What do people do when they’re not allowed outside of their home to work, they’ve already been living “day-to-day” on very meager wages, their cupboards are bare, and their children are hungry? For the needy in the area of Ho Chi Minh City that River Church serves, they depend on the church!
During May and June, Vietnam had a relatively restrictive lockdown in place in order to keep COVID under control. However, recently COVID cases surged and the country set into place an intensive 15-day lockdown on July 9 where no one is allowed to leave their homes except to buy groceries or for a medical emergency.
Since its founding, River Church has made meeting needs of the abandoned and destitute a priority in Ho Chi Minh City (also known as Saigon). Lead pastor and AGWM associate Amy Farley and her congregation of mostly expatriates understand full well what any kind of lockdown means to many of the people they minister to: if they’re unable to work, they’re unable to eat — much less pay bills.
“We want River Church to be a springboard of ministry to the local community,” Farley explains. “We are always looking for ways to bless Vietnam. We work with orphans, we are involved teaching students at a school for the poor, we’ve given school scholarships, we are involved with drug rehabilitation centers, and involved in so many other ways. Our heart, the people’s heart, at River Church is ‘how can we help?’”
Just prior to word of the intensive lockdown, Farley and the church had decided to partner with pastor Ess*, a local pastor who Farley refers to as a real hero, in purchasing food and putting packets together to be distributed to those in need.
“We knew that the poor in Saigon were desperately struggling to survive,” Farley says. “When the new lockdown was announced and about to be put in place, we scrambled to get 200 packets of food together and delivered them to pastor Ess to distribute . . . she, as a local, she can do and go to places foreigners cannot.”
Although the life-giving packets of food were met with incredible appreciation, the need is rampant. However, River Church isn’t stopping. Since the initial food distribution on July 8, the church had raised nearly $3,000 (average worker’s salary is $150 a month) to purchase more food. A second distribution of food packets has already taken place.
Farley realizes that her church can never meet the needs of all the poor in Saigon, Vietnam’s largest city with about 12 million residents, but she and the church congregation are committed to following God’s leading, to wherever and whoever He takes them.
“Over the past 18 months, our borders in Vietnam have been closed and at times life in Vietnam has been difficult,” Farley says. “There have been many times when I was not sure if River Church would be able to pay our rent. But through it all, time after time, I’ve come to the point of simply trusting God’s purpose and plan.”
*Named changed for security.