HANOI, Vietnam - Although Christians still face persecution in Vietnam, churches thrive because of leaders who endured suffering to spread the gospel in the communist country. They include 95-year-old Pastor Duong Thi, also known as Mrs. Ly, who helped start Vietnam's house church movement.
When CBN News visited Mrs. Ly, she was well enough to write a favorite verse and read it aloud: Romans 12:21 which says, "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."
The 95-year-old pastor reminisced about hardships she and other Christians endured, such as being imprisoned five times. When asked how she felt during the ordeal, she answered in Vietnamese, "I was not afraid because God was with me."
One of the prisons where she was jailed, the Hoa Lo Prison, is now a popular tourist spot in the heart of Hanoi. Mrs. Ly's children shared that Bibles were not allowed in the prison but their mother was able to have access to some of its pages which her church members used to wrap the sticky rice they sent her. Even inside the prison, Mrs. Ly boldly shared the gospel.
Mrs. Ly's father served as a pastor of the Christian Missionary Alliance, the only traditional Christian church in Vietnam at the time. She followed in his footsteps, becoming a pastor of that church. In 1982, however, she became the first member to step out of the traditional church after she experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
Pastor Vú Toan Trung, Mrs. Ly's son, said, "My mother went around the different provinces in Vietnam to share about the Holy Spirit Baptism. She set up the first charismatic house church in our city."
Mrs. Ly mentored many of Vietnam's current Christian leaders, including Pastor Pham Duc Trung, who went from being dependent on drugs to running several rehabilitation centers which is the main ministry of his church, The Blessing Church.
"When I became a Christian, it was her church that I first attended and where I really felt loved. She recommended the rehabilitation center where I was delivered from drug addiction," Pastor Pham said.
Mrs. Ly's legacy lives on in her children and grandchildren who have become pastors and church workers.
"Our mother's legacy is her big heart for God. She was willing to sacrifice everything. She always reminds me of the verse in Luke 1, 'that being delivered out of the hand of the enemies that we might serve him without fear …all the days of our life,'" Pastor Vu said.
Before retiring to her room, Mrs. Ly, in her frail voice, offered a prayer for all the pastors who gathered with her while CBN News observed.
"Heavenly Father God, You are the God who reigns over the universe. Lord, we worship You. I pray for all the pastors. Give them strength and courage to share Jesus around them."