By Stefan J. Bos, Worthy News Chief International Correspondent
HANOI, VIETNAM (Worthy News)-- There was uncertainty in Vietnam's capital Hanoi Thursday, April 14, over where American evangelist Luis Palau would preach as authorities delayed permissions for a massive evangelistic festival planned this weekend.
"Again they said today: 'of course you have the permission, but not in a large open field'," preferred by organizers, said Palau in a statement sent to Worthy News and its news partner BosNewsLife. "It will be held in a covered coliseum, which means smaller crowds, and less visible," he added. However, "We do not know right now which one..."
Palau, the first U.S. evangelist to publicly visit Vietnam in decades, said he was concerned as a "set-up, well done, takes 24 to 48 hours".
Otherwise, Palau warned, "it will be the mad rush again of last weekend down south," a reference to Ho Chi Minh City where his evangelistic meeting was moved from an open field to a sports stadium, at the last moment.
The 76-year old preacher suggested that he still believes thousands will find their way to the still scheduled evangelistic festivals on Friday, April 15, and Saturday, April 16. "Our Lord is truly in charge of what honors Him," he said. "We are heavily relying on [the Bible verse] Psalm 25:3: 'No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame, but shame will come on those who are treacherous without cause,'" Palau added, citing the New International Version translation.
Holding up permissions or a crackdown on unregistered Christian gatherings and churches have been linked by rights activists to concern within Vietnam's Communist leadership about the spread of Christianity in a country where authorities tightly control the official Catholic and Protestant churches.
Many of Vietnam's Christians prefer to worship outside government control in what are known as "house churches", including those visited by Palau's son, and fellow evangelist, Andrew.
"The Body of Christ" a reference to Christians " keeps growing in so many ways," said Luis Palau about the encounters of his son with house church Christians. "Basically, of course, [the Church grows] via the Biblical-based concept of the 'House Church'," Luis Palau said.
"Andrew has gone to such here in Hanoi and in Ho Chi Minh City," Palau explained. He said his son "was astonished at the humble neighborhood [where] the 100 people literally crammed into a room the size of the hotel room."
But the there was, he exclaimed, "Loud praise" from the Christians, including "a high proportion of ex-drugs addicts" when Andrew Palau "preached the Word" of God.
Less than half percent of the country's 90 million population are believed to be what Palau's team regards as 'evangelical', or 'born again' Christians, who made a "personal decision" to follow Jesus Christ. Vietnamese church leaders involved in the evangelism campaign would like to increase that number to at least 10 percent by 2020, Palau said.
"The national spiritual leaders keep giving us words that bless me deeply. They are convinced, and for this I praise the Lord, that our style of ministering and doing evangelism is sorely needed at this very time. They insist that it is helping enormously, not just for this hour in the history of their nation...but smoothing the road ahead," he added.
However, Palau stressed that "To God be the glory!" The veteran preacher, who was born in Argentina and moved to the United States, said seeing a growing number of believers has been his "secret desire as has happened in many nations..." while "walking with the Lord, as you know from the past."
Paul's visit is part of events marking the 100th anniversary of the Protestant church in Vietnam. Organizers say thousands of Vietnamese have so far committed their lives to Christ during Palau's evangelistic festival, last weekend, in Ho Chi Minh City.
Vietnam is the latest on a list of countries visited by Luis Palau who preached "faith in Jesus Christ" to over 1 billion people through radio, television, the Internet, books and articles, including 28 million people face-to-face in 72 nations, according to the Luis Palau Evangelistic Association.