One memorable trip began with a three-hour flight from our base in Malaysia to Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon). We drove in the cover of darkness for hours. Then while it was still dark we mounted motorbikes, I was a passenger on the back of a very small motorbike with a driver that spoke no English.
After about an hour the group split up going in eight different directions. My driver and I were now alone driving on a mud road in the dark using no lights and it had started raining. His driving did not really suit my approval and then finally with the mud becoming so slick and the driver going too fast our bike spun out of control and slammed both the driver and I into the mud. My shoulder was hurt and I was slow getting up.
The driver was frantic and encouraged me to climb back on to his bike. I was very reluctant to get back on, until I realized that with me or without me he was leaving. I quickly got on not understanding what he knew, that the authorities were closing in fast on us. It was against the law with sever punishment for he and I if we were caught in this area. An hour later we finally arrived at the very remote underground house church in the highlands of Vietnam. I was muddy, tired and wet but grateful to be there. The motorbike group had split up to cause diversion for the police and government officials. These people had risked their lives to protect me. Now I understood why I was told to keep my helmet and jacket on, as if that somehow would make me look Vietnamese. I also realized the reason he was so fast was that if he put his foot on the brake the taillight would show up and would have lead the authorities to us.
Villagers began arriving at the house church one by one going from one house to another then sneaking on into the designated house of worship. Many came early to pray for two hours before the service. Some had walked many miles in the rain just to hear God’s Word. The house had no chairs, so the church members sat on rocks or pieces of wood. They worshiped in song with no sounds of music nor their voice. They would almost clap their hands but they never touched so as to not make a noise. When the service was over the floor had pools of tears left by the worshipers. They all left quietly, reluctantly and signally just as they had arrived so as to not draw attention to themselves and the other worshipers and to me.
Each had overcome extreme travel conditions to worship, and hear the word of God, none considered it a sacrifice. They just had a desire like David, who was drawn, to worship with every fiber of his being.
For those in restricted nations, church is not optional; it is essential. In contrast, in free nations many people make up their minds each week whether or not they will attend church. Do they have time? Is it raining? Would they rather sleep late? What’s the sermon topic anyway? Who is the speaker? Shamefully, we often run through a gamut of questions trying to decide whether church is worth our time. For these people and millions of others, going to meet with God was a no-brainer. In fact, they would not let anything keep them from it.