A Lost Missionary Report from Vietnam: “A handful when hungry – a basket full when full”

The following is a lost report from Vietnam missionaries in 1968. Most people remember the Vietnam war from the perspective of soldiers, politicians, or student protestors, but few have heard the stories of how the missionaries stayed and gave their lives during a time of hardship.

This missions article was written after the The Tet Offensive, an unprovoked surprise attack by the Communists in the north that wanted control of the south during the lunar new year. On January 30, 1968, the Viet Cong (VC) used the celebrations of the lunar new year to launch an attack on the south Vietnamese. The purpose of the wide-scale offensive by the Communist Party was to trigger political instability by attacking city centers and killing massive numbers of civilians.

The missionaries didn’t leave. They stayed and served the people. Here is their report.

“A handful when hungry – a basket full when full,” is an old Vietnamese proverb. Its truth was realized during the Tet Offensive where thousands of Vietnamese lost their homes. In some places, entire blocks were gutted or burned out. Factories, schools and churches were overflowing with the wounded and homeless. Refugees poured in making the housing problem more acute.

What could be done?

City officials, Vietnamese Relief agencies, US Military, civic action teams, youth groups, and churches all joined forces. Then things began to move. Classes in the public schools were temporarily suspended and the buildings were converted to dormitories. Relief agencies went into action with food distribution, even as snipers from the north were still searching for targets.

A large area of land was obtained by the government and a self-help program was initiated. The most pressing need was to provide temporary housing for those billeted in the schools. Within a few days the scene resembled an ant colony.

Everyone was busy. The construction of housing was allotted to teams from churches, Boy Scout troops, universities and other organizations. Molded cement blocks comprised the foundation. Experienced carpenters prefabricated the framework and roofs. From there the various teams took over.

The Tin Lanh Church was well represented with 10 of its Saigon churches participating in the program. Everyone pitched in – pastors, their wives, and scores of young people from Christian youth groups. The Vietnamese Youth Director served as co-ordinator. With a portable loudspeaker in hand, he circulated throughout area giving instructions to the teams of workers.

The girls cooked meals, served cold drinks and even helped carry wooden frames to the construction sites. The fellows did most of the actual construction. These young people were responsible for 88 completed units. 80 to 100 young people appeared for work every day.

The Vietnamese Government plans to build high-rise apartments for those made homeless by the war. The temporary dwellings will be torn down as the occupants move into permanent housing.

In time these wooden buildings will be just a memory, but they are a tribute to those who pulled together to provide their suffering countrymen that essential handful NOW.

Shown in these picture are young people of the Tin Lanh ( Evangelical Church) that assembled temporary housing units for the refugees.

Dr. Eugene Bach is a known trouble-maker with an active imagination and sinful past. He has a PhD, but is not a real doctor, so please do not call for him during a medical emergency on an airplane when someone is having a heart attack. Eugene started working for Back to Jerusalem in the year 2000 after a backroom deal involving Chinese spies, the NRA, Swiss bankers, and a small group of Apostolic Christians that only baptize in Jesus’ name. He spends most of his time in closed countries attempting to topple governments by proclaiming the name of Jesus and not taking showers. From time-to-time he pretends to be a writer. He is not good at it, but everyone around him tries to humor him.

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