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Abbotsford Vietnamese Fellowship Expanding
Mennonite churches around Abbotsford have joined forces to provide services in the Vietnamese language for area immigrants. Due to their efforts, attendance has doubled.

Nhien Pham is providing leadership to the new Abbotsford Vietnamese Ministries, where attendance has increased this year. Vietnamese immigrants in the Abbotsford community now have a local place to worship in their own language, thanks to the efforts of a new church plant in the community.

A joint effort by Mennonite Church British Columbia, Vancouver Vietnamese Mennonite Church and Emmanuel Mennonite Church begun last April has resulted in Abbotsford Vietnamese Ministries, a small but growing group that meets at Emmanuel on the first and third Saturday evenings of each month. Nhien Pham, pastor of Vancouver Vietnamese Church, is providing leadership. Pham comes to Abbotsford every Wednesday, utilizing office space at the church to make personal contacts in the community and to prepare Bible studies.

Abbotsford has an estimated Vietnamese population of 500, Pham indicated in a report at Emmanuel’s annual meeting. A previous Vietnamese church started by the Mennonite Brethren had disbanded, so there was no Vietnamese church in the city.

To advertise the presence of the new group, Pham put up notices at Vietnamese grocery stores and sent letters to families with Vietnamese names listed in the phone book. Initial outreach efforts resulted in seven people attending regularly, four from Abbotsford and three from Surrey.

“People say they are grateful that there is a Vietnamese service here,” says Pham. “One lady was very happy because she’d been going to an English-speaking church. Some had been going to the Surrey Vietnamese church.”

Although at this time there are no youngsters attending, Pham says he hopes that eventually families with youths and young children will find their way to the new group and be integrated into the life of Emmanuel Mennonite.

A post-Christmas Vietnamese celebration on Dec. 27, 2008, drew an estimated 60 to 70 people from Abbotsford and beyond. Emmanuel member Vanj Thiessen, along with her husband Ernie, chose to attend the gathering as an expression of friendship and reported a wonderful time with the Vietnamese group that included musical solos and groups, dancing, Christmas caroling, a sermon by Pham, and a meal of Thai and Vietnamese food.

Although the Thiessens do not speak Vietnamese, they were warmly welcomed and a secondary school student sat with them and translated for most of the evening. “As we listened to a group of about 10 men and women beautifully sing Vietnamese carols, I was reminded of our brothers and sisters from the Mennonite Church in Vietnam that have suffered for the sake of Christ,” Thiessen says.

Some of those who came to the Christmas celebration have returned more regularly to the worship time, which more than 16 now attend. The pastor is encouraged by the increase in numbers. “We now want to train a lay leader to help in church planting in Abbotsford and eventually assume the leadership of the group,” says Pham.

Originally published in Canadian Mennonite, February 16, 2009.




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