Thursday, July 2, 2009

A Small Prayer in Prison

Our visiting seminarian, Viet Nguyen, is an amazing man. He captured both of my kids' attention the other night and he held their attention the entire evening. He definitely made an impression on my son. I'm sure I cannot share Viet's story as well as he did but I'll try. He was born and grew up in Viet Nam and his story is tightly entwined with his uncle's story.

You see, since becoming a pastor, his uncle has spent most of his life in prison for protesting for religious freedom. Organizations like Amnesty International, the UN and the US government were instrumental in getting him released from prison but it wouldn't be long before the Vietnamese government would arrest him again and toss him back in prison.

The last time Viet's uncle was arrested, the government also rounded up Viet and his brother and sister (even though she had two small children) and threw them into solitary confinement. Viet didn't even know that his siblings had been arrested nor did they know about him.

As you can imagine, Vietnamese prisons aren't exactly The Ritz. Viet was tossed in a very small cell and was fed only two small meals a day. When they weren't interrogating him, he was deprived of all human contact. He couldn't even hear any human voices. No tv. No radio. No books. Nothing. All he could do was pace a few feet back and forth and pray.

Finally, after a few months, they moved Viet to another cell with another prisoner who had been turned in by some friends. This man's crime was legitimately illegal but the fact that his friends were Christian, had deeply hurt him. As soon as he found out Viet was a Christian, he refused to talk to him.

So, Viet continued to pray and began to sing. After about a week of this, the other man changed his mind and asked Viet about his song and why he always knelt with his hands folded. Three months later, Viet's cellmate forgave his friends and became a Christian.

To cut this story short, Viet served 32 months of his ten-year sentence before he was finally released. He emigrated to the US about 4 years ago. He has now completed his second year in the seminary. His brother and sister also live in the US as do a few other relatives. Viet's uncle, however, remains in prison somewhere in Viet Nam.

Here is "A Small Prayer in Prison" which Viet wrote and shared with us the other night:

"Lord, thank you for my hunger, so that I can truly experience the hunger of the beggars.

Thank you for my nakedness, so that I can share the poverty with those who do not have enough clothes to wear.

Thank you for my illness, so that I can feel sorry for those who have to bear their critical illness without any medicine.

Thank you for my loneliness, so that I can sympathize with those who are lonely and desolate.

Thank you for my sufferings, so that I can empathize with those who are in misery and despair.

Thank you for my imprisonment, so that I can truly share with those who are imprisoned unjustly.

Thank you for the persecution, so that I can proudly share with your disciples' hardship and their fears.

Lord, finally, I want to give you thanks because of this situation, this room, and this prison. I do believe that you lead me here and you want me to be here with you. I do not know where I will go, what I will do and when I will go home, but I trust in your everlasting love and unbroken promise: you always love me and reveal to me your love for me in this special seminary. Amen."

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

That is a great story, I can see why you all were so mesmerized. Please tell him I am sorry to hear of his trials and am glad he is now here in the states were we have every freedom and most people do not realize what was given for us to be able to pray in peace.