Tuesday, May 21, 2024
Tuesday, May 21, 2024
HomeAll The NewsGMA in Vietnam

GMA in Vietnam

By Darla Gardner, Speech Language Pathologist

      A closed access missionary named “Rose” is in touch with her family in Southeast Asia but is unable to share her location and ministry.

      The program began in February of 2022 during COVID when I started teaching English to a class of boys and girls in Vietnam. The students would come to Rose’s father’s house, log in and I taught them English through Bible lessons and Bible-themed stories. There were about eight kids at first, and I noticed that two of them were not learning as quickly as the others. We were reading very short sentences and decoding words, but two of the kids, a boy and a girl, weren’t doing as well as the others. That’s when I began to really understand these children who needed much more than just learning to write and speak English.

      I had been logging in every week and getting to know these kids through a “virtual classroom,” then the next thing you know, I’m teaching two classes for two boys and a girl in Ho Chi Minh City and two boys from Malaysia, Rose’s nephews. I was also teaching eight children in Tay Ninh. From my experience working with kids in public school, I began to suspect that they might not have proper nutrition. I could even see one of the little girls’ eyes was sunk in, and she wasn’t able to focus.

      When Rose’s mom was alive, the children ate meals before they did their lessons at her house, but now that wasn’t happening. Culturally, that’s just not what men do. He opened his home and let children use the computers but didn’t notice otherwise. So, I found out how much money it would be to send them meals, maybe starting with one class being fed plus food to take home over the weekend.

      After two or three months of church members (at First Baptist Church at Palmer, Texas) sending money to feed them, we noticed a difference in their learning. Then others found out about helping with nutrition for children in Vietnam and wanted to sponsor some meals, and to this day we continue to add sponsorships for children’s health. But it hasn’t stopped there.

      We also realized that one of the little boys needed his eyes checked, so we checked out the cost of a taxi ride to the doctor plus an eye exam and glasses. It was $100, so two of the boys received glasses. Now it’s the girls’ turn for eye exams, but there are plenty of people in our church who want to help with their health needs.

      I had begun forming relationships with these kids and getting to know their stories by asking them or Rose questions, and although there was a language barrier, we could communicate with them. The girls are aged 10 to 15, so it made sense to begin introducing Girls’ Missionary Auxiliary (GMA) material to them. During our virtual sessions, we pair up — a big girl and a little girl sitting together — because the big girls read and understand better. We started with the Maiden step and the “I Am a Sinner” section in the GMA workbook, then on to “What Must I Do to be Saved.”

      I teach three classes a week at 6 or 7 a.m. because it’s evening there. On Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday morning, I get to start my day by teaching three classes and three sets of kids. They’ve memorized Rom. 3:23, the names of the first five books of the Bible and we are working our way through the Old Testament. Although we were teaching from the Bible, until Rose’s sister, Sally came to the States and brought Bibles back to them, they had never seen a Bible! English ESV Bibles are what we’re using for the Old Testament, because a Vietnamese-English parallel Old Testament is too large and comes in two different books.

      I wanted them to have the New Testament in Vietnamese so they could learn the language. For Vietnamese people, learning English is the key to success, so that was part of their enthusiasm about the Bible. We had asked people to donate their English Bibles because they don’t have them in Vietnam, but we were able to get New Testaments in both English and Vietnamese.

      Our little group of GMA girls had just finished the Maiden step’s “Sweeter Than Honey” lesson when we received the girls’ Bibles, and we repeated the lesson so they could actually hold in their hands what I had been teaching them. I talked about how God’s words are sweet, nourishing and satisfying and explained the words of the Bible and how we can be fed through them. Granted, the Bibles are only New Testament, but we went through all the Maiden memory work because most of the lessons are from the book of Romans.

      I had the older girls read the English, then the little girls read the Vietnamese, and they were able to comprehend it better that way. We went through the entire Roman Road using their table of contents to look up verses, and we talked about each verse. They’re getting really good at using their Bibles to look up verses.

      We also do sword drills using their English Bibles. The point of our lessons, besides learning about Jesus and the gospel, is to help them pass their English test in the sixth grade then again when they turn 16.

      All the kids who log in with us are Vietnamese, except for the ones in Malaysia, who speak Chinese. English is the second language in Vietnam now, so we need to get them proficient in it. One way we help them comprehend is if I type a question or comment into the chat, then they can “get it” more easily than if I just say the word or verse. Because some of the children come from a poor village, they would never have been able to do the lessons, so their parents love for them to come to Rose’s Dad’s house to get on the computers. They ride their bikes to the house, and they share, two kids per laptop. So, when I open up my screen, I have four screens with eight kids.

      They were very nervous at first and didn’t want us to hear their English, but finally at youth camp, Sally (Rose’s sister) was there, and she helped with my lesson and translated it to them. They were hesitant, but I told them, “You can do this by memorizing these words in the Bible.” The next week, I logged in and they recited Rom. 3:23 for me! They were just shy and nervous about saying it wrong. I also explained the creation story, Jesus’ birth, who God is, who Jesus is and how He’s the creator of the earth. I felt like that was very necessary because I didn’t want them to think God is like Buddha or any other gods they might know about.

      They might not be getting it all right now, but I pray that something is being comprehended and a seed is being planted as their English improves. As they’re exposed to more Christianity, I pray that their understanding of the gospel develops within them, and God will help them somehow open their hearts to understanding.

      Our church, First Baptist in Palmer, Texas, has set up an account for our church and others to donate money to feed them before their lessons begin. The money is sent to Rose, and Rose sends it to the lady in Vietnam who provides food for the students. Every day, we get pictures of what they’re eating, and we buy them vitamins monthly because they have never seen a doctor. They need to be strong and healthy, and their minds need to be working properly if they’re going to absorb what we’re teaching them.

      You can tell that they love the girl time, and that’s what GMA is meant to be. I was in GMA when I was a little girl and sat under Darlene Carey’s teaching at camp one year. Her mission-minded heart is the kind I pray to have. I think that’s why I work in the public school system and chose speech therapy with little kids. I also deal with their parents, so it all becomes my ministry for the Lord. It’s unbelievable how much I love these children that I have never personally met. My heart physically aches to be with them when we have to say goodbye each day. That kind of love can only be described in one way — it is given by God.