MCC photo/United Nations office

MWC General Secretary César García, second from right, meets with the MCC United Nations staff on February 2018. From left to right: Abby Hershberger, program assistant; Thien Tran, IVEP intern; Katie Garrison, program associate; and Doug Hostetter, director of MCC UN Office.

Young people key to resilient church

A greeting from the Vietnam Mennonite Church to the world.

Throughout its history, the people of the Vietnam Mennonite Church (VMC) have never failed to demonstrate their resilience and their commitment to live out the peaceful way of Christ.

First established in 1964 in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City), VMC went through many periods of hope, suffering, and then restoration. And we have a secret for this resilience. VMC always emphasizes the role of young people in the development of the church. Young people are steadfast in their belief. They have the energy, skills, and, with the right visions and guidance, they can contribute so much more.

Understanding that, we encourage young people to step up and take responsibility and lead the way. We take this Bible verse to heart:

Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity (1 Timothy 4:12).

We started doing that when the church was first established 50 years ago, and we continue today.

When the US–Vietnam war came to an end in 1975, communication between the Vietnamese church and the Mennonite world community was mostly cut off. For four decades, we were considered an underground church.

But in 2009, VMC received legal status from the Vietnamese government to operate. Later that year, we became a member of Mennonite World Conference (MWC) at the Assembly in Paraguay. We knew it was time for the church to reconnect with the Mennonite world community.

One of the ways to do that is through volunteer exchange programs for young people, such as Mennonite Central Committee (MCC)’s programs: IVEP and YAMEN (a joint program with MWC). The church selects the best candidates among young people in the church to participate in one year of voluntary service overseas.

During their year of service, these young people are ambassadors for the church, and upon their return, they play a central role in generating friendship and collaboration between VMC and other member congregations of MWC. These young leaders also will make good use of the experience they learned from MCC to help strengthen the church.

With that expectation and dedication, I became the third young person from Vietnam to serve with MCC. We all finished our terms ready to share great stories of friendship and hospitality received, and about how the experience broadens perspectives about the global Anabaptist community.

During my 2017-2018 IVEP term at the MCC UN office in New York City, I came to truly appreciate the MCC purpose: relief, development and peace in the name of Christ.

During the war in Indochina, MCC came to Vietnam to do relief work and advocate for peace between the USA and the Vietnamese. After the war, other nongovernmental organizations left with American troops, yet MCC remained to continue development work, helping the people of Vietnam.

That model continues to be applied in North Korea, Iraq, Syria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and other conflict zones. Regardless of people’s political or religious systems, MCC continues to carry out its purpose.

The future is full of hope and anticipation as young volunteers help the church stay connected with the Mennonite world community, and bring up new opportunities to do God’s work, in Vietnam and elsewhere.  

This is a joint release of Mennonite World Conference and Mennonite Central Committee by Thien Phuoc Quang Tran, the son of a pastor in the Vietnam Mennonite Church (VMC) in Ho Chi Minh City, in the south of Vietnam. He served as the MWC IVEP intern at the United Nations in New York City, USA, 2017–2018.

Young adult candidates from a Mennonite World Conference (MWC) member church in the Global South with a knowledge of international relations and a strong commitment to conflict resolution and peacebuilding are invited to apply for a one-year internship in the Mennonite Central Committee United Nations office in New York City, USA. Applications from Latin America / Caribbean are especially encouraged. 

 

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