HO CHI MINH, Vietnam - Christians in Vietnam are reaching out to those lost in a world of drugs and despair.
At the Emmanuel Full Gospel Church in Ho Chi Minh City men gather everyday to pray, worship and read the Bible.
They could pass for seminary students, but in reality all 30 of them are former drug addicts who have found forgiveness and freedom through the church's ministry.
Pastor Hung Dinh says that only God's love has the power to deliver men and women from the bondage of drug addiction.
"They are considered as the garbage of the society. Their families and even they themselves give up," he said. "Most say they have not been successful with rehabilitation centers, but here in the center they feel the power of God's love and they experience deliverance miraculously.
Phoung Le is a recipient of that love. He came to the center in 2007 very sick with tuberculosis and intense stomach pain-- afflictions caused by his years of opium and heroin abuse.
"The doctors gave up on me. They sent me home," Phoung Le said. "But at that time I met this person who got out of drugs and stayed at the center. She shared with me about Jesus and that's when I felt I had hope."
"Before I suffered from so much pain, but when I came here the pastor and other people prayed for me," he continued. "I thought when I come here I will die. I was surprised after they prayed for me, I don't feel pain anymore in my chest, in my stomach and I was also delivered from drugs."
Today, Phoung Le leads the church worship team. He is amazed how God gave him the skill to play instruments despite never having any formal musical training. He has dedicated his life to sharing the grace he has received.
"Now that I experienced the miracle, I want to share Jesus to people who are in the same situation," he said. "Drug addicts like me, that they can be set free and get salvation from the Lord."
Over the past two years the number of drug users in Vietnam has remarkably decreased by 25 percent because the government is serious in giving treatment to drug dependents. But churches there are also playing a very important role in transforming their lives.
Vietnam is a Communist nation and the government is hostile to Christian churches. Hung says police often come to the church and ask him questions.
Yet, the success of the church's ministry to drug addicts has earned it favor from government authorities.
"They persecute us and threaten us. I tell them I don't go against the government. I only do the work of the Lord to teach and to love," he said. "After they see my faith and see the transformation of the people here, they respect me and they don't bother us anymore."
Because of God's miracles of healing and deliverance, the former drug addicts and their families worship the Lord with great passion.
It's an intensity that demonstrates their deep gratitude for the new found freedom they now enjoy.
*Originally aired January 15, 2010.