we met Vu in mid June while staying in the Vietnamese mountain holiday town of Sapa for eleven nights, escaping the heat of the Hanoi summer.
After doing a trek through the rice fields of the Hmong minority hill tribe people, with a useless Vietnamese guide, we were keen to do another with a local. On the streets we met Vu and organised a trek to her village some 15km away via the ridge outside Sapa. It was going to be a spectacular walk.
While hiking through majestic mountains and coming down into the famous Hmong terraced rice fields we discovered that Vu was a Christian like us. The conversation quickly developed from there. She told us her village used to be nominally Catholic, as is most of the Hmong community. Then in the early 2000’s Australian and American Christians shared with them the good news of persoanl relationship with Jesus. She said the whole village responded to the message and became believers. It was the missing link they had been looking for.
Being a totalitarian Communist state, the domineering Vietnamese police took none too kindly to this development. Leaders were imprisoned and bashed, meetings were broken up, believers harassed. This went on for about five years and served to purify the church of any half hearted followers.
When I asked it if it was still dangerous, Vu said it was now calm and had been for most of the last ten years, that they had their own church building and would we like to come to church next Sunday! Why was it now calm, we asked? Her answer was instructive. She said the government noticed there was no more crime being reported from the new Christian villages. There was also no domestic violence, which had been rampant due to the prevalence of “happy water”, alcohol. In short, the area had become model citizens, so they were finally left alone to worship as they pleased…and it was safe for us to visit!
We finished our hike with a great sense of anticipation.
After a 15km ride on the back of motorbikes down into their stunning valley, we came across a vibrant church service of some 150 people. Many of the women were dressed in their fantastic indigo Hmong traditional dresses. There were children everywhere. It was noisy, but happy. I was asked to speak for a few minutes so shared some thoughts on the parable of the prodigal son. The service went for three hours, in the Hmong language, a language which has been actively suppressed by the Vietnamese government.
Afterward we enjoyed a simple lunch at Vu’s house, hosted by her daughter-in-law. Vu was busy earning a few more precious dollars taking another hiking group that day. It was indeed a privilege to be welcomed into a traditional Hmong home in the middle of their vast terraced system of mountainside rice fields. These are enterprising people with little formal education. We had never met them before, but we were one family, the family of Jesus Christ.