Baptist Work in Vietnam Hits Close to Home for Oklahoma Pastor

Sam Jones and French McLemore

As French McLemore rode through the streets of Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, the last thing he expected to see was a sign for a Baptist church.

Born in Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon as it was once known, McLemore and his family lived there until two days before the fall of Saigon in 1975. McLemore’s Vietnamese mother met his father, a full-blooded Cherokee Indian, while his father served in Vietnam as a civilian contractor.

Today McLemore is the associate pastor of First Baptist Church, Ponca City, Okla. Not forgetting his heritage and initial homeland and sensing God’s direction to invest in the work taking place overseas, McLemore and his mother, along with a team from his church, visited Ho Chi Mihn City in 2013. It was their first visit since McLemore and his mother left in 1975.

“I was taken back by the flood of memories as I stepped out of the airport and breathed in the fresh air,” said McLemore. “I can only describe it as everything I remember from my childhood.”

However, McLemore’s childhood memories of Saigon did not include Grace Baptist Church. Founded in 1962 while IMB worker Sam James served in Saigon, the church has prevailed against the test of time, war and countless trials.

McLemore was surprised to see the Baptist church. He merely assumed the church was a “remnant of a bygone era.” When he returned from his trip, he immediately searched for the church online and soon discovered Grace Baptist Church wasn’t a piece of the past preserved, but a living, thriving testimony to God’s goodness in times of trial.

Single survivor

Sam James also had to leave Saigon during the Vietnam War. After living in the country for 17 years, James reluctantly left because of the Communist control over the city. During the Communist reign, all of the Baptist churches in Vietnam were shut down or disbanded.

All but one.

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Source: Baptist Press