March 2, 2015

Graduates!

Written by  EMM staff

This article appears in the March/April 2015 issue of Missionary Messenger; sign up to read more articles like this one.
When Pastor Trung presented the plans of the Vietnam Mennonite Church to open a four- year Bachelor of Theology class, EMM worker Gerry Keener exclaimed (to himself), “Impossible!”

But he sent the plan to about a dozen Mennonite educators and mission leaders around the globe. They all said it couldn’t be done, but if it did get started, here were some things to do, people who could help teach, and courses materials to include.

Based on that feedback, Gerry presented the ways that EMM could be involved to Pastor Trung and his committee. They said, “That’s great! Let’s start in March 2010.” And they did.

The school opened with 14 students. There was no library, no dormitory, no beds, no shower, no kitchen, and no dining hall. The single classroom was 10 feet by 40 feet. It doubled as the dining hall (food was carried in) and sleeping quarters (on straw mats) for the men. There was one toilet in a wash room of sorts for all. The women had similar sleeping quarters upstairs.

These deficiencies were more than compensated for by the presence of the Lord among His people. God provided qualified faculty along with experienced translators and classroom interpreters. The students were highly motivated and committed. Yet Gerry doubted that these students could sustain this demanding month-long intensive schedule every quarter.

Well, months turned into years, and in November 2014, after four years of academic studies and one year of practical experience, the students returned to the school to graduate! Twelve of the fourteen completed the program and all are currently in ministry.

A second cohort of bachelor's in theology students will begin in 2016. Gerry's hope is that Vietnamese leaders currently being trained through a Trainer of Trainers program will be able to teach more courses to this second cohort, with less reliance on international professors. "We're thinking multiplication!" Gerry said. 

This article appears in the March/April 2015 issue of Missionary Messenger; sign up to read more articles like this one.