I sent this letter out to a bunch of people but I realize that I might not have gotten everyone’s email on that list, so those of you who might be wondering about how my trip ended, here is a final update/summary letter. Thanks for your support! :)
Dear friends, family, and supporters,
As you probably know by now, I have returned safely back from Vietnam a few days ago on Thursday August 4. It is so nice to be back home surrounded by friends and family. As the plane was landing at Pearson Airport, I looked at the aerial view of Toronto and felt so thankful that I call this place home J.
Through your support, God has blessed me with an incredible five weeks in Vietnam where I have learned so much as I’ve lived and worked there, getting to know the people and the country. There were definitely challenges to be faced, from culture shock and team dynamics to homesickness; but overall, I have been so blessed by the experience, and I pray that as short as my time there was, that I was a blessing to the people I encountered.
Throughout our one week of training in California, the focus and theme Teach Overseas upheld for us teachers was the verse from Matthew 5:16: “Let your light shine before others so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” This trip was unique in that it was not a missions trip of outward evangelizing (which would not be possible in many of the host countries). Rather, the vision of this trip was for our team to go in as educators, to fulfill a need of the city we would live in, and at the same time live out the gospel as we lived and worked amongst the people.
For example, one man I met in Da Nang city who is developing an English centre in Vietnam describes himself not as a missionary, but a “model of integrity.” For him, his way of sharing the gospel is through everyday life—the way he interacts with his colleagues, his students, the policies he implements in his school, his way of thinking, the comments and words he chooses to say to the people around him—essentially, in every way he lives his life, in the minor details or the big decisions, he hopes to do so in a way that is faithful to the gospel he believes in.
I went into Vietnam wanting to be available to God and what he was doing in the little corner of Da Nang city I would be working in. I went in with realistic notions that five weeks was a short period of time, and that I shouldn’t have high expectations about being able to share the gospel. Even so, I couldn’t help feeling discouraged when Jessica (my roommate) and I found it hard to get to know people outside of the school enough to develop a relationship of trust. Most days were a daily grind of teaching and lesson planning. What we learned from this, however, was that this was real life. Ministry is not always smooth rolling and excitement—but there are the mundane moments of everyday life and work as well. Jesus himself healed many and brought many to believe, but he also lived amongst the people, with the tax collectors and prostitutes, and dealt with everyday life as well.
I had always known this in my head, but this trip allowed me to actually taste and understand what long-term ministry entails. Not only that, as Jessica and I strove to be present in each moment of our time there, being intentional in living out the gospel through all of our actions and words, I was challenged about the way I live back at home. Why only live like this in Vietnam? Why not everywhere I go, even in the familiarity of home? Sometimes I think home is the hardest to live out the gospel, because you are so engrained in old habits and ways of living.
After this initial bout of discouragement, I was encouraged by the message at the local international fellowship church to just pray. Prayer is one of the fundamental ministries of the church but it is also one of the most neglected. I felt challenged by this and decided that if there’s anything I can do here in Vietnam, it’s to pray for the people around me. So I made it my goal to pray as much as I could for my students, fellow teachers/workers at my school, and whoever else I came in contact with. I would even pray during class when my students were doing individual work.
The last couple of weeks in Vietnam were probably the best but also the saddest because it was when I was leaving soon that I really started to get to know my students and fellow teachers. For example, I had the opportunity to spend some time outside of school with a Vietnamese teacher named Ngyuet, who is always eager to learn more English from foreign teachers. I found out that she is a devout Buddhist and we had some opportunities to talk about Buddhism and for me to share a bit about my faith. She wasn’t very receptive but she wasn’t hardened to it either. My heart went out to her as she opened up to me about disappointments in her life, and I knew that only Jesus could heal those disappointments. We exchanged emails, so hopefully I will be able to continue the conversation with her. Also, Jessica and I were also able to get to know Jessica’s seventeen-year-old student Quyn, who is a Christian. We were able to talk with her about her experience as a Christian in Da Nang city and to encourage her and also to be encouraged by her heart for the people in her city.
I think one way in which I was really blessed through this trip was just how God deepened my understanding of the salvation He gives us. Being amongst people who do not know Him and living in a place that is spiritually dark, as well as seeing my own weaknesses, pushed me to really seek God and to hold on to what I knew about the gospel. In that way, the gospel became that much more illuminated and precious to me.
Thank you so much for all your financial support that made this trip possible, and for your prayers that went with me to Vietnam and gave me strength and protection during my time there. I couldn’t have done it without this community of believers! May God bless each and every one of you. Please remember Ngyuet and Quyn in your prayers.
“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness
and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption,
the forgiveness of sins.”