Escape from Vietnam - Praise Report

by Rev. Dick Blank

See the tall guy alone in the back row? – that’s Rev. Dick Blank

I don’t know what July 4, 1776 felt like, but I think
I had a taste of it over thirty years ago on July 4,
1975. I was part of a welcoming committee for refugees
at the Minneapolis airport. The steps that led to our
being there still amaze me.

In 1973 I met Jacob Hatanpaa from Schroeder, Minnesota
near Lake Superior. At a church gathering in Grand
Rapids, Minnesota he shared his story. Jacob spent two
years in prison 1954-1956. In 1958 he married his wife
Barbara and they began a family. Although always
working and providing financially for his family,
Jacob was a very heavy drinker and his family suffered
because of it. Then in 1968 in desperation he cried
out to God just hoping there might be a God. He
experienced immediate relief but that in time faded.
Later, while contemplating suicide, the Lord visited
him. Jacob began reading the New Testament and soon
accepted Jesus as his Savior and Lord. Then Jesus
baptized him with the Holy Spirit. Jacob’s life and
the life of his family were dramatically improved.

In the early seventies Jacob was increasingly
concerned about the plight of Vietnamese children that
he saw on the nightly news. One night Jacob and his
employer were watching the news together. It showed
Vietnamese families with children fleeing their homes
because of the war. He employer said sarcastically, “I
wonder where all the Christians are who could help
these people? Oh yeah, they’re probably busy making
money.” Jacob was convicted that he was one of those
Christians who was supposed to help. The Lord seemed
to be saying, “Those Vietnamese children are the
children that your daughter Rosie has been seeing in
her dreams.” His teenage daughter Rosie had told him
of having a reoccurring dream (Job 33:14-17) of Asian
children seated around the family dinner table having
a meal with them. (Luke 14:12-14). God planted a
vision in Jacob’s heart, a vision of opening his home
and the homes of other Christians to Vietnamese
families fleeing the war (Matt. 25: 31-36). He and
Barbara prayed and fasted as the Lord began to make
the vision a reality. Jacob, as led by the Holy
Spirit, began sharing this vision with others.

One response to his sharing was the donation of a
large lodge building. He merely had to take it down,
move it to his property and reconstruct. It was a
large task but God provided all the resources and
help. Now many Vietnamese could stay with them.

At one church a listener told Jacob that he would
never get to Vietnam and that in order to get
government approval he would have to obtain a state
license to run an orphanage. On hearing this a
teenager exclaimed, “Praise the Lord! Now I know what
my vision means.” She explained that during Jacob’s
talk she had a vision of a white dove flying through
the sky with a short strip of red ribbon in its beak.”
That’s the Holy Spirit cutting through the red tape!”
Overcoming many obstacles Jacob was able to get to
Vietnam the summer of 1974.

Many things happened there. He met Nguyen (pronounced
“Win) Yuan on a bus. Tuan who understood some English
started talking with Jake. In time Jacob led Tuan to
the Lord.
Tuans wife later shared that she had had a dream in
which an angel appeared and told her to tell her
husband to get on a particular bus on a particular
day. He did. Tuan played a significant role in helping
Jacob gather and hold together a group of Vietnamese
who wanted to flee to the United States. After three
months of making important contacts Jacob returned to
the United States.

The autumn of 1974 to March 1975 the South Vietnamese
army began to collapse under the invasion of the
Communist North army. Jacob came to our church in St.
Paul, Minnesota. He met with our prayer group leaders,
about ten men. Receiving prayer and financial support,
on April 4, 1975 Jacob flew to California. While there
he stayed at the church of a godly friend of mine,
John David Schofield, now Bishop of San Joaquin. A
parishioner there gave Jacob a Bible printed in the
Chinese language. The cover on it had a picture of the
Communist logo, the sickle and the hammer. On Sunday
morning April 6 at our church in St. Paul, the
appointed scriptures were read: Isaiah 43:1-8 “But
now, thus says Yahweh, who created you, Jacob, who
formed you Israel. Do not be afraid, for I have called
you by your name, you are mine. Should you pass
through the sea I will be with you; or through rivers
they will not swallow you up. Should you walk through
the fire, you will not be scorched and the flames will
not burn you. For I am Yahweh your God, the Holy One
of Israel, your Savior…Because you are precious in my
eyes, because you are honored and I love you, I give
men in exchange for you. I will bring back your
offspring from the east, and gather you from the west.
To the North I will say, ‘Give them up’ and to the
South, ’Do not hold them.’ Bring back my sons from far
away, my daughters from the ends of the earth, all
those who bear my name, whom I have created for my
glory, whom I have formed, whom I have made.”(New
Jerusalem translation)

It was not just the name “Jacob” which caught the
attention of the prayer group members present at that
service. There was a group awareness, a shared inner
knowing, that this passage was anointed by the Holy
Spirit for Jacob’s mission. How is it possible that a
passage from the book of Isaiah written almost three
thousand years ago could have a specific application
in our day? We just knew that it did. We phoned Jacob
in California that night and shared the passage. The
next morning he flew to Saigon.

The next three weeks we made various attempts to bring
Jacob and the Vietnamese back, including renting an
airplane. Jacob similarly tried on his end. All
attempts failed. Jacob and the Vietnamese that he and
Tuan had assembled remained together in a house in
Saigon. Jacob continued to assure them that God would
make a way for their escape despite now hearing the
increasing sounds of battle and seeing smoke in the
skies. The North Vietnamese army steadily moved
closer. All phone communication was lost. On Sunday
April 19, 1975 Saigon fell. With that the Holy Spirit
cut through all the government red tape .Our group of
Vietnamese were now officially political refugees, but
were they and Jacob even alive? After our Sunday
morning service the prayer group met. Deeply concerned
and questioning everything, we resorted to more
prayer. The appointed morning scripture gave us some
comfort. James 1:22 “Pure and undefiled religion
before God and the Father is this, to visit the
fatherless and the widows in their affliction and to
keep himself unspotted from the world.” For the next
ten days we didn’t hear a word. We prayed and prayed.

Friday night May 12 one of our leaders, the late Bill
Severson, phoned Jacob’s wife Barbara. Fifteen minutes
earlier Jacob had phoned her from Guam to say that
they all had arrived safely by boat. They had been in
the final evacuation. Isaiah 43 had been amazingly
prophetic. Both the North (Vietnamese who were
attacking)) and the South (Vietnamese officials who
had never given them official permission to leave) had
given them up. They had passed through the waters and
not been swallowed up. The fire of bombs and guns all
around them had not scorched or burned them. God’s
promise to “bring my sons from far away, my daughters
from the ends of the earth” had been accomplished.
Before leaving Jacob gave that Bible in Chinese to an
elderly Chinese man who was in a wheelchair. Elated,
the man gladly received the Bible with the Communist
logo on its cover, knowing what an atheistic Communist
takeover would mean for the Christians.

The next morning the news was announced to the prayer
group at a charismatic renewal conference we were
holding. Joy and praise broke out. The first
scripture read was Isaiah 49:5-13 which included, “I
was honored in the eyes of Yahweh, my God was my
strength. And now Yahweh has spoken, he who formed me
in the womb to be his servant, to bring back Jacob to
him. It is not enough for you to be my servant, to
restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back the
survivors of Israel. I will make you the light to the
nations so that my salvation may reach to the ends of
the earth.”

In late May Jacob returned to the United States. And
fittingly on July 4, 1975, Independence Day, there at
the Minneapolis airport we saw the critical part of an
amazing vision fulfilled. There before our own eyes we
saw a stream of laughing happy Vietnamese faces,
mostly women and children, heading our way. They were
led by the Vietnamese man Tuan, who was handing
everyone the now worthless South Vietnamese currency.
We welcomed him and some ninety plus refugees.
Families from our church invited some forty five
refugees to live in our homes. A few other churches
took in families and a sizeable number went to live
with Jacob and his family in Schroeder. It took a lot
of love and work by many people to help them adjust to
their new homeland, but we knew that it was God’s
plan. They had heard and believed that Jesus would
provide for their escape and safety. Now they would be
able to worship the Lord in a free country where they
could come to better know him.

A week later while reading the Bible, I was struck by
verses 1-2 in Psalm 126, “When Yahweh brought Zion’s
captives home, at first it seemed like a dream, then
our mouths filled with laughter and our lips with a
song. Even the pagans started talking about the
marvels Yahweh had done for us!” Thanks be to God!

Postscript: In June 2005 we had a 30 year reunion in
Minneapolis with Jacob and Barbara and some of the
Vietnamese who settled in Minnesota. We are hoping to
do another reunion in the future.

Pastor Richard Blank (former associate at St
Christopher’s Episcopal Church, Roseville, MN
1970-1977, currently assisting at New
Jerusalem Christian Fellowship, Somerset, MI)
Onsted, MI 49265
Phone: 517. 431.2188
e-mail: richardandbettina at yahoo dot com

Jacob has since changed his name to Victor Kristinaa,
an ancestral name. His full testimony is available on
CD-Rom in Real Audio and MP3 format – contact Wayne
Clark at whclarkjr at yahoo dot com

Dick Blank

Praise Report from Dick Blank (bio) - Jun 2 2006