By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
HANOI, VIETNAM (BosNewsLife)– American evangelist Luis Palau prepared to preach for thousands of people in Hanoi Saturday, April 16, after saying he was forced to cancel another massive meeting a day earlier because Vietnamese authorities delayed permissions.
“We received final written permission for events in Hanoi [only] earlier [Friday] afternoon…Truly historic in and of itself,” he said in a statement. “However given the late timing – and a few key issues with the venue – it was impossible to pull the gathering together for this evening,” Friday April 15, the evangelist explained.
“All our efforts are now focused…on Saturday”, April 16, “when we aim to share the clear Gospel message with thousands of individuals in Hanoi,” Palau added. Yet, he claimed, organizers are “at peace, trusting the Lord has great things in store for the entire nation.”
Palau said his team would continue to support local church leaders involved in what are known as evangelistic ‘festivals’ as they still have to “build relations and trust with local authorities,” in this Asian nation, where the Communist government tightly controls churches.
“We know the groundwork that is established here will have a direct impact on future gatherings, including events planned for June.”
Luis Palau is the first U.S. evangelist to publicly preach in Vietnam since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975.
“THOUSANDS FOLLOW CHRIST”
The 76-year old preacher said that so far thousands of people “committed” their lives to Jesus Christ during his two-day festival last weekend in Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City.
In Ho Chi Minh City organizers were forced, at the last moment, to move a Palau rally away from a large open field to a football stadium. Organizers say authorities want the popular evangelist to hold meetings at venues where he can attract smaller crowds.
Church leaders say Vietnam’s government is concerned about the uncontrolled spread of Christianity in the country, where denominations need permissions. At least hundreds of devoted Christians, including church leaders, have been detained, according to rights activists.
Many Christians prefer to worship in what are known as “house churches,” church groups say.
Vietnam’s government has denied wrongdoing, and described reports of a crackdown on Christians, including in the nation’s Central Highlands, as Western propaganda.