There was an unusually long line in the men’s room at the airport as I commuted from Columbus to Washington DC for a meeting with the Evangelical Immigration Table. When I commented about the length of line (noting that men shouldn’t have to put up with waits more common to the Ladies Room!) another man said, “This isn’t bad. In Viet Nam they charge you to use the restroom.” He went on to talk about fortunate he was to live in America where free restrooms pale in comparison to other blessings that we enjoy. The conversation ended as we both took advantage of this small free benefit of life in America.
When I arrived at my gate a few minutes later I saw the same man as we got in line to board a Southwest flight to Washington. I asked him how long he had been in the U.S. and he said since 1983. As we waited in line I asked him where he was going and he said “Viet Nam.” I asked him why he was going there and he said, “To be a missionary.” On an impulse, I asked if I could pray for him and his journey and he accepted and the two of us, who had met only moments before, stood in the terminal praying for a successful trip to Viet Nam. When we got on the plane the flight was only half full and we choose seats together.
On the flight, Steven the missionary told me of his conversion to Christianity and his dream of serving orphans in Viet Nam, where he told me they could be adopted by Vietnamese citizens for about $2, less than half the amount that I had paid for by Starbucks. Steven had grown up as a Buddhist but he and many of his family members had converted to Christianity. He had initially attended a Baptist church but switched to a Vineyard church in Columbus that was more in line with his beliefs and experiences as a Pentecostal Christian.
Steven told me of friends and family members who had been beaten, sometimes to death, for their faith. He also told me of miraculous healings and other manifestations of God’s power and glory in Viet Nam.
Steven supports himself and his family through a nail design business with several stores in Columbus. He told me that he uses his business to tell people about Christ. During the flight our conversation floated back and forth from immigration to bible studies that Steven had been doing on creation. His knowledge of scripture was profound as he took me from passage to passage explaining how they informed his understanding of creation, taking him away from a belief in a young earth.
As we flew to Washington on a Sunday morning I pondered what a unique worship opportunity I was experiencing as a Vietnamese nail polishing missionary led me through scripture and told me of his all surpassing love for Christ. For special music we watched a video of his 3-year-old daughter singing praise music.
Steven leaves for Viet Nam tomorrow (May 6). His wife is nervous about his safety and some have warned him not to go but he is compelled by his love for Christ and his vision of one day serving orphans and leading them to Jesus.
I’m fortunate to have met Steven. Our paths may not cross again until heaven…but I’m sure they will cross. I asked Steven if I could put an account of our conversation on my blog, asking readers to pray for him as he takes the gospel into places where Christians are beaten for their faith. Between now and May 27, pray that Steven will experience God’s protection and that his dream of serving orphans may one day come true.