Why I Went to Vietnam
Wendy J. Deichmann
Not enough time, money or human resources; the language is too difficult to learn. The reasons not to get involved seemed, at first, compelling. I was waiting, like everyone else, for someone else to say they would do it. My plate was full; my school was already stretched beyond what was humanly possible. I was new at the dean’s job and I knew too little about Southeast Asia. So, when Bishop Bruce Ough looked directly at me and asked, “What about United?” I was taken by surprise. I thought to myself, if others cannot do it, why would anyone think United can? Everyone knows that United is one of the smallest, most financially challenged schools.
Then I realized that if I said no, I would be the last one in the room to do so, making it a unanimous response to the Vietnamese missionaries’ plea for assistance in organizing efforts to train pastors for the emerging churches in Vietnam. It began to dawn on me that the Spirit was calling United to chart a new course in this discussion and work of international theological education.
“Yes,” I said, “we will do what we can.”
This is why United sent Deacon Elizabeth Rand to Vietnam
in the summer of 2007, Professor Andrew Park to Vietnam to teach
in the summer of 2008, and why Professor Kendall McCabe and three
students and I went to Vietnam in July of 2009 with members of the West
Ohio Conference Task Force for Southeast Asia.
Vietnam in July? Never mind that I do not prefer weather over 80 degrees Fahrenheit! Perhaps this was to be the first clue this was not a vacation. It was work; it was theological education in mission.
It was an amazing experience!
Xin chao! Hello! We are in the Vietnam we have only heard about and it is nothing like we thought! For four days Dr. McCabe and I teach 36 pastors about John and Charles Wesley’s theology as expressed in sermon and verse newly translated into Vietnamese! What fervent questions, singing, praying and worship we experience! We listen to the stories of the students’ call to ministry, of innumerable lives changed by the Gospel, of the growth of more than 100 house churches during the past several years, and the new churches’ mission work among people in need as a witness to the love of Jesus. How excited and thankful are these young Christians that the government is ready to accept and recognize the United Methodist Church because it has established a track record of doing so much good for the people! But the pastors must be provided with theological education.
Why assist in organizing these efforts? The Jesus of our faith teaches us to ask and pray for needs and to trust that God will provide. Is God calling United to help provide what has been faithfully and fervently requested? Can we do this? Should we do this? Why not? Of course we can and should, God helping us! Yes, it is an honor and blessing to partner with the developing seminary in Ho Chi Minh City – Wesley Theological College – to educate indigenous United Methodist pastors in Vietnam. This is a work of the Spirit calling forth something new and vibrant and real, and it is an honor and a blessing to be part of it!
My eyes have seen the other side of the world. I have seen spiritual abundance and courage and joy beyond imagination. The members of our team have been the recipients of radical hospitality and grace. We have responded faithfully to a need we can do something about and our lives and ministries have been enriched. We have learned about another people, another culture and other religions besides our own.
As long as we are invited, United will continue in this mutually beneficial relationship. We have consented to send additional visiting instructors and students to Vietnam, and we will host Vietnamese students in the next year so they may study in our masters and doctoral programs in Ohio. We will provide online educational resources in this growing partnership so that Course of Study and Master of Divinity degree courses may be translated into Vietnamese language and culture to
ease accessibility for those who are otherwise underserved by a United Methodist seminary.
This is why I went to Vietnam.
How can I begin to express my gratitude to God for our new friends, and for how these brothers and sisters in Christ have already enriched United Theological Seminary?
Wendy J. Deichmann, 10.14.09