Vietnam has, by government estimates (which are almost certainly too low), nearly 200,000 drug addicts, and that rampant drug use has become a threat to public safety. Tourists are warned not to wear sandals and to watch where they step in Hanoi, because – as one local news site reported — “used needles are everywhere.”
Pastor Nam Quoc Trung was one of those addicts for 16 years. Even though he had come from a relatively privileged background – his father was a high-ranking government official – he lived a life as an addict of squalor. “I lost my human character,” Trung told WORLD Magazine. “I was like an animal.”
Trung was also an example of the ineffectiveness of the state-run rehab facilities. In the 16 years he was an addict, he was in rehab 14 times.
That’s a common experience. In fact, one of the biggest barriers to kicking addiction in Vietnam has been the rehabilitation facilities themselves. The rate of relapse of many government-run facilities is nearly 100 percent. The rehab facilities not only are unhelpful but provide a social network for the addicts when they hit the streets again. For many, the rehab facilities don’t help people get off drugs, but are a graduate school in how to stay on drugs.
But there are a few Christian rehab facilities in Vietnam, and in 2006 Trung went to one of them. He read the Bible almost constantly, and he soon professed faith in Christ. He’s been clean and sober since.
Today, he helps others find the same salvation, the same healing, that he experienced, as the leader of Aquila Rehab Center, now the largest Christian rehab center in Vietnam.
Aquila Rehab Center is a facility that by American standards might be considered spartan and underfunded, but it is hard to question its effectiveness. In fact, its success is getting the attention even of the government. According to a recent article in WORLD, “The center currently houses 60 men and 30 women. Despite serious trials, including the destruction of the original center, death threats, and the continued inability to register legally, the Aquila Center has helped more than 100 addicts leave behind a life of drugs. Its success has even the government asking for advice on reforming addicts.”
But the government’s attention wasn’t always so positive. In 2009 Trung opened his first rehab center. The success of the center embarrassed the government, which hired thugs to ransack his facility, but Trung continued his work, despite this and other setbacks. To date, in addition to building the current Aquila Center, he has shared the Gospel with more than 20,000 addicts in other rehab facilities around the country. Not only is The Aquila Center the largest of what are now 60 Christian rehab facilities in the country, it is also the only center to accept women.
The success of the center is now attracting attention even here in the United States. The Aquila Center recent won WORLD Magazine’s 2018 Hope Awards for Effective Compassion. According to WORLD’s Marvin Olasky, it’s the first international ministry to capture the top honor. The award comes with a $10,000 prize, which – according to Olasky – “will go a long way in Vietnam.”
But money, though helpful, is not what makes Aquila’s programs a success, according to Trung: “When the government asks about the secret to our success, I say that we have Jesus Christ.” He adds, “Without Christian drug centers, all these men and women would continue to be a drain on society, but instead they are now contributing to society.”
Editor’s Note: A 10-minute video shot at the Aquila Rehab Center, shot for Vietnamese television, is here. (Note that it is in Vietnamese, but it has English sub-titles.)