My teaching in Viet Nam in 2020 has looked radically different than in previous years. I had been scheduled to teach in Hai Phong and Nam Dinh in June of this year, but the COVID-19 crisis scuttled those plans. Instead, I was able to teach the Hai Phong group via Microsoft Teams the week of July 13–17 and the Nam Dinh group via Jitsi Meet the week of August 24–28.
I had finished the school year (March–May) at Bethlehem College & Seminary in Minneapolis teaching online using Zoom. However, Dr. Alvin Low, Director of ACTS International, had received reports of Zoom not being very secure from prying governmental eyes in Asia and preferred to use Microsoft Teams. This was a new program for me, so I thank Pastor Henry Johnson, who had taught in Viet Nam in May using Teams, for his patient instructions before I taught the Hai Phong group. For my week with the Nam Dinh group, ACTS transitioned to Jitzi Meet, which was much easier to use, fortunately.
The July class met in two groups, both of which were onscreen for me and for each other: one in Hai Phong and one in Quang Ngai province in central Viet Nam. The Hai Phong group usually consisted of about ten people, and the Quang Ngai had as many as seven. The August class was more diffuse, with the main group gathering at the church in Nam Dinh, but as many as four other sites joined, sometimes with just one or two people on screen. In total, the second week’s class numbered 13–14 people.
Classes for both weeks met Monday to Friday mornings, 8:30am to noon in Viet Nam time, which was Sunday to Thursday evenings for me, 8:30pm to midnight. I must confess that teaching for that length of time that late in the evenings, sitting at a desk and concentrating hard on a screen to hear and see the various groups, was a bit challenging. But it was very rewarding!
Class with the Hai Phong group began every morning with a short worship time of singing and a prayer. I have found these times to be a great blessing to me in the past, and this year was no different: I love hearing the indigenous Vietnamese songs, seeing the enthusiastic singing, and sometimes hearing songs that I know sung in their language.
After this, I began my teaching. We worked our way through the book of Exodus both weeks and managed to finish it in the five days—though the final day in Hai Phong went until 1:00am, my time! (They insisted on taking the extra hour, so we could do justice to the final chapters of the book.) It was great to work through this wonderful book, building on our classes on Genesis from last year. My wife helped me rig up a “whiteboard” on the wall of my study behind my desk, so I was able to illustrate and summarize lessons, including maps—which greatly helped my teaching, since I do not use PowerPoint!
I was assisted as always by Huong Nguyen, my able translator, a young woman in her mid-30s. Because of the dynamics of the video feed and room configuration, I was not able to see her while teaching with the Hai Phong group, but I was able to see her on-screen the second week and was blessed by her cheery disposition and smile. As always, she was very helpful, as was her husband Du on the technical side.
I again thank Dr. Low for the initial invitation to teach for ACTS International; Marli Kennell, ACTS Regional Director, for her constant availability to help; Pastor Henry Johnson for his Microsoft Teams help and reflections on his own May 2020 teaching; and Huong for her faithful service. I look forward to returning some time in 2021, Lord willing.
Dr. David Howard
Professor of Old Testament
- Pray for the Christians in Viet Nam who suffer harassment under a communist society.
- Pray for the continued faithfulness of the Vietnamese believers and for the spread of the teaching given.
- Pray for our students and faculty as they complete the last week of classes and finals.
- Pray for a continuing outpouring of His grace and mercy toward the funding of the remaining 148 Serious Joy Scholarships for this year.