A Tribute to My Great-uncle Bishop, now My Brother in Jesus Christ

Johann Chau

It has been a year since my great-uncle, a Vietnamese Catholic Bishop, died tragically and painfully in Vietnam. As I am sitting here in my room, I am thinking about the life of this great man, who has become one of the most important role models in my life. His life is, undisputedly, an example of how Christians should love each other and those who do not believe in Christ, a testament to respecting others because God created them in His/Her image, and an existence not based on human yearnings for material wealth, power, fame, and all things associated with this earth, but based on growing spiritually in Jesus Christ. I have never met my great-uncle in person and have been regretting that I had lost the opportunity to be in the presence of this loving man; however, I have met him many times through my prayers, reflections, and interactions with people who knew him personally. As I am writing this tribute, I feel his presence permeating in my room and see him smiling so happily and effortlessly that it puts my soul at ease and helps me relax and think clearly. In this regard, he is as much alive today as he was when he lived his humble life as a preacher, teacher, and evangelizer in Vietnam.

I have been having interest in the ordained life since I had been eight years old. God gave me a vision in which I witnessed to others and preached about His/Her word. I have been inquiring about the life of a pastor since then and have been talking to pastors of many different denominations as well as Catholic priests. I had come to the realization that Christians essentially shared many common beliefs: that Jesus died for humanity’s sins, that Jesus’ birth was a virgin birth, and that Jesus is God sent on earth. I had a conversation with him about the priesthood about three years before his death. In that conversation, I had come to realize that above all, he was more interested in doing the will of God than in forcing and convincing me to join the priesthood. Through his respect of my opinions on many matters of scriptural interpretation and understanding, I had come to realize that he not only loves others, but also respects and understands where other denominations came from and why they interpreted the Bible the way they have been doing.

When the North Vietnamese Communists had taken over South Vietnam, my great-uncle was still in Rome studying. Instead staying in Rome, safe from harm and religious persecution, he returned to Vietnam to administer and preach God’s word to the people and to assure them that regardless of the Communist takeover and persecution that God was with them. He had been providing the minority tribes in Vietnam with access to medicine, clothing, food, and had been raising money from abroad to build a church for them. He believed wholeheartedly that his mission and God’s will for him was preaching in his hometown in Vietnam. And, in doing God’s will, he gave up his freedom and put himself into a situation that he could possibly be persecuted for doing so. I respect him tremendously for his love for the people in his hometown, for unwavering resolve to do the will of God, and for having faith that God will protect him for doing so. As I was writing the last sentence, I felt a love from him that utterly overwhelming that my eyes went into tears. It is evident that his love has not only touched the lives of those in Vietnam, who he had administered the Word of God, but also the lives of people whom he never met, such as me.

Before he died on his deathbed, he asked about me, how I was doing, and whether my questions about a life of pasturing to others had been answered. Although we had never met each other physically on this earth, the spiritual love of Christ and the Holy Spirit connected us together in ways that only God can make possible. Although he is related to me in earthly blood as a great-uncle, after he had died, my relationship to him has dramatically changed. I feel that he is no longer my great-uncle, but my spiritual brother through Jesus Christ. His utterances in his deathbed made one thing extremely clear to me, that it is God’s will that I administer and share His/Her word to others. As to how this would be done and what mechanisms I would use to accomplish it, that will have been remaining to be discovered.

Today, I pay my tributes and tributes and respects not only to my great-uncle, a Catholic Bishop, and a role model, but also to my spiritual brother in Christ, who is right now by God’s side and happily united with whom he has chosen to serve obediently. I hope that not only Catholics, but all Christians and other beliefs, look to his life as an example of the love for fellow humans and dedication for a cause greater than himself. I understand that many will not agree with his religious beliefs, but one thing is certain. By living his life dedicated to something great than himself, he has set an example for everyone to follow.

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