatever we can to preserve our comfort. But surrender puts us in a position to actually partake in the very mind and heart of God.

As C.S. Lewis put it, "The question is not what we intended ourselves to be, but what He intended us to be when He made us." In surrendering, we discover what it is that God intended for us to be.

When Su was nursed back to health after being in prison, he returned to his work of reaching the tribal people of Vietnam with the good news of Jesus.

"Pray for me, I am 59 years old," he said. He's a diabetic and has had issues with gallstones. A possibility exists that he could be thrown into prison again.

But he's given his body to God--he's relinquished control--and in so doing, he's aligned himself with God's heart. He's taken on God's desires.

"Between now and the time that God comes or that God takes me, all I want to see is all the tribal groups know about God," Su said.

Surrender changes everything.

Click here to read more about Su and to help his ministry.