10 Mar - Mennonite study book published in Vietnamese

News Service
March 10, 2010

Mennonite study book published in Vietnamese

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam - What We Believe Together was published in Vietnamese by the Vietnam Mennonite Church in 2009. Distribution began at the end of the year. The book is the first legally published Mennonite work in Vietnam since 1975. Approval by the government’s Committee on Religious Affairs assures that it can be used anywhere in Vietnam and will not be confiscated by the police.

What We Believe Together, written simultaneously in Spanish, German and English by Paraguayan church leader Alfred Neufeld, was published by Mennonite World Conference as a study guide for the “Shared Convictions” statement approved by the MWC General Council in March 2006. The book was MWC's 2007 selection for the Global Anabaptist/Mennonite Shelf of Literature.

When Pastor Sang, general secretary of the Vietnam Mennonite Church, received an English copy of the book from Luke Martin, former Eastern Mennonite Missions worker in Vietnam, he recognized its value for Vietnam. The English language text was simple and would be easy to translate into Vietnamese.

Gerry Keener, then an EMM worker in Ho Chi Minh City, agreed that the inclusion of input from the worldwide Mennonite church exemplified the value of the church as an interpretive community, a model greatly needed in Vietnam where many leaders and writers work in isolation.

Tran Thi Phuoc Ly, a professional translator with many years of experience interpreting, translating and teaching English, was invited to translate the book. Ly had become familiar with Mennonites at the Mennonite Student Center in Saigon when she was a university student in the early 1970s. In recent years, she served as interpreter for Keener when he taught Mennonite leaders in Vietnam.

Don Sensenig, former EMM missionary, Pastor Trung, president of the Vietnam Mennonite Church, and six Mennonite pastors reviewed the translation and made contemporary language suggestions. Pictures from Vietnam Mennonite churches and ministries were substituted for most of the original pictures in the book, giving the book an authentic Vietnamese “feel.”

Early responses from Mennonite leaders suggest that the book will be a significant resource in helping them understand themselves as Mennonites among other denominations in Vietnam and will help others to understand who Mennonites are and what they believe.

After Ly finished the translation, she said, “This is excellent for all new believers in Vietnam. We don’t have anything like this yet! Print 5,000 copies.”

Available funds, including some from MWC's Global Church Sharing Fund, allowed 2,000 copies to be printed. Keener then began exploring how to circulate copies among other denominations in Vietnam through the few Christian bookstores there.

Copies of the book are also being shuttled to North America for use in Vietnamese churches, an interesting change of direction for the flow of resources.

- Mennonite World Conference release with files by Gerry Keener, Chief Operating Officer for EMM

Mennonite World Conference is a communion (Koinonia) of Anabaptist-related churches linked to one another in a worldwide community of faith for fellowship, worship, service, and witness.