Dennis’ Testimony

My name is Dennis Spencer and I was born in the small town of Lexington, Missouri in 1948. At 2 years of age my parents moved to Arizona on their doctor’s advice that the drier climate would be better for my older brother, George, who was suffering from polio. Unfortunately, I remember very little about my brother as he passed away when I was only 4 years old. What I do remember is

Dennis and Hoai

growing up in the mining town of Superior, Arizona and attending the First Baptist Church there. I remember learning about Jesus in the Sunday school classes and being baptized at the age of 10. Shortly after that, we moved from Superior to Apache Junction, Arizona, then back to Lexington, Missouri, and finally to Mesa, Arizona during my freshman year of high school. After leaving Superior we stopped going to church for some reason and didn’t start attending church again until my junior year of high school. This did not last long as my parents seemed to always be arguing and threatening to divorce one another, which they eventually did 3 years later.

In April of 1968 I received my draft notice to report for induction into either the Army or the Marine Corp. My best friend, Lee Atwood, and I went to talk to an Army recruiter, and we both ended up enlisting for 3 years in the Army on the buddy plan. Seven months later I found myself stationed at a place called Camp Eagle located between Hue and Phu Bai, South Vietnam with the 101st Airborne. I found out very quickly that you didn’t have to be airborne qualified to be assigned to an airborne unit during war time. Six months later I was transferred to Saigon with the 69th Signal Corp where I would stay until my enlistment time was up in August of 1971. During that stay in Saigon is where I met and married the love of my life, Mai.

In September of 1971 Mai and our one year old daughter, Terie, joined me in the United States. We settled down in Mesa, Arizona and began the process of building a family and a career. In looking back, God really blessed me even though I was doing nothing to develop a daily relationship with Him. Mai gave birth to our son, Tim, in 1972, and our twin daughters, Michelle and Brenda in 1976. I had been promoted several times at work and was now an Assistant Manager at the store I worked at. I was too busy building a “good life” for my family to feel the need for God. Then the first crisis of my life appeared.

One of the teens from the church

The twins were born 30 days premature, and even though Brenda weighed less than 3 pounds at birth, we were able to take her home from the hospital after a few days. Michelle, on the other hand, weighed less than 2 pounds and had trouble putting on weight. She would spend a month in the hospital before we could take her home, and then she weighed only 4.5 pounds. At 6 months of age, Michelle became very sick and was diagnosed with a lung disease and a hole in her heart. We were told that she would probable live only a few more months. Suddenly, I found myself in a position that I needed God. I began to pray for God to heal Michelle and I believed that a loving God would surely not let Michelle die. Why would He give me a daughter and take her away after a few months? My prayers went unanswered and 3 months later Michelle died.

I was broken hearted, confused, and angry with God. How could He let this happen? After all, I was a Christian; I had been baptized; I was trying to be a good person, good husband, a good father; I was living my life the right way. Why was I being punished? I was in a very dangerous position in that I felt I knew who God was, but I did not KNOW God. It was easier to blame God than it was to take a deep look at how I was living my life. In order to hide the pain, I threw myself into my work over the next 12 years. I took promotions that lead to a lot of hours away from my family, but justified it by thinking I was building a better life for my family. From time to time my wife, Mai, who was a non-practicing Buddhist, would say “maybe we should be going to church or something”, but my response was I didn’t need to go to church to be a Christian. I believed in God and I was a good person and treated people the right way.

Then on February 4, 1989, a Tucson police officer showed up at my workplace and informed me of some horrifying news: my 16 year old son Tim, whose girlfriend had recently broken up with him, took a gun and committed suicide in her front yard. I was completely devastated. I had never felt so much pain and emptiness. And, I knew that I couldn’t blame God for this, but that I was solely the blame. My father had died only 4 months earlier, and as a remembrance of him, I had brought home from his belongings a 22 caliber pistol he had taught me to shoot when I was very small. This was the only time in my life that I had a gun in the house, and even though I felt it was securely locked away, it was the gun Tim had used to shoot himself. I began to look at myself for the first time as a failure as a father. If I had been home more, if I had developed a closer relationship with Tim, then he would have turned to me instead of taking the desperate action he did. Yes, I was the blame and I lived the next 3 years of my life believing I deserved this pain and emptiness as a punishment for my failures as a father. The heartbreak and strife that Mai and I endured over that 3 year period would probably have ended most marriages. We went through the motions of living, but felt dead inside. While pretending to be okay on the outside, I had lost all hope on the inside.

In June of 1992 our oldest daughter, Terie, informed us she had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and was given only 6 months to live. Mai and I were speechless. Why was this happening to our family? Hadn’t we been through enough pain and suffering? Satan had me right where he wanted me: in the pit and ready to kick in the dirt. I thank God that He had a different plan for my life! A neighbor’s mother, who was in Tucson for a visit, had been sharing Jesus with Mai and then Terie. Margie came over to our house one night a few weeks after Terie’s diagnoses and began to share the Gospel with me. That night God opened the eyes of my heart to Him and I prayed to receive Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior.  As my tears flowed I immediately felt this burden lifted from my body  and I began to experience the love and peace in my heart

that only God can provide. I didn’t know exactly how God was going to do it, but I knew He was going to make things okay.

God began immediately with my relationship with my daughter, Terie. I felt I had not been there when my son needed me, but God gave me 6 wonderful months with Terie. We spent many nights together talking, laughing, crying, and praying. God strengthened us as a family and with our walk with. On New Year’s day 1993 abut 6 o’clock in the morning, Mai, Margie, our friend Betty, and I were kneeling around Terie’s bed praying as Terie labored hard to breathe. God gave me the strength to get up and I kissed Terie on the

Dennis and Mai in Saigon, Vietnam.

cheek and told her she didn’t have to fight anymore; that God was ready to take her home and a few minutes later He did. I didn’t experience the pain and agony I had with the death of Michelle and Tim, but I felt such peace in my heart knowing that Terie was with God in heaven and free from all that pain and suffering she had been through. And I was filled with joy knowing that some day I would see Terie again in heaven. Praise God!

Over the last 12 years God has blessed us more than we could ever imagine. First, God gave us the opportunity and the privilege of raising Terie’s daughter, our granddaughter, Cheree. She was 3 years old when Terie went to be the Lord. We were able to adopt Cheree and she truly has been God’s gift to us. We feel like God has given us a “do over” in being able to raise her in a Christian home. Cheree is such a joy and God has surrounded her with a great group of Christian friends. We have had the blessing of seeing our daughter, Brenda, and our son in law, Mike, accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior Brenda has given birth to 2 beautiful daughters.

God opened the doors for our family in Vietnam, who had been Buddhists for generations, to be exposed to the Gospel, and over a period of less than 2 years, 35 family members in Vietnam accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior. What an AWESOME and FAITHFUL God we serve! God blessed Mai with her own business, designing and manufacturing women’s denim western wear, and through this business several young Vietnamese men and women came to work for her. Satan may have taken our children, but God out of His love and mercy, replaced them many times over. Through this relationship with these young co-workers, we started attending a Tucson Vietnamese Baptist church, where we were given the opportunity to serve God in different areas of the church over the next 5 years.

Many times Mai and I had wondered why God had brought us together from opposite ends of the earth with little in common but our love for each other; then kept us together through so many trials and tribulations. He must have a purpose for us. Then one day, Mai shared a vision God had put in her heart on a previous visit to her home town of Binh Chau, Vietnam; to see a church and children’s ministry built there so the people of Binh Chau could experience the love of God. She asked me to pray about it and to see if God would put the same desire in my heart. I began to pray, that if it was God’s will, He would put a passion in my heart for the people of Binh Chau. As God began to stir my heart, I realized how inadequate and unequipped I was to serve Him in this way.

What did we know about starting a church? If this is your plan for us, Lord, then you have a lot of work to do in us. Over the last 5 years we have truly experienced Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. Once we sought God’s will for our lives, He has prepared us, equipped us, and opened many doors for us to be successful in fulfilling His vision for us in Binh Chau so His name might be GLORIFIED.

We were attending a church where the services were given in the Vietnamese language with a short English interpretation. In all my years of marriage to Mai, I had never felt the need to learn Vietnamese since she spoke English. I felt I wasn’t maturing in my walk with the Lord as fast as I would if we attended an English speaking church. We began to pray that if God wanted to move us to another church that He would guide and direct us to the right one.

Two years later God opened the door for us to leave the Vietnamese Baptist Church and He brought us to Catalina Foothills Church, where we have attended for the past 3 years. At Catalina Foothills Church, I have had the opportunity to get involved in their Evangelism Explosion Ministry, which has equipped me to share the Gospel, helped me to grow immensely in my walk with God, and given me a stronger desire to serve Him. It is such a blessing to be a part of a bible based, bible preaching church whose pastor, Mark Roessler, has such a passion for sharing the Gospel. We have met so many warm, caring, and loving Christians at CFC who have encouraged and supported our vision for Binh Chau. I do not know what tomorrow will bring, but I do know that whatever it brings, I will be able to face it with joy and peace in my heart trusting God for His direction and guidance. I give Him praise as Lord of Lords and King of Kings!

About This Site

Jesus in Vietnam Ministries, is a compassion ministry founded by Dennis and Mai Spencer. Vietnamese families suffer from deprivation, lacking sometimes even the necessities of life. In obedience to the many Scriptural commands to help the poor they are enabling families to survive in difficult circumstances. When shown mercy these families are very receptive to the Gospel. The Spencer’s also focus on children, who are the future church of Jesus Christ in Vietnam. Watch The Video About Jesus In Vietnam Ministries Here

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