August 1, 2019
Hello <<First Name>> – Today (Aug 2) Suzanne and I celebrate our 33rd Wedding Anniversary, but that is not why we’re writing to you today, its just a fun fact and a cute picture. 

We’re writing to give you an update on the progress toward our next place of service in Hanoi, Vietnam.  To prepare for this journey we’ve been learning to ride a motor scooter and speak Vietnamese.  But it's not just us, when one of our supporters heard we were learning Vietnamese, he decided to also study it (and he is ahead of Steve).

Financially, we’re close, but not all the way.  If you have prayed about joining our support team, now would be a good time for you to join us, if you have not prayed, this would be a really good time to begin.  We need your help.  Here is how.

In this eNews we tell more of our story with Hanoi International Fellowship, where we will be serving; Steve writes about what learning to motorcycle has taught him about the practice of faith in Moto at 59.   We share the experience of listening to your thoughts about Vietnam in Three Flags, and finally, we wanted you to have our Event Schedule in case you happened to be in the area, we would love to see you.

Thirty-three years ago, nobody knew exactly where those two kids who were just married would end up.  All they hoped is that they would do it together.   It's been quite an adventurous and blessed life. Thanks for continuing with us on this journey.
Steve & Suzanne

Our Hanoi International Fellowship Story (HIF)

“What you need is a 50-year-old guy whose kids are finished with college, and comes with full support.”   I was at a pastor’s conference listening to a conversation between the former pastor of Hanoi International Fellowship and the current one.  The former’s advice to Pastor Jacob was quite specific.  50 years old.  Kids done with college. Full support.  

During the break, I spoke with Pastor Jacob, and said “that guy Pastor Nelson said you needed…I just might be him”.   After all I was in my 50s (albeit late 50s), our lastborn would graduate from college in a few months, and I did come with full support.  It was a few months before our work in Ghana would be completed, and I had come to this Missional International Church Network conference to see if serving the International Church might be where God was leading us.   Over the summer Pastor Jacob and I exchanged emails, talked on the phone or Skype, and eventually invited us to interview at Hanoi International Fellowship after Thanksgiving.

Officially, Vietnam is a socialist atheist state.  The religious preference of over 80% of Vietnamese is none.[i]  Quite different from Ghana, where over 70% of the population claimed Christianity, though their culture, thought and behavior often didn’t reflect that choice.  In Ghana, religion was both a way of life and big business.  Vietnam will be very different.  There, only 7.5% of Vietnam’s population is Christian.  To get an idea of what that percentage feels like, if we sum all the non-Christian religious groups in the US it comes to 7.5% of the population (Jewish, Mormon, "other Christian," Muslim, Jehovah's Witness, Buddhist and Hindu).[ii]   So to most people, the concept of church is a bit of an oddity.  
Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper."
– Jeremiah 29.7 (NIV)

While HIF is focused on internationals in Vietnam, it also collaborates with local Vietnamese churches and the government to bless Hanoi and the nation. To do this and seek the city’s transformation, HIF choose to “pray to the LORD for it,” and put those prayers into action, because “if it prospers, you too will prosper”  (Jeremiah 29)

In a 2013 review of Transform a City by Eric Swanson, Pastor Jacob wrote:
“Community transformation is not about ‘Christendom,’” says Swanson. It is not about trying to make converts and positioning the church as the center of society. Although conversion “is our ultimate motive, [it is] not our ulterior motive in loving and serving others. … We don’t serve to convert, but we serve because we have been converted.”  For many Christians (and churches), this is a total paradigm shift. [iii]
This paradigm shift is evident in everything Suzanne and I saw at HIF.  The people of HIF love and serve along with other churches in Hanoi to feed the hungry and visit the sick, elderly, or those in prison.  They welcome the stranger, clothe the naked and give drink to the thirsty.  We saw evidence of the church community living out its purpose "To glorify God among the nations through Christ-centered worship, genuine relationships, and transformational outreach".  It is a remarkable church, with a remarkable set of pastors, leaders and members.  We feel honored to join their staff.


84% - Your Support is making a Difference 

The ministry of Steve & Suzanne’s is made possible from the contributions of individuals, churches and institutions.  Together we are mobilizing the body of Christ globally to join Jesus in His mission especially among the least-reached peoples (see Our HIF Story).

Today we are at 84% of our budget and need $1200/month to be at 100% before we go to Vietnam, hopefully on September 18.  

A monthly donation to TMS-Global is the easiest way to support us in this ministry, but if you are able, quarterly or annual contributions are deeply appreciated.   Some individuals give monthly gifts of $10 to $250, others pledge $1000-$2000 annually.  Every show of support helps us to reach our goal of being 100% funded. 

Visit the donations page to make a contribution or pledge your support. 

Three Flags: Lone Star, Black Star, and now Gold Star

Frankly, this feels more like something from “Dr. Sheldon Coopers Fun with Flags” (CBS’s The Big Bang Theory) than I should be writing about except it feels somewhat fitting that our next ministry setting will be yet another country who’s flag prominently features a star.  Texas has its lone star; Ghana, its Black Star, and at the center of the flag of Vietnam, a gold star.

The Vietnamese new flag was born out of the fight again French colonialization in the 1940s.  In WWII, it came to symbolize their struggle against Japanese occupation. During the Vietnam War, it was the North Vietnamese flag, and today it flies over the whole country.  “Red symbolizes the goals of social revolution behind the Vietnamese national uprising,” Wikipedia tells us.   “The star represents the five main classes in Vietnamese society—intellectuals, farmers, workers, businesspeople and military personnel.”  

Personally, I was surprised by my almost visceral reaction the first time I saw the gold star when we were visiting last year.  Sure, the war ended over 40 years ago, but as I was to learn, we still have undiscovered remnants from its coverage in Time Magazine pictures, or the evening/nightly news.   I’m not the only one.  

As we have spoken to friends, visited churches, and talked to Vietnam War Veterans, the word Vietnam still evokes strong emotions.  Some Vets have given us their blessing immediately to move there and serve.  With others, it has taken some time, but I think that our discussions and us moving there may have helped them along in their process of grieving the past. There is also a third group, those stuck in what I can only imagine is complicated and stilll overwhelming grief.  I’m not sure what to do with that third group.  I want to respect and honor their grief, but at the same time follow this call to serve in Hanoi.  Please pray for us all. 

Midlife Crisis or Moving to Hanoi –
Faith lessons in learning to Motorcycle at 59

Rush hour traffic in Hanoi
 (click on this picture to see a clip of rush hour at the HIF Office)
In 2013 Suzanne and I earned our motorcycle licenses, which really means we passed a 2-day course that said we could drive a small motorcycle around an empty parking lot and no traffic.  That was six years ago.   Now we are moving to Hanoi where motor scooters are about the only viable form of transportation.  Sure there are cars, buses, and rideshares, but they take forever and what is the fun of that?

I always wanted to really learn to ride a motorcycle so when folks in Hanoi suggested it might be a good idea to learn before we moved there, Suzanne and I picked up a 125cc motor scooter off of Craigslist and began riding it around Georgetown, Texas.  After all, our Hanoi friends warned us, it is not a matter of if you’ll crash, but when you’ll crash.  Best to do it in a place with good healthcare and family nearby. 

Steve RidesSo now that I’ve been riding for a few months, I’m noticing small changes in how I see my place in the world.
  • I used to leave the house thinking about where I was going, but now I notice I'm thinking about how I’m going to get there. Its a Faith lesson to focus more on how I am following Jesus, and seeing that as a process more than just being focused on where He is leading me. 
  • I’ve noticed a 270° unobstructed view of everything around me when I’m riding.  When I’m driving, everything I see is framed by a windshield, and the glass impedes it.  Behind the windshield, I don’t feel the wind, smell the roadkill, or hear the closeness of passing vehicles – I wonder what insulates me in my practice of faith? Are there things that limit what I see, or how we experience and understand the world?  “You're a passive observer,” Robert M. Pirsig, wrote in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, my favorite book in college.  “And it is all moving by you boringly in a frame.  On a cycle the frame is gone. You're completely in contact with it all. You're in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming.” 
  • It makes me wonder if this is what faith could be like, not watching the world framed by our culture, church or where we live, but in contact with the world; being a part of the scene instead of passively watching it.
When Jesus says to stay alert, or awake, it comes with a warning of impending trouble, or missed opportunities.  Not just physically, but spiritually too.  With a less obstructed view and thinking more about how than where, I expect what Robert M. Prisig wrote becomes true, “You're in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming.”  I look forward to experiencing that overwhelming presence around us however we get there. 

Steve & Suzanne's Event Schedule:

Aug. 4 - Central Baptist Church, Westerly, Rhode Island.
Worship at 9:30am  Minute for Mission.

Aug. 18 - St. John’s United Methodist Church, Georgetown, Texas. Worship at 11am in the Fellowship Hall. Preaching.

Aug 23 – Sing for “Close Friends” at Wellspring.  Close Friends is an Alzheimer caretaker relief ministry and Steve will sing songs by John Denver and James Taylor.

Aug 25 - First United Methodist Church, Fort Worth, Texas.   Worship: 8:30 (DiscipleChurch, preaching) 9:30 & 11am Minute for Mission

Sept 1 – Grace United Methodist Church, Copperas Cove, Texas.  Worship at 8:15, 9:30 & 11am.  Minute for Mission.

Sept 8 – Wellspring – A Community of Faith, Georgetown, Texas. Worship at 8:30, 9:30 & 11am.  Minute for Mission.

Sept 15 – St. Philip’s United Methodist Church, Round Rock, Texas.  Worship at 8:15, 9:30 & 11am.  A Service of Consecration at 11am.
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