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Graveyards Came First

Outreach in Vietnam's vibrant church, 38 years after Tet offensive martyrs.
2007This article is part of CT's digital archives. Subscribers have access to all current and past issues, dating back to 1956.

The crack of gunfire broke the traditional lunar New Year's truce in Vietnam before dawn on January 30, 1968. The Tet offensive had begun. The Viet Cong assaulted hundreds of American outposts—military and civilian—hoping to deal a crushing defeat to the U.S.

That day, the VC attacked an unguarded Christian and Missionary Alliance (CMA) compound in Buon Me Thuot. Soldiers murdered nurse Carolyn Griswold, her father, Leon Griswold, another nurse named Ruth Wilting, Bible translator and pastor N. Robert Ziemer, and a missionary couple, Carl and Ruth Thompson.

Nathan Bailey, then CMA president, wrote a short article in the March 1968 issue of The Alliance Witness, saying, "In God's economy, truly a mystery to the world, the martyrdom of six faithful soldiers of the Cross will result in the multiplication of gospel effort. Our God never makes a mistake, and his work in Vietnam will advance in spite of this grave loss."

Last fall, some 38 years after the Tet offensive, a delegation of evangelical leaders, including ct managing editor Mark Galli, traveled to Hanoi to witness the changes occurring within Vietnam. This month's cover story is Mark's evocative chronicle.

America's relationship with Vietnam has never been more complex. There is as much promise as there is peril. More Catholics and Protestants in Vietnam worship openly in churches than perhaps at any time in the nation's war-scarred history. Mark reports that American influence is on the rise as trade increases. Evangelistic Christian radio reaches deep into the nation's interior.

During the delegation's visit, they traveled to Vietnam's northern border to visit a 20-year-old Hmong pastor in a registered house church, which featured a thatched roof, hayloft, and ...

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