Stories Of Impact

New Growth in Vietnam

After years of starts and stops, Walk Thru the Bible’s ministry in Vietnam is picking up speed again. “We’re reigniting relationships,” says Mark Schaaf, Walk Thru the Bible’s international training director. By reactivating old networks and seeking new opportunities, Mark will help lead an “intentional expansion across Southeast Asia.” In light of past ministry success, Vietnam offers fertile soil for the first stage of this growth.

From 1998 to 2004, Walk Thru the Bible pursued a strategy of training one Bible teacher for every 50,000 people in South Asia. “That strategy put us on the map in the region,” remembers Mark. David Pak, the director for Asia-Pacific at the time, traveled frequently to Vietnam from Singapore to train as many Bible teachers as possible during this period. After his departure, Walk Thru the Bible’s activity in Vietnam continued on a more periodic basis. Instructors from Singapore and Philippines began to travel to Vietnam several times a year to lead in-country trainings using Walk Thru the Bible’s events and resources.

The revitalization of Walk Thru the Bible’s Vietnamese ministry is only just beginning, but a solid foundation has existed for more than 20 years. Now it’s time to build.

Walk Thru the Bible’s Singaporean leaders, Peter and Ezekiel, first trained Vietnamese church leaders to teach Seven Laws of the Learner and Personal Holiness in Times of Temptation in 2004. Not long after, they introduced Old and New Testament live events in Ho Chi Minh City. Independently of the Singaporean group, a small group of Walk Thru the Bible instructors from the Philippines, led by cur- rent Training Director Gil Balignsay, began to visit Ho Chi Minh City twice a year to host training events. Over the years, they trained Vietnamese pastors and church leaders to teach more than a dozen Walk Thru the Bible courses.

By 2012, financial constraints forced the Singaporean and Filipino teams to reduce travel and end support for in-country instructors. But to this day, their network of teachers continues to teach and expand their influence, especially in rural areas. “There’s a sense of self-reliance among Vietnamese Christians,” Mark explains. “In part, it comes from a millennium of Chinese influence that has given Vietnam a degree of business pragmatism and entrepreneurial spirit. It also comes through hardship. Many Christians experience societal discrimination and harassment because of their faith. Nevertheless, Walk Thru the Bible’s Vietnamese instructors continue on.”

After a series of sporadic training events over the past few years, Walk Thru the Bible’s ministry in Vietnam is entering a new chapter. “We have strong networks in the north and south—especially with the Christian Missionary Alliance and various Baptist and Presbyterian church— that we’re going to visit,” says Mark. “We want to share what we have to offer.” He plans to meet with Walk Thru

the Bible’s Filipino and Singaporean leaders in Vietnam to connect the two countries’ efforts and combine networks of influence. They envision three trips in two years to establish a national teaching team in Vietnam, Thailand, and Cambodia.

Their first point of connection in Vietnam is Lee M., a Vietnamese-American missionary who leads a biblical training institute in southern Vietnam. She’s offered Walk Thru the Bible an entire day with her students to present otLIVE, a big-picture overview of the New Testament, present other biblical resources, and explore other avenues for partnership.

Lee M. also serves as a country representative for a storytelling ministry that trains leaders to teach 150 Bible stories over two months. “What they recognize is that these students leave with the ability to teach 150 stories, but they don’t have a big-picture view of the story,” says Mark. otLIVE and ntlIVE present the grand story of the Bible in a format that appeals to Vietnam’s predominately oral learners. After pursuing Walk Thru the Bible’s training for the past year and a half, Lee M. will finally have a tool to teach her students the big picture of the Bible.

The revitalization of Walk Thru the Bible’s Vietnamese ministry is only just beginning, but a solid foundation has existed for more than 20 years. Now it’s time to build.