By Mark Ellis
As a teenager he left the hopelessness of Buddhism for the power of black magic, then American missionaries demonstrated the amazing power of the God they served, which made his 3,300 gods seem impotent. After receiving Christ, he entered into a new battle with communist authorities for the soul of the Vietnamese people—a battle still raging today.
“I grew up in a very strong Buddhist family,” says Pastor Tran Dinh “Paul” Ai, founder of Vision Outreach International Ministries. “I was sent to a Buddhist temple and trained to be a Buddhist monk,” he says. “My father was a very successful Chinese medical doctor, but he was bothered by politicians who tried to extort money from him.”
“He vowed if he had a son he would send him to the temple so he could be trained as a monk,” Ai says. “My name in Vietnamese means ‘Stop loving the world.’”
At age 15, after only a year of study, he became disenchanted with the “hopelessness of Buddhist doctrines.”
Seeking a more powerful religious experience, he journeyed to the dark side. “I went to study black magic and became a witchcraft doctor, serving 3,366 gods,” Ai says. “They gave me power, but they made me bow my life to their strongholds,” he says. “They also made me hate the gospel.”
In 1970, as President Nixon sent American troops into Cambodia from Vietnam, causing mounting protests on U.S. college campuses, American missionaries entered Ai’s town in South Vietnam. “A lot of people in my town went to the crusades and met the Lord,” Ai says. “Some of my black magic students came to me and said, ‘Master, you must stop this crusade, otherwise we will lose all our customers in this town,” he recalls. “So I went to the crusade the following day to check it out.”
Ai expected to find the missionaries performing “religious activities,” but was surprised to find them singing songs, reading the Bible, and giving a simple message. “They said, ‘We don’t want to bring to Vietnam a new religion, because all religions will make you more and more burdened. But Jesus promised if you bring your heavy burdens to him he will give you rest.’”
Opposing American missionaries
This message was grating to Ai, and he frantically sought some way to stymie their efforts, afraid the townspeople would no longer need his services. To his chagrin, many in the area were being saved, and offering testimonies of answered prayers.
Ai turned to his demonic hosts. “I called up 1,000 gods at that first night, but at the end of the service I realized my gods were not showing up to do their job,” he says. “The next evening I called up 2,000 gods, but nothing happened.” He went home to fast and pray to his 3,366 gods.
“I said you have to wake up and show up and shut down this crusade,” Ai says. ‘I prayed to all 3,366 but none of them showed up,” he says.
Suddenly a dawning realization swept through his mind. “