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Old & New Hanoi - in the foreground you see the three-story buildings of old Hanoi, and far away, a line of high rises.
October 5, 2019

Greetings <<First Name>>,

HANOI - Suzanne and I are settling into life and work here in Hanoi, and mostly over jetlag.  We've been here 16 days and moved three times from a hotel to different Airbnbs.  Each neighborhood is different; a few blocks change and the whole feel is different.  We are using these first few months of housing as a way to explore Hanoi first, before leasing an apartment.  I also think we enjoy the flexibility.  In Ghana, the university provided an apartment on the edge of the bush. It was minutes from the university, and more than an hour from the city so here in Hanoi, we love being in the midst of everything.  Like last night, when Suzanne wanted something simple, so I walked down the street, ordered a couple of bowls of pho, and they walked back a tray to our apartment and just asked us to bring the dishes back when we were finished.

Traveling Light(er)

Luggage – we brought four suitcases, one-quarter of our going to Ghana luggage.   When I walked the Camino, I learned luggage was a physical manifestation of my insecurities; little did I know then how true that would become. It speaks well of Hanoi that we only brought four. 

Our favorite open-air coffee shop in the neighborhood.  

Our current Airbnb/hotel/apartment is in the middle of a densely packed area that was once a village known for Green Sticky Rice (Vong).    This morning, when we were at one of the multitudes of traditional coffeeshops near our apartment, I was overcome with gratitude that God placed us here, and not so of the harder places we looked at. 

Wait a minute, isn't that the word for dog? 

There are maybe ten different Pho shops, and, of course, a dog-meat restaurant.  Suzanne is glad we began Vietnamese language study back in June because last week, as we were about to go in a nice looking place to eat, Suzanne noticed the words “Thit Chó (sounds like Tick Chaw), and said, “Now wait a minute, isn’t that the word for dog, right next to the general-purpose word for meat?”  

Hanoi International Fellowship Offices are on the 17th Floor.  

Our hotels and Airbnbs have been about a 15 minute walk from HIF Centre, the offices of Hanoi International Fellowship.  Its on the 17th floor of the DeTech 1 Building.  Most mornings its a nice walk in as we watch the city wake up.  

Steve & Suzanne

Worship on the 17th Floor

Working at Hanoi International Fellowship

We are honored to be working at Hanoi International Fellowship (HIF), a growing international church doing amazing things in this city! We have come at a time when they are ramping up many of their processes to move to the next level. With our tech backgrounds, Steve and I are jumping into helping their (very capable) tech guy Tomi to configure the database and processes in their brand new (to them) on-line system called Church Planning Center, and systematize workflows in their brand new (to them) on-line project management system Asana, and, of course, tie the two together. It’s good timing since we’re all new to the on-line systems.
Closeup of a wood carving from the Fine Arts Museum. 
We are still getting to know the staff culture here, so we are balancing holding back and just observing, and jumping into the duties senior pastor Jacob has already assigned us. Steve will be re-thinking a leadership development plan for ministry leaders, with the first session next month, using the DISC. The idea is kind of a "value add", so that we give ministry leaders training and tools that can help in their professional life, and which also encourages them to be developed as ministry leaders at HIF. We have a “plan for a plan” to cycle through all the ministries and do some kind of evaluation (SWOT or actually probably using a modified Appreciative Inquiry method called SOAR). And I am currently working on what data to collect from visitors, regular attenders, and members, and when and how to collect the data (knowing that the data is not just for internal use, but the Religious Affairs government office regularly asks for composite data like nationalities, denominational backgrounds, etc.), whicle also thinking about the workstreams of managing people coming and going. As an international church, there is about 1/3 turnover a year.

At HIF we’re working with senior pastor Jacob and site pastor Jason, youth pastor Ryan, office administrator Marian and admin assistant Hoa (pronounced Hwa), and Tomi is the very capable staff person in charge of IT & communications, and of worship leaders. Plus lots of volunteers who come into the office to work in their areas. In addition to it being an international church, it is an international staff: American, Dutch, Filipino, Vietnamese, Nigerian, and Haitian!
Lunch - its make your own spring rolls. 
We’re also just meeting people and getting to know the myriad of ministries the church undertakes. So far we’ve attended worship twice (once at each location), two staff meetings, we’ve attended Alpha twice, which had more than 60 seeking participants (and 30 organizers and helpers), and an HIF welcome lunch for new residents of Hanoi. We’re also learning how and where to shop, and how to order food (even though we know a lot of words, are we, for example, ordering rice with chicken breast, chicken thigh, chicken wings, chicken feet, or chicken… other)? Our digestive systems are learning our new diets, and our bodies are adjusting to the water and air, all noticeably different. It will be a long adjustment we are sure. As a British volunteer I chatted with yesterday said, “I’ve been here 2 ½ years and I feel like I’m just now coming out from under culture shock”.

Five Star Church Approved

If your Central Texas Conference United Methodist Church is looking for a Missionary to support, Steve & Suzanne are Five Star Church approved. Ask your church to send financial support and be one step closer to becoming a Five Star Church.

Please thank our supporting churches:
St.Philip's United Methodist Church, Round Rock, TX
Wellspring - a Community of Faith, Georgetown, TX
Grace United Methodist Church, Copperas Cove, TX
Rockbridge Church, Cedar Park, TX
First United Methodist Church, Fort Worth, TX
First United Methodist Church, Washington, GA
Central Baptist Church, Westerly, RI

3 Firsts in Week 3

First Vietnamese Language Learning Session: Steve and I will be continuing to learn Vietnamese via 1 on 2 tutoring using the Growing Participator Approach (GPA) common among cross-cultural-workers striving to learn their host language. We met with our native Vietnamese tutor (called "nurturer") for the first time this week, and we will meet with him 3 times per week for 2 hours per session. We start with simple objects and relationships, with our nurturer saying the names in Vietnamese, with no English, and then repeating until we point to the correct object. Then he’ll ask us questions and we’ll point to the answer. He comes to each session with a set of props (e.g. toy cars, small plastic items) that he puts on the table and describes action words (e.g. running, laying) and relationships (e.g. near, far etc). He’ll continue making things more complex and increasing vocabulary over time. There is no speaking in Phase 1A, just listening. We’ll let you know how it goes!
We took a tour of beautiful Halong Bay with our friend Clif 
First Visitor: Clif Kussmaul, a professional friend who stayed at our guesthouse when he was visiting Ashesi, has been consulting with Fulbright University in Ho Chi Min City, coincidentally under a Fulbright grant. He was attending a Fulbright University program in Hanoi on Saturday, so he came a few days early to hang out with us. We spent the day Friday doing a nice regional tour over to the coast.

First trip: TMS Global requests that CCWs organize regional retreats every year or two so that CCWs serving in regions can get together to fellowship, rest and relax, share information about their field work, and yes, do some TMS work. It so happens that the SE Asia regional retreat was planned for next week in Thailand, a short flight away. Steve and I will join (we think) 8 other teammates serving in the area, mostly Thailand and Cambodia, for 3 full days. We’re looking forward to meeting and getting to know other TMSers in our region!
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