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Reaching the Vietnamese

Have you heard about Friends of Vietnam?

Friends of Vietnam, Inc. (FOV) is the international outreach arm of Peace In Jesus Lutheran Church (a predominantly Vietnamese congregation) in Boise, Idaho. FOV endeavors to reach out through educational opportunities by supplying English as a Foreign Language (EFL) teachers to Vietnam in order to witness about Jesus in private settings. FOV also strives to bring students into the United States to study at WELS schools. FOV is building bridges for the gospel between Vietnam and the U.S. through education. The FOV Board was established in August 2016 and has an aggressive plan to bring the gospel to Vietnamese souls. There are some exciting things happening in Vietnam! What follows is an interview with Mr. Hưu Trung Lê, President of the Friends Of Vietnam Board:

Q: What are the goals of FOV?

Friends of Vietnam is an exciting and new ministry striving to accomplish two main goals: 1) prepare and send individuals to Vietnam to teach English and also share the Good News in private settings, and 2) assist students in Vietnam to come study in schools of our fellowship in the United States. The vision includes bringing students from Vietnam to study at WELS elementary schools, high schools, and colleges. In pursuit of fostering friendships and understanding between Vietnamese and American cultures, Friends of Vietnam endeavors to connect more Vietnamese souls to the gospel.

Q: Why is FOV important, in your view?

FOV is really important because we are striving to share the gospel with some areas still in the dark. We would like to share the correct teaching about Jesus with Vietnamese people. The bridge of the gospel is important, so FOV is trying to build many such bridges.

Q: What FOV success stories might you be able to share?

Our first FOV teacher is in Vietnam right now! He had a very difficult time at first in Vietnam due to the challenges of living in a new country, the language barrier, etc., but now he is settled in and has a good job teaching English at ILA English center in Saigon. He continues teaching four classes a week, on Saturday and Sunday. Our teacher’s manager at the school did an evening classroom observation and he was really impressed with the class, and he thought our teacher was doing a good job. Our teacher plans on continuing his contract with this school through October 2018.*

*name withheld due to security concerns

FOV President Hưu Trung on a survey visit to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Q: What is your dream for FOV?

My dream is that we bring more students to our WELS schools so the young generation of Vietnamese people can know more about the gospel, and to place more teachers in Vietnam. Maybe someday we will have our own Lutheran high school in Vietnam! And more importantly, I dream one day we will have a Vietnamese Lutheran Church in fellowship with WELS in Vietnam, so we could have regular worship. My dream is that more people in Vietnam will hear the gospel and believe in God. We try our best to follow what Jesus taught us in Matthew 4:19: “’Come, follow me,’ Jesus said ‘and I will make you fishers of men.’” That is what FOV is trying to do.

To learn more about Friends of Vietnam, visit their website at www.friendsofvietnam.net or check out their Facebook page.

If you or someone you know is interested in getting involved with Friends of Vietnam, please call the general line at (208) 912-8283, or Hưu Trung Lê at (208) 891-5344.

Interview conducted by Rev. Daniel Kramer: Peace in Jesus Lutheran Church – Boise, ID

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Reaching the Vietnamese at Home and Abroad

Truly valuable

Mrs. Quý Thi Nguyen has always been a strong woman. Shortly after beginning a Bible Basics course in their family home, I found out that I basically got kicked out because Mrs. Quý (her name means “valuable”) did not approve. She explained to me how she believed in Buddha, the Four Noble Truths, and the Eight-Fold Path. I thanked her for sharing and continued to find opportunities to witness to her.

Mrs. Valuable’s husband was the first adult confirmand of our congregation. He also was the first Christian funeral. His last words were: “I regret that I was unable to live to see my adult children emigrate from Vietnam. My desire is for my children to follow my faith. I am at peace.”

In the months following the funeral, Mrs. Valuable allowed me to come and visit, even resuming the Bible course in her home. One day, Mrs. Valuable was quite talkative—I couldn’t get a crowbar in the conversation. She spoke of how bad things were when she was living in Vietnam waiting to come to the U.S. She talked of how difficult things were in Vietnam once again. I was pray-ing the whole time she was telling me her stories. Finally, I said, “Mrs. Valuable, I regret to hear of your difficult past. I am thankful for your present. But I am worried about your future.” And for the first time that I had ever seen, Mrs. Valuable began to cry. The walls she had put up began to come down.

Now in a new house and with her adult children emigrated from Vietnam, I concluded the Bible course around their kitchen table. As I was packing up, one of the adult daughters inquired, “Baptism, Pastor?” We are careful not to pressure people to be baptized and often use a mediator to discuss Baptism and church membership. However, when the daughter asked, I was glad to offer this tremendous blessing. The family passed the calendar around, and we settled on a date. Even Mrs. Valuable nodded her head.

When the day came, seven individuals from the family, including Mrs. Valuable herself, stood before God’s altar with wetted brow, all to God’s glory. Now Mrs. Valuable is faithful in worship and even participates in our new senior choir.

During a Christmas season, Mrs. Valuable came to see me. She said, “Pastor, I can’t remember things. I’ll go into a room and not remember why I went in there. I am forgetful. But the prayers in this book . . .” (she held up a copy of Luther’s Small Catechism in the Vietnamese language, which we had introduced during a recent sermon series on prayer) “. . . I can memorize these prayers having read through them just a few times!”

And with that, Mrs. Valuable began reciting Luther’s Morning Prayer in Vietnamese by heart. I must have said and heard that prayer a thousand times, but it had never been more beautifully spoken. Valuable, indeed.

Daniel Kramer is pastor at Peace in Jesus, Boise, Idaho.


The church that helps people

“A lot of people that don’t know English—they come to our church for help,” notes Trung Le, president of Peace in Jesus, Boise, Idaho.

Once they enter the building’s doors, these individuals receive a warm welcome and various offers for assistance. “We like to show them the love of God,” adds Le.

After receiving aid in the form of language classes, translating services, counseling or citizenship classes, many stay to learn more. Congregation members invite visitors to come on Sundays for worship or attend classes that teach about the Bible.

Starting out

Peace in Jesus first formed in 1998, when it began as an exploratory congregation aided by other groups in the area. During the following years, it carried out efforts to reach the Vietnamese community in the Boise region. The pastor of the congregation, Daniel Kramer, learned Vietnamese to connect with those who knew little or no English.

This focus on language caught the attention of many, including Le and his wife. When they moved to Boise in 2006, Le’s wife was a Christian and wanted to attend a Vietnamese-speaking service. “Some of my friends at work told me that at Peace in Jesus the pastor spoke Vietnamese,” recalls Le. His wife wanted to worship there, so he took her.

Le wasn’t a Christian at the time, however, so he didn’t usually go to church with his wife. Then one Sunday in 2008 he decided to come to church with her. “I said, ‘How come this white guy is trying to speak our language?’” Le remembers. “It touched me.”

A few days later, Le met with the pastor and asked to be baptized. After becoming a member, Le decided to continue studying. He is currently in a training program to become a pastor and involved in various forms of outreach and ministry.

Making connections

“The Vietnamese community is growing every year,” notes Le. He estimates the current Vietnamese population to be close to three thousand, with more coming as relatives and friends of residents move to the area.

To reach this group, the congregation offers English classes regularly and helps with translating services. “Sometimes someone comes in and has a doctor’s appointment coming up but doesn’t know much English, so we go along and act as an interpreter,” explains Le.

From its facility, the congregation also offers U.S. citizenship classes, which are open to anyone who needs help. “We have had individuals from various Southeast Asian countries come,” notes Le.

Members of the community can also attend classes that have biblical themes. Vietnamese proverbs and pictures are often incorporated into lessons to help communicate principles. One course, for instance, is entitled “Sau Con Mua, Troi Lai Sáng,” which means “After the Rain, the Sun Shines Again.” Its theme centers on the impact of sin as well as the bright future Jesus provides.

Reaching out globally

As Peace in Jesus has gained a reputation in its community as a church that helps people, its members have continually sought ways to provide further assistance. That desire stretches to an international level, as many have connections with family and friends currently living in Vietnam.

Due to this, an independent entity called “Friends of Vietnam” has formed to reach souls on a global level. “Our goals are to send individuals to Vietnam and bring students from Vietnam to study in schools of our fellowship,” explains Kramer.

Those traveling over to Vietnam will work as teachers in schools there and look for ways to bring the gospel message to those in the country. Students coming from Vietnam to the United States will attend Lutheran schools, where they can learn about the Bible and enjoy spending time with other Christians.

Looking to the future, Le points to God’s guiding hand. “We’ve seen how God works in our congregation,” he explains. “He can make things happen out of nothing. Now it’s our chance to work hard as a way to say ‘thank you’ to him for everything.”

Rachel Hartman and her husband, Missionary Michael Hartman, serve in León, Mexico.

 


This is the first article in a series about cross-cultural outreach in the U.S. Check out “Home mission connections lead to world mission opportunities” (p. 23) to learn how contacts made in the U.S. are leading to mission work around the world. Learn more about Peace in Jesus in this month’s edition of WELS Connection.

 


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Author: Rachel Hartman and Daniel Kramer
Volume 104, Number 2
Issue: February 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Sharing The Good News With Every Neighbor: Home Missions: More Home Missions

God is richly blessing the work of WELS Home Missions. Missionaries and their members are finding ways to share God’s good news with friends, relatives, neighbors—and sometimes even strangers at local fast food restaurants. Here are some of their stories.

Nicole R. Balza


ARIZONABRINGING HOME THE GOSPEL

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Santo Tomas, Phoenix, Ariz.

Santo Tomas, Phoenix, Ariz., has been reaching out with the gospel since 1997. Every week Jorge and his wife, Gaby, along with their daughter visit homes throughout the west valley of Phoenix. They lead adult and children’s Bible classes and activities, all with the goal of bringing Jesus and his love into their lives. Jorge is a volunteer evangelist for Santo Tomas and serves on its church council.

As Tom Zimdars, home missionary to Santo Tomas, explains, “These home group classes break down the barriers and fears that some may have about attending a church at first. It is an informal setting as they gather in living rooms and at kitchen tables growing and learning about their Savior.”


IDAHO

Dan Kramer, home missionary at Peace, Boise, Idaho, in Jesus, says, “As the ministry and opportunities our congregation is given to continue to become broader and more global, we keep clear and primary our call to reach out to the Vietnamese souls in the greater Treasure Valley (Boise, Idaho, area)with the true treasure, which is Christ and his gospel.”


NEBRASKAFOSTERING PERSONAL EVANGELISM EXCITEMENT

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Blair, Neb.

Dan Johnston arrived in Blair, Neb., in July 2015 to open a new WELS home mission congregation, Living Savior. The congregation’s first services began taking place this summer. Johnston says, “Living Savior is trying to create an environment—both individually and corporately—that fosters personal evangelism excitement. There is a coffee bar in our leased space that is open to the public during office hours. The members are also being instructed in reaching out to people in their personal lives. Friendship evangelism and forming real connections are where the rubber hits the road for us.”


NEW YORK

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Redemption, Watertown, N.Y.

Gunnar, the son of a member family, goes to a university about an hour-and-a-half away. While away, Gunnar began dating Holly. When Gunnar would come home, he came to church. Holly came too. After the first couple of visits, I noticed that Holly was really attentive during the sermons. Since Gunnar would usually stay for Bible class, she would too.

After a while, she approached me and asked what it would take to get baptized. So I told her, “Let’s begin a Bible basics class. We’ll go through a few lessons and see if you still want to be baptized and then finish it and you can take communion.”

She would come with Gunnar almost twice a week to study Bible basics. She would ask insightful questions like, “Why do some teach this when Scripture obviously says this?”

So we got to celebrate an adult baptism—one more 20-something the Lord added to our small group. As a congregation, we were ecstatic.

I know that the “nones” (those who say their religion affiliation is “none”) are on a rise, but I have evidence in our small congregation that the Word of God is still powerful enough to change people. We are a congregation meeting in a conference center with digital music and with a small group of people, Who would want to come? On paper, it doesn’t make sense. But it doesn’t have to, because our message is the power of God for salvation.

Aaron Goetzinger, home missionary at Redemption, Watertown, N.Y.


Nicole Balza, a staff writer for Forward in Christ magazine, is a member at Bethlehem, Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin. 

MISSION STORIES

Read more about how WELS missionaries are working to spread the gospel in the U.S. and around the world on the WELS Missions blogs.

HOME MISSIONS

Learn more about WELS missions in North America.

 

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Author: Nicole R. Balza and various writers
Volume 103, Number 9A
Issue: September 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Under God’s sky: Pacific Northwest District

Under God’s sky

The Pacific Northwest District

Theodore D. Lambert

The beautiful Pacific Northwest. That’s the descriptor often attached to this region of North America. Beautiful, indeed! Crystal clear lakes, great rivers, wheat fields that roll in the wind like a golden sea, mountain ranges boasting the tallest peaks in North America, ocean beaches where one can walk forever. The Pacific Northwest District covers the largest land mass of the 12 WELS districts. It stretches over three time zones and includes Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Washington and the Canadian Province of British Columbia.

Cultures are as diverse as the landscape. Faith, Anchorage, Alaska, offers worship services in English, Spanish, and Hmong. Last year Holy Trinity, Des Moines, Wash., received 38 Sudanese immigrants as members. Holy Trinity already hosted a Korean congregation, so every other Sunday services are now offered in English, Sudanese, and Korean. In Boise, Idaho, Peace in Jesus is the sole Vietnamese-speaking congregation in WELS. Nearby, Nampa is the home of Truth in Love Ministry, dedicated to bringing Mormons to the true gospel. Six years ago Immanuel, Salem, Ore., established a connection in Korea that enrolls Korean students in the congregation’s school.

IN THE BEGINNING

The roots of the district are not traced to a mission board in Wisconsin anxious to plant new churches in the far west, but to a church begun by others. In 1884 the Ohio Synod founded St. Paul’s, Tacoma, Wash. Ten years later, when the Iowa and Ohio Synods broke fellowship with the Missouri and Wisconsin Synods, St. Paul’s petitioned the Wisconsin Synod for membership, and the synod suddenly had a new mission field. In 1905, the second WELS congregation in the Pacific Northwest—Grace, Yakima, Wash.—was organized. Two years later the mission board assigned a seminary graduate to serve central Washington. By train and lumber wagon he traveled a circuit of two hundred miles, ministering to small congregations in logging towns and wheat fields.

In 1918 the Pacific Northwest mission field was upgraded to the status of a district even though it numbered only eight pastors and 447 communicants. The Tacoma congregation was the only self-supporting church; all the rest were still missions.

Growth was slow, hampered in part by missionaries focused primarily on serving German Lutherans in their native tongue. While other church bodies began their work in the cities decades earlier, the Wisconsin Synod was content to establish missions in small towns and logging villages. Pastors frequently accepted the first call back to the Midwest. Lengthy vacancies were common.

HARD TIMES AND HARD GROUND

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the district, three new missions named Faith, Hope, and Charity, were simultaneously begun in Tacoma in 1928. The timing couldn’t have been worse. The following year the stock market crash ushered in the Great Depression. Money for missions dried up. Faith of Tacoma survived, but its infant sisters did not.

Still, God’s gracious hand provided for his church. Grace, Portland, unexpectedly joined the synod in 1929, opening the door for work in western Oregon. When young people from small communities migrated to the cities after World War II, the district mission board saw the wisdom of planting missions in Seattle, Spokane, and Edmonds, Washington, and in Eugene, Oregon.

But in 1957 the district faced its greatest challenge. When the Wisconsin Synod in its 1957 convention declined to sever fellowship with the Missouri Synod, a quarter of the pastors and churches of this district withdrew and joined the Church of the Lutheran Confession (CLC). The loss of two self-supporting churches and two missions in Spokane was especially painful.

The independent natures of the loggers, fishermen, miners, and ranchers who settled this part of America also became a factor. This is reflected in a telling statistic: Only 30 percent of the residents claim church membership, and less than 10 percent of the total population attend worship on any given Sunday.

GOD BLESSES HIS WORD

But God works in amazing ways. The severance of fellowship with the Missouri Synod in 1961 fueled enthusiasm for mission plantings throughout the synod. The Pacific Northwest District especially benefited from this awakening. Warren Widmann, who would later serve as district president (1986–2002) was called as mission developer in 1963. With his help, congregations were organized in British Columbia and several cities in Oregon and Washington. At the same time, missions were established in several cities in Washington and in Idaho.

In 1968 a new field was opened in Alaska. The 49th state would prove to be a fertile field for gospel outreach as Faith of Anchorage would be joined by missions in Fairbanks; Eagle River; Wasilla; Kenai; Juneau; and a second Anchorage congregation. Today all are self-supporting congregations. In southeast Alaska, Christ, Juneau, and Grace, Sitka, are two of the most remote churches in the synod, accessible only by boat or plane.

It is not unusual for members to drive an hour to church one-way and repeat that trip during the week to attend other events. Modern technology now allows the district to minister to people living in remote locations. Seventeen churches of this district have opened preschools to reach out to their community. Most are full before the doors open each fall. Nine congregations operate elementary schools in which a large percentage of students are from non-member families, providing a rich mission field. The 25 Asian students attending Evergreen Lutheran High School, Tacoma, Wash., comprise one-fifth of the entire student body. Many baptisms and confirmations have been the blessing of such cross-cultural openness.

In some locales missions have been closed, then restarted years later. Our timing has not always been the same as the Lord’s. We can rejoice that the churches and people of this district who have patiently and persistently shared the gospel are now witnessing God’s fulfillment of his promise.

Ted Lambert served as the Pacific Northwest District president from 2002 to 2014. Recently retired, Lambert is a member at Christ the King, Bremerton, Washington.

This is the eighth article in a 12-part series on the WELS districts.


 

STATISTICS:

District president: Pastor John Steinbrenner

Congregations: 44

Mission churches: 10

Baptized members: 6,903

Communicant members: 5,405

Early childhood ministries: 17

Lutheran elementary schools: 9

Area Lutheran high schools: 1

 

SUBMIT YOUR STORY

Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on wels.net? Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.

SUBSCRIBE TO FORWARD IN CHRIST

Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from  Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.

 

Author: Theodore D. Lambert
Volume 101, Number 8
Issue: August 2014

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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