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Thirty six years ago, three weeks after arriving in Vietnam, our family spent Christmas with missionary colleagues in Banmethout in Vietnam's Central Highlands. It was there we were taught the difference in the sounds of "outgoing" and "incoming" mortars and artillery. With the latter you went for the bunker. But more memorable was the way that Ede tribal Christians celebrated Christmas.

We were treated to a Christmas service unlike any we had ever experienced. Surroundings in the simple church were very plain. Large lighted stars the only decorations. But the clear singing of Ede children filled a large church with unbelievably heavenly harmonies. Their evident joy infected us. Though we didn't understand a word of the language, we couldn't miss the message of the joy at Jesus' birth! Not long ago, in bondage to malevolent spirits whose demands could never be surely known, these Ede Christians had received God's gift and now worshipped Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.

When communism came in 1975 all Ede churches were disbanded and all Christian leaders went to "re-education" for at least 5 years. Some died of terrible abuse, other of disease and malnutrition. When the surviving leaders emerged from their prisons, they found a diminished and scattered church. They began rebuilding in the 1980s. By the 1990s they began to reap a bountiful harvest. In 2000 they counted 135,792 believers in Dak Lak province—nine times as many as there had been in 1975.

But for the nearly 150,000 Christians in the Dak Lak province this year, Christmas was a bleak and uncelebrated affair. The communist Caesar has again come down on Christians with a vengeance. In the last three months, authorities have disbanded most of the 441 churches. The three ...

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December 2002

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