Sunday morning I traveled a mere 20 minutes by car from my house to the "Little Viet Nam" neighborhood in southwest Houston. There I was blessed to have the opportunity to participate in the THIRD new church chartering service in the presbytery of New Covenant this year. Unfortunately I missed the first one because of a previous out-of-town commitment, but the past two Sundays got two back-to-back.
Thien An means "grace" in Vietnamese and the service was grace-filled, indeed! Also totally Vietnamese with some English translation. Fair enough! Trust me, it's a whole new experience to try to sing praise songs in Vietnamese, following the phonetic spelling on the big screen. But the congregation was very happy that our linguistically challenged group from presbytery gave it a go.
Here's the very best part of all: the service concluded with the baptism of 10 adult believers and the confirmation of 2 youth. But then one more woman came up from the congregation and asked to be baptized as well. Eighty-eight people had petitioned the presbytery for the charter and after the baptisms, the new congregation had 101 members! Afterwards I got someone to snap this picture of me and some of the Tien An members, proudly displaying their PC(USA) charter.
When El Jefe served as clerk of session at our previous church and had the responsibility for making census reports, he remarked that most of the time we weren't making new disciples, just "exchanging hostages" with other Presbyterian and mainline Protestant churches and reflected that if we (and other churches) didn't find a way to reach non-believers, we could never hope to grow.
I am told that only a few of the members of Thien An church were Christians before they joined. The rest of them were Buddhists, reflecting their cultural background. Isn't it awesome how God is using this congregation to make new disciples for Christ...and not just "exchange hostages"?
As I left Sunday afternoon, Rev. Ho asked me to keep the congregation in my prayers. They are in my prayers and also in my heart. I'm eager to see what God will do next through his church, Thien An.