>Two-day festival cancelled
>Thousands committed lives to Christ, Palau says
>Authorities delayed permissions
By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
HANOI, VIETNAM (BosNewsLife)– Luis Palau, the first American evangelist to openly preach in Vietnam since the Vietnam War, has cancelled his massive evangelism ‘festival’ in the capital Hanoi after authorities delayed permissions and local churches were no longer able to organize the event in time.
“The two rallies in Hanoi were cancelled, yet we are not in despair,” he said in a video message seen by BosNewsLife Sunday, April 17.
Palau, 76, wanted to preach Saturday, April 16, in Hanoi, after already abandoning plans for the first scheduled gathering of the festival the previous day.
However, “Although the government did provide the necessary approvals and permits on Friday, several issues surrounding the venue made it impossible to pull things together in time,” explained his Luis Palau Evangelistic Association in a statement.
“The local committee did all they could, yet, in the end, it was clear the timing for the festival in Hanoi was not right. We are trusting the Lord in His wisdom that He has something greater in store,” the organization added.
The cancellation disappointed thousands of people who were expected at the evangelistic event. Organizers said over 100 buses carrying spectators had been waiting outside the venue on Friday, April 15.
Yet, Palau said despite the setback “reportedly at least 5,500 men, women and children have given their lives to Christ here in Vietnam” during his two-day festival last week in Ho Chi Minh City.
Additionally, “When they heard plans would not move forward as expected, believers on buses began to share the Good News and lead people to Jesus Christ,” the Luis Palau Evangelistic Association said. “We have heard stories of entire buses full of nonbelievers who came to know the Lord, all sitting outside the venue.”
Palau said he and his evangelistic team were also able to help break divisions between churches in Vietnam following a pastoral conference last year and the recent festival. He said he planned to return to Vietnam in June for festivals, including in Hanoi.
“By God’s grace I am the first foreigner in decades and decades to openly proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ in Vietnam, and perhaps we open the doors even so slightly for other generations and preachers” to do the same, said Palau, who was born in Argentina and later moved to the United States.
Vietnamese officials have not explained in media why they delayed permissions.
Church leaders have linked Palau’s difficulties to concern within Vietnam’s government 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.
Vietnam was the latest on a list of countries visited by Luis Palau who preached “faith in Jesus Christ” to over 1 billion people through radio, television, the Internet, books and articles, including 28 million people face-to-face in 72 nations, according to the Luis Palau Evangelistic Association.
His visit was part of events marking the 100th anniversary of the Protestant church in Vietnam.