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Deported Vietnamese Pastor Returns Home

By Mark Ellis

3/17/07 Vietnam (Assist News Service) — Following President Bush’s trip to Vietnam last November doors opened for deported Vietnamese Pastor Paul Ai to return for a two-week visit of ailing family members.

It was Ai’s first visit to Vietnam since his deportation in 1999. In spite of his numerous arrests after the communists gained power, Ai became one of the most prolific church planters in Vietnamese history. At the time of his deportation, his church had 15,000 members meeting in 175 congregations—all home churches, based on the cell group system Ai learned from studying church growth in Korea , China , and other nations.

“They gave me a very special visa to visit my mother, 77, and my mother-in-law—both very sick,” Ai says. “They kept their eyes on me very closely to make sure I didn’t do any ministry.”

After Pastor Ai relocated to the U.S. in 1999, he launched Vietnamese Outreach International (www.paulai.com), a ministry aimed at reaching Vietnamese expatriates in a host of countries. “I want to reach the Vietnamese overseas and disciple them so they can go back to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to their families and communities,” he says.

On his recent trip, Ai spent almost three months in Laos , Cambodia and Malaysia , where he conducted evangelistic outreaches to Vietnamese contract workers. He also led training sessions for new converts and pastors from Vietnam .

“Most of the Vietnamese workers in Malaysia are on a two-year contract,” Ai notes. “When they finish their contract they go back to Vietnam . We’ve planted 18 churches in North Vietnam from the fruit of these contract workers in Malaysia .”

Pastor Ai travels to Southeast Asia at least twice each year to conduct his crusades and training sessions. His current goal is to develop a leadership-training institute for Indochina by 2009.

“I want to produce more disciples for Christ and His kingdom,” Ai says. “We have to prepare the church for when Vietnam opens up.”