Around the World – Vietnam
A Pastor Called to Vietnam
In a country where Christian persecution is a pressing and bleak reality, Pastor Bruce works tirelessly to transform Vietnam for Christ. His weapon of choice? Classical Christian Education.
A dedicated servant of the Vietnamese people, Pastor Bruce spent decades serving church congregations and business leaders before his attention turned to the children of Vietnam. What sparked this change? At age 50, Pastor Bruce asked himself, “What am I going to do in Vietnam that will have the most significance?” His answer shifted the central mission of his life. “I think the formation of young Christians’ hearts and minds is the most significant thing.” With his adopted Vietnamese sons approaching schooling age, Pastor Bruce launched Veritas Learning Center, the first ACCS member school in Vietnam.
“We need to create communities and educate our children in a way that they know that God is real, He’s alive, He’s amazing, He’s perfect in every way,” Pastor Bruce says.
How does this differ from a “standard” Christian education? “It’s not math and English and science with prayer tucked on the end. It’s at the core—we’re developing lives that love truth, that love beauty, that love God and want to serve their neighbor.” He continues, “When we study arithmetic, we’re studying God’s logic. When we’re studying science, we’re studying what He created and how He created. When we study philosophy, we’re studying why God created the world, what’s the purpose?”
Pastor Bruce’s vision of truth-based education presents a stark contrast against the current backdrop of Vietnamese education. A recent survey asked university students in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City about the importance of honesty. The results revealed that 7% of the students believe that honesty is of some importance. “Within the schools, everything is false,” Pastor Bruce says. “You have to pay to pass exams or you need to pay the teacher to get extra tuition so that you can pass… It’s not supportive, it’s very aggressive against each other. Fighting to win the top prize… Generally, education is just the opposite of goodness, beauty, and truth.”
While discussing the dire need for capital “T” Truth in education, Pastor Bruce relates a conversation with an 8th grader. “I was going through catechism with him and I asked him straight, ‘Do you believe this? Is this true for you?’ And he said, ‘Yeah it’s true, but I haven’t seen any real evidence of it.’ … That’s where education in a Christian context is vital… Otherwise he’ll be lost. His parents probably came to Christ under severe persecution and now they’ve done well in life relatively, and so they want him to be educated. But unless we develop his mind and his heart, he will be lost. The first generation will be lost.”
The solution is simple, but it isn’t easy. Christianity is outlawed in Vietnam, which, aside from creating a very hostile cultural environment, means imminent danger for any missionary, pastor, or teacher associated with such a movement. In fact, Pastor Bruce was imprisoned for training pastors, and a church-planting colleague was beaten to death for his Christian service. While those in the U.S. still tip their hats to “Christian” things, the Vietnamese culture lacks any western respect for Christendom. Pastor Bruce notes, “In Vietnam, it’s not just money and outward corruption, corruption is just part of the lifestyle. And so to develop the heart and the mind in the presence of God is the only way forward. That’s what they need—they need that development of the heart and mind together.”