In various Vietnamese communities, numerous health initiatives have been started in recent years to spread wholistic lifestyle approaches and guidance on enhancing the quality of health. The Adventist communities in this area have focused on building relationships with the larger community through this medium.
A culmination of health programs occurred at the Forward Venture Community Center (UCI) in Hanoi, Vietnam, with a two-day mental health seminar held November 18-19, 2022.
The Forward Venture Community Center was inaugurated in 2018 and is a seven-story building that houses a bookstore, a health food store, a foreign-language school, a music school, a health center, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) in Vietnam headquarters, and meeting halls for two congregations.
Six literature evangelists were dispatched to Hanoi ahead of the latest meeting to lay the groundwork and make the required arrangements. They ran food programs, fun runs, soccer club meetings, and culinary lessons.
This event is significant for the largely Buddhist and folk religion nation, leaders said. Seventh-day Adventist congregations in Vietnam have only been able to share on a small scale in previous years. This initiative to reach the community through health programs has led the way for two individuals to accept Jesus in baptism.
More than 40 attendees joined the meeting in response to the invitation to the mental health seminar. After the pandemic had been going on for more than two years, many people experienced significant mental health problems. These gatherings inspired the Vietnamese communities to seek help, advice on their health, and all-encompassing actions to lessen mental health symptoms.
The two-day mental health seminar was organized by the Southeastern Asia Union Mission under the coordination of health director Pham Nguyen To Phuong. “Organizing a meeting in Vietnam was challenging, but with the help of the government and several meetings, we were able to plan appropriately for this gathering, and this mental health seminar was put together,” she said. According to To Phuong, the meeting was the outcome of persistent prayers, because everything proceeded smoothly under God’s direction.
Several guests from the Southern Asia-Pacific region attended the session as well. Health ministries director Lalaine Alfanoso and Adventist Health Care director Jo Ann Amparo were present at this important meeting.
General Conference health ministries associate director Torben Bergland provided incisive comments on mental health and spirituality during the session. He based his opening remarks on Genesis 1:26, 27. Bergland explained the importance of being made in God's likeness and how our entire humanity reflects the God we worship. “Our character should manifest Jesus as we are created in His likeness,” he said.
Alfanoso agreed. “There are so many in our cities who are tired, depressed, lonely, confused, weary, torn, broken, and dysfunctional, and our approach should address their needs,” she said. “I would like to challenge our dear pastors to incorporate comprehensive health ministry in their evangelistic approach. It is something that can break down prejudice and serve as an entering wedge for the gospel ministry.”
She reminded attendees that the outreach center in Hanoi is hosting several health programs for the community. “These programs can increase the Adventist influence in the community and open opportunities to share services and information to improve their lifestyle further,” she said.
Vietnam is one of 14 countries in the Southern Asia-Pacific Division. The Vietnam Mission is home to more than 14,000 Adventist members in 19 churches and 169 companies.