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By Dan Wooding

ANS (12/29/05)

HO CHI MINH CITY , VIETNAM – A Vietnamese pastor who spent ten years in prison and reeducation camps before being deported to the United States at Christmastime in 1999, was held at Tan-Son-Nhat Airport , Ho Chi Minh City on December 27 when he tried to re-enter the country to visit his elderly mother.

The Rev. Paul Ai, founder of Vietnamese Outreach International based in Hampton , Virginia , told ANS that he had been ministering with his wife Ruth in Malaysia to Vietnamese contract workers, when they flew then to Vietnam .

“They held me for 24 hours and then deported me,” he told ANS. “While I was being held, they described me as a ‘dangerous man’ and apparently were afraid that I would contact the underground church.”

Paul Ai said that he and his wife Ruth went to Vietnam on December 27 visit his 76-year-old mother and mother-in-law who is 87 and is very sick.

“By the time I got into Tan-Son-Nhat Airport , Ho Chi Minh City , the police would no not allowed me to get into my own country to visit my family,” he said. “They did not give me the reason why I can not get in, but wrote on my papers that I was refused entry for ‘security reasons.’”

“I know, however, that they were afraid that I would make contact with the underground church in Vietnam . They kept me in the Airport for 24 hours in a hard seat without food and drink.”

Ai said that they he was constantly questioned about why he wanted to go back to Vietnam and he said that it was to visit his family.

“They wanted to know what I did and I told them that I was a pastor and teacher,” he continued. “They also wanted to know why I visited to so many Asian countries and I said that as a pastor I travel to share the Good News to people and disciple them.”

Ai said that when he kept asking why he was not being allowed to re-enter Vietnam , all they would say was that the computer told them not to allow him in for ‘security reasons.’

Ai said that he asked his interrogators, “What kind of security you talking about? Am I a terrorist or a criminal?” They said, ‘We don’t know.’ But, according to their conversations with each other, I heard one of them say, ‘This is a dangerous man who influences many young people. Through him many church were planted all over of the country.’

After 24 hours in the Security area and guarded by police they deported me out of Vietnam and I am now in Singapore . The good news is that my wife and my daughter are in Vietnam visiting our families — and the Saints. I will go back Malaysia to do the discipleship training. We will be back US on 18th of January.”

Before his deportation from Vietnam , Pastor Ai planted several hundred congregations all of them home churches, based on the cell group system Pastor Ai learned from studying church growth in Korea , China and other nations. In the last three years, he’s planted scores of Vietnamese congregations in Korea , Malaysia and Cambodia .