Though the Vietnamese government has stated publicly that they will allow greater religious freedoms going forward, the persecution of Christians continues in Vietnam, and an underground church cannot yet safely come out into the open. In fact, the pastors there risk everything to live out their faith.
I intended to make a gift of a guitar to an underground church at the end of our trip, and although we asked for a less-expensive model, Epiphone blessed us with a very nice DR-200S. I played that guitar all over Saigon—on university campuses, in coffee shops, and in underground churches. Everywhere I went, music was a bridge between our cultures.
Unfortunately, none of the churches we worked with in Saigon had a guitar player in its congregation. Reluctantly, I sent the guitar north with the second Westgate team, in the hopes that they would meet a worship leader with a need for a good instrument. Near the end of their trip, they identified a likely candidate.
Terrence Toon picks up the story from here: “Global Missions Fellowship leaders Paul DiRocco and David Slottje and I traveled through dark backstreets in Da Nang one night looking for this secret church. Down an alley and behind an unmarked door, we found this little congregation meeting in a tiny room. Paul presented the guitar to the pastor, and we learned that he was a classically trained guitarist. Rather than thanking us for what would be considered in his culture an extravagant gift, he immediately began playing the guitar and thanking God for providing it. His proper perspective on the gift humbled us. We all joined in songs of praise, accompanied by his beautiful music, until it was time for us to leave. I will never forget that evening.”
Thanks to Jim Rosenberg at Epiphone for making this amazing story possible.