They were the first things I noticed when I initially walked into the 586 English Center in Can Tho last month. It was the beginning of my sixth mission to Vietnam, the highlight of my summer and increasingly my year. As an outreach into the community, the church I work with there began several years ago teaching English free of charge to school age kids in the area. After meeting in the church facility for a year, they were required to relocate and get licensed, both which turned out to be blessings. Beginning their second year, the school now has a waiting list and is looking to expand into a second campus, unbelievable just twelve months ago. The Lord has really blessed their efforts. That brings me back to the first sentence. What I saw on the wall of the school was a pair of announcements bearing my name in bold letters. Ngan, the director of the school, explained that it was publicity for a field trip and I was the drawing card. The excursion, to a wonderful park on the Mekong River, was open to the students and parents. And the ad campaign was a success. Previously, they had only four people sign up. Post Mr. Steve publicity.... seventy. That is no misprint- seventy. I thought about getting an agent on the spot.
You might wonder what the big deal was. Centers which supplement the English taught in Vietnamese schools are very popular. People from English speaking nations like the US, England, and Australia are in demand. Pronunciation is the major issue, in my opinion, for Vietnamese trying to learn my language. Pronunciation mistakes tend to be repeated over and over. So, an American who can help is a big deal. In a sense, I became a brand or logo. You may know if you read my Facebook accounts that I suffered a knee injury in Vietnam and was blessed to be treated by an excellent orthopedist. I filled out no paperwork and showed no identification, not even a passport. My X-Ray simply was marked, MR. STEVE. My medicine? Again, no paperwork and my prescription simply read, MR. STEVE. (Incidentally, total cost of everything? $30 USD!)
This week in my 8th grade class, I mentioned that in the opening of the Gospel of Luke, the author addresses the recipient of this work as Most Excellent Theophilus, leading some to believe Theophilus was a government official. But in the opening of Luke's sequel, Acts, the Most Excellent is dropped, leading some to believe he had become a Christian. And we often see the changing of names- Saul to Paul, Sarah to Sarai, Abram to Abraham, Jacob to Israel- is life changing. Interestingly, I had one of my Vietnamese students request an English name swap yesterday from Darius to Ethan to honor a family friend. You know, I see my role as similar to Aquila and Priscilla who taught Apollos the way of the Lord more accurately in Acts 18. The folks I work with in Can Tho know some English- in some small way, I just help them know it better. And if they want to change my name to Mr. Steve, so be it. I guess I'll find out their success rate when I go to apply for my visa next summer and simply write on the application, Mr. Steve. Well, maybe not. My fame might just be contained to the southern part of Vietnam!
Applicable quote of the day:“It ain't what they call you, it's what you answer to.”
― W.C. Fields
E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org