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Vietnam Mission Initiative
Vietnam is a socialist republic that has experienced more than its fair share of conflict. Colonized by France in the mid-19th century, it was occupied by Japan during World War II. After that war, a protracted war of liberation expelled the French. The country was divided into North and South, which engaged in protracted warfare involving other countries, including the United States on the side of the South, until 1975. Long isolated from the rest of the world, the united Vietnam became a part of the world economic system in the late 1980s, and the World Trade Organization in 2007.
United Methodist mission work in Vietnam began in 2002 with the placement of a missionary couple, who had left as refugees years earlier. Since then, the growth of our mission work in Vietnam has been phenomenal, with the main focus on the Mekong Delta region south of Ho Chi Minh City. The mission also extends into the central and northern regions.
Growth is attributable in part to a shift in the government’s attitude toward religion beginning in 2007. As it joined the World Trade Organization, the country became more open to religion, especially Protestant churches, in order to show the world that it respects human rights. A further development was the purchase of a building in 2010 to serve as a national office and training center.
Challenges: Church registration as a denomination in Vietnam continues to be a major challenge. The Vietnam United Methodist Church is an unrecognized church entity, and therefore it is not easy for foreign Christians to interact with local United Methodist churches and leaders in Vietnam.
In 2008, Global Ministries submitted an application for church registration to the Vietnamese government.
Assets: There is strong local leadership including the ordination of the first 12 Local Elders in Mission in January 2013. Many local pastors are highly educated; most have completed a college education before they became pastors. This high level of education along with the commitment to serve Christ’s church make them very effective in developing and expanding the mission work.
Along with congregational development, training programs for pastoral and lay leaders continues to be the strength. Each of the current nine districts has well-established training programs, with many locally led.
Goals: In 2013, the Vietnam Mission launched Vision 2020 with the aim of 800 new churches, 100 each year by 2020. Other future priorities include: expanded ministries with Agent Orange victims, training for lay evangelists, ministries with orphans, and registration of the church and of UMCOR.
Statistics: There are currently 256 churches, 80 additional faith communities, and 248 pastors.
Learn more about Mission Initiatives and how local churches in the US are partnering with these congregations through the In Mission Together program.