Hao* welcomes waves of people into his home today. Friends crowd his sitting room sipping on the hot green tea his wife prepared for them. He smiles and nods at the turn out, feeling honored that so many have come to honor the death anniversary of both his father and his older brother.
After having tea and exchanging a few words with everyone, Hao leads his guests next door to his brother’s house where more guests have arrived. They all head upstairs where an ornate cabinet holds the family altar. Situated on the altar is a bountiful arrangement of fruit, rice wine, beer, cigarettes, candy, and a full meal of boiled chicken and rice. Pictures of Hao’s father and brother adorn both ends of the elaborate altar.
Hao begins the ceremony by bowing and worshipping the spirits of his loved ones then watches as each of his friends do the same. The smell of burning incense fills the room as people pay homage to the dead.
Afterward Hao joyfully serves his guests a nice meal as they exchange fond memories of the deceased. Every year, Hao and his family will commemorate the death anniversaries of those who have gone before. In some Vietnamese families, these anniversaries are more important than birthday celebrations.
Death anniversaries are very important to most Vietnamese people. As part of ancestor worship, the death anniversary is a special time to honor lost loved ones in hopes that they will bring good fortune upon the family. Fear that the spirits of the dead will cause problems for the family that remains keeps traditions like these going for generations. In some Vietnamese families, these anniversaries are more important than birthday celebrations.
Pray for Vietnamese people who daily worship the spirits of their ancestors. Ask that God will reveal the truth of the gospel to them.
Pray that one day Vietnamese people will celebrate eternal life found only in Jesus Christ rather than the anniversaries of death.
* Name changed
Throughout the month of May 2015, we are asking individuals, families, groups of friends, small groups, and churches to join with us and commit to pray for the peoples of Vietnam. We will be posting stories and sharing ways to pray daily through the blog, Facebook, and Twitter. You can also download a prayer guide and other resources here.