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Vietnam: Finding Happiness in Prison

Prison cell in Asia

The following story is from the Kids of Courage archives.

Silas was in prison. His cell was about 66 feet long and about 16 feet wide. Fifty-six other men lived in the cell with Silas.

“We slept on cement platforms,” said Silas. “In the morning we ate nothing. At midday and in the evening we ate rice. This rice was cooked from moldy, rotten rice. The bowls were never full, and after a few mouthfuls it was gone.”

Silas was arrested because he took part in a protest to bring attention to the problems of some ethnic groups in Vietnam. In free countries, it is legal to protest in public. But Vietnam is a communist country. Government officials can have people arrested for protesting in public.

The ethnic groups want the freedom to worship the God of the Bible. Vietnamese leaders do not want Christianity to grow among the groups. They also do not want the people in the groups to be able to read the Bible in their own language.

Read the rest of this entry »

Beans and Stones

(The story and activity below come from Stef, the children’s publication of SDOK, a ministry that is part of The Voice of the Martyrs’ family of missions. The fictional story is told from the point of view of a boy in the Netherlands, where SDOK is located.)

Yuk, beans again! I have a huge appetite for food, but not beans. I grumble throughout the entire meal. “Beans make me sick,” I say. “So how can they be healthy?” And I grumble that we also ate healthy food yesterday (spinach) and the day before (cauliflower). My mother doesn’t respond at all, so I just keep on grumbling. Later, after reading the Bible, my mother suddenly says, “Because I thought it was such a delicious meal, Stef can choose his favorite dish tomorrow.”

Okay, that’s not a difficult question. My favorite meal is rice with peanut sauce. It is only mid-afternoon the next day when my mother calls down the stairs to sit at the table. Hey, we never eat that early. There’s something wrong. And yes. The table is normally set, but my plate is full of gray and white things. “What is that?” I ask hesitantly. I suspect some weird punishment.

“I’ll explain,” my mother says. “I was so annoyed by your grumbling at dinner yesterday. While I was cooking, I had read a story about a boy who lives in Vietnam. His father was in a prison camp for 17 years because he loves the Lord Jesus. He had to work hard and only got a bowl of rice to eat once a day. To persecute him even more, prison guards sometimes mixed his rice with small stones. If that happened to you, then you would have a reason to grumble.

“So I am giving you this challenge,” my mother continued. “There are small stones and rice in your bowl. Try to eat the rice without eating any stones. Then I will fix your favorite food.”

Believe it or not, but I still grumbled a bit while separating the rice and stones. But after half an hour I got it right: a plate full of rice without stones. I will never admit it, of course, but I thought this punishment was actually pretty good. And about the story in Vietnam? I’m not going to forget it.

To Do
Before you start eating, do you check carefully whether there are any stones in the food? Fortunately, we don’t worry about stuff in our food. Do you know who is concerned when they get their meal? Christians in Vietnam who are in prison. The guards sometimes put stones in their rice, just to bully them.

*Stir a handful of raisins into a bowl of rice or cereal. Pretend the raisins are stones. Then try to eat the food without getting raisins on your spoon or fork.

*To make peanut sauce, stir together ¼ cup of peanut butter, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and 1 tablespoon of soy sauce. (Optional: ½ teaspoon of garlic and ½ teaspoon of lemon juice.) Heat and stir to blend, then serve over rice.

Vietnam: Twan

Twan’s parents working

(The story below comes from Stef, the children’s publication of SDOK, a ministry in the Netherlands that is part of The Voice of the Martyrs’ family of missions.)

Hi, I am Twan and I am about 10 years old. I say “about,” because in my country, your birthday is not very important. So I don’t know exactly how old I am. I was born in Vietnam. Not in a big city, but in the mountains. It is very beautiful and green.

Our Government
Our country is Communist. That means that the country is ruled by one party, and that is of course, the Communist Party. The government is very strict. People are closely monitored throughout the country. The government is not happy with people who are Christians. They think that we love the government less if we are Christians. I don’t know if that is true, but I do know that I love the Lord Jesus. God is the best for me.

And everyone at my home believes that. In the past, this was not the case. It has changed because of me.

Very Sick
One day I became very sick. Whatever my parents tried, nothing helped. In another village, there lived someone who believes in God and prays when someone is sick. My parents were so worried about me that they asked him for advice. He taught them who God is and how to pray. He also gave them a Bible.

God Heals!
My parents immediately started praying for me, and I was healed. My father was super enthusiastic and told anyone who wanted to hear that I was healed and who had healed me. Soon the whole village knew, so my father went to another village to talk about God. He went from village to village with this great news.

Much Taken Away
Sadly, my father’s family did not find it good news at all. When my father came home one day, relatives were waiting for him, and he got a beating. They also chased us out of the house and we fled to my grandmother’s house in another village. My father waited a while, thinking that his family’s anger would die down. He wanted to collect his cows that were left behind, because you cannot bring in a harvest without cows. He was really sad when he saw that our house was gone, our cows were gone, and our land was sold. His family had done that. How mean is that!

Happy with God
Yet my parents have no regrets that they believe in the Lord Jesus. We have lost a lot, but we have recovered much more: God’s love in our hearts and our safety in Him.

Bye, Twan.

Color a Drawing from Vietnam

Workers from The Voice of the Martyrs-USA and VOM’s sister mission in the Netherlands (SDOK) visited persecuted Christians in Vietnam. One of the children they visited drew a coloring page for them.

Watch the girl draw the page in the video clip, then print the page to color.

The captions and title on the video are in Dutch, the language of the Netherlands. The title says, “Dep from Vietnam makes a drawing.”

For more Kids of Courage coloring pages, check the activity books in the Downloads section of this site.

Inside a Vietnamese Prison

Prison cell in Asia

The previous post told about a pastor in Vietnam who spent time in prison because of his work for the Lord.

Read below about conditions in Vietnamese prisons and try the activity. You can find the activity and more about Christians in Vietnam in Bold Believers in Vietnam, available in the Downloads section.

Outside Work
Some Christian prisoners in Vietnam are forced to make bricks or to work in the fields outside the prison 12 to 16 hours a day, seven days a week. They get very little food, and guards may beat them if they don’t work fast enough. “But they’d rather go outside, because inside is even worse,” said one Christian.

Crowded Cells
The prison cells are dark, crowded, and noisy. Larger cells hold 100 or more people. In smaller cells, six to eight people may be kept in a space about 8 feet by 10 feet. The prisoners don’t have mattresses, blankets, or pillows. Sometimes they are not allowed to have Bibles.

Try This
Mark off an 8-foot by 10-foot empty space. Stay in the space with five other people for about 15 to 20 minutes. Talk about where you would sleep and how you would live if you had to stay in the space all the time. Pray for those in prison for Christ. Share any Scriptures you could recite if you didn’t have access to a Bible.

To Talk About
If you had to live in a Vietnamese prison, what would you say about life there? Read below what some Vietnamese prisoners said about their time in prison.

*“Being in prison gave me more time to have a deeper relationship with God.”

*“I learned more about the true values of life.”

*“It was an honor to serve the Lord in this way.”

*“Going to prison encouraged me to continue my Christian work when I got out. After being in prison, I was more willing to risk going back to prison again.”

*“In prison, I had the opportunity to lead my cellmates, and even guards, to Christ.”