“I remember when I was three or four years old, my father gave me a children’s Bible,” says John*, now a teenager in Ho Chi Minh City. “I remember being impressed by the pictures—but I didn’t know how to read! So my Dad read me the stories.”
Eventually he was able to read it himself. He says, “Every morning, I woke up and read the Bible. It gave me a knowledge of the Word. It led me to learn how I can pray, how I can talk to my friends about God. My friends would ask me, ‘What is that book, why are those paintings so beautiful?’ And I explained it was the Bible, God’s Word.
“I’m so thankful my Dad brought it to my home. I read it, and it gave me a foundation to understand the Lord.”
THE FIRST CHILDREN BIBLE
John was one of the first in Vietnam to receive a Children’s Illustrated Bible, printed with support from Open Doors.
The children’s Bible project began in 2006, when the first Children’s New Testaments began to roll off the printing presses in Vietnam. The brightly colored, illustrated books represented a new way for Vietnamese children to learn about Jesus—and a new way for their parents to help their kids grow in faith.
In 2009, the New Testaments were updated; the Old Testament was produced as its own volume. The next year, the Old and New Testaments were combined to form the Children’s Illustrated Bible—the first of its kind in Vietnam. And this is the Bible that first helped to introduce John to God’s Word – along with over half a million other children in the years since then. John says, “It is my greatest present from my Dad and from the Lord.”
IT WAS RARE TO HAVE A BIBLE
There was a time when it was rare to have a Bible in Vietnam, let alone a Bible especially for children. One Open Doors partner remembers entering a competition to win a Bible as a teenager – there were only a handful of Bibles in his secret church, and very few people had their own copy. “I memorized tons of Bible verses and was able to win the Bible for my mother.”
Today, the situation is a little easier. After the government of Vietnam was criticized by the UN over lack of freedom of religion, they authorized publishing houses to print and publish Bibles in Vietnamese and other ethnic languages.
But the Vietnamese government still strictly regulates the printing and distribution of Bibles**. A different permit is needed for selling Christian literature, so it’s rare to find Christian books in local bookshops; Vietnamese parents have a hard time finding Children’s Bibles or Christian storybooks for their children. Distributing the Bibles can be dangerous too, especially in rural areas – those who are seen to be spreading the gospel by giving out Bibles are sometimes interrogated or even imprisoned for a short time.
But thanks to the courage and commitment of our local partners, and the support and prayers of people like you, there are now an incredible 600,000 copies of the Children’s Illustrated Bible in Vietnam, helping the next generation to learn about Jesus.
EVERYTHING WE DO NOW IS FOR THE CHILDREN
The Open Doors field worker who coordinates the Children’s Bible project is called Nathaniel*.
He says, “Overseeing the Children’s Bible Project is my divine calling from God. This is my life. It’s a pleasure for me to share the gospel with children. I hope one day they will recognize and follow Jesus. I believe the next generation will rise up!”
His own upbringing was very difficult; he felt unwanted as a child, and that rejection drove him to despair. As a teenager he was depressed to the point of suicide, but everything changed when a neighbor invited him to a Christian summer camp.
As a follower of Jesus, life wasn’t easy. Nathaniel explains. “When you become a Christian, it means you are different. One of the most painful things is that all of my family members stand against me and insult me and my faith.”
But despite the rejection he has faced, he knows that finding Jesus is what turned his life around – and that’s what he wants for today’s children and youth in Vietnam.
Nathaniel says, “I want the children to receive God’s salvation. This is the most important thing we have to do, to share the gospel and to share His love for people.
“I’m willing to sacrifice everything to continue to do His work. Everything we do now is for the children, for the next generation. I’m very excited to see the next generation rising up because they will change the nation.”
Nathaniel laughs easily—and also cries easily when he talks about the passion he feels for his work on the Children’s Bible Project. As he discusses his desire for the children of his nation to rise up for Jesus, his eyes well up with tears.
“It’s not about my sacrifice; it’s about what God is doing,” he explains. “I’m tearing up because I love God, and I want to show Him my gratitude.”
CHILDREN ARE A FUTURE ARMY OF GOD
John is a testament to the way the Children’s Bibles are helping the next generation to rise up – even while they are still young. He remembers, “My friend wanted to know why I was staying home and reading the Bible. I got him to read the Bible, and it was the greatest thing I ever did. And I got him to go to church.
“If all kids receive this Bible that would be a great thing. A generation would have and believe in God’s words, believing in His way. It is a powerful book. It teaches us the Lord’s Word and guides us in His way.”
Nathaniel shares, “Before I got involved with the Children’s Bible Project, I was asked why I wanted to work with children. From some people’s point of view, they think children are nothing. But I have a different point of view. Because of what I’ve been through, I can see that children are a future army of God.
“These children are just like my children; I want to give them the best things. I’m very happy to see the children receive the Bible because they are so happy. I believe this is the work of God—where the Word is sown, He will help it. I thank God He has chosen us to walk with Him to cooperate with Him.”
“I would like to say thank you for your support. What you have been doing is sowing the gospel.”
Nathaniel asks us to pray for the Children’s Bible Project, his family and his nation. “My prayer request is that there would be more Bibles printed and distributed. When children receive the Bible and the gospel has been sewn in their hearts, they will be the future men and women of God.
“My prayer for my family is that my children will have an encounter with God when they’ve grown. My prayer for Vietnam is that the government will accept and be open to Christianity.”
*Name changed for security reason
**Official permits must be obtained for producing such materials, another permit for printing, and yet another for storage and distribution, and you must specify where the Bibles will be delivered. Only a certain number of Bibles can be printed at once, and every time a reprint is needed, a new permit must be secured, which can take a long time.
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Over our years of ministry, we see a common lack of two necessities for persecuted Christians around the world: food and the Word of God.
The Bible tells us that, “man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Deuteronomy 8:3)
However, there are hundreds of thousands of believers worldwide who do not have enough food (and other basic necessities) or a copy of the Bible, or both.Every HK$50 can put a Bible in the hands of a believer.
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