Paul Cao, pastor of Vietnamese Baptist Church (VBC, Hội Thánh Báp-Tít) of High Point, North Carolina, believes that a church should not simply be a building people visit once a week.
Instead, his church family has sought to reach the lost and the lonely in the Triad’s Vietnamese community for the past 10 years.
One way that VBC reaches out to its community is by opening its doors to commemorate one of Vietnamese culture’s most significant events: Tet, the Vietnamese New Year. Tet is a time of celebration — the celebration of new blessings and resolutions. Cao said that many Vietnamese families only make certain dishes to celebrate Tet “to make it even more special.”
‘Like a fresh wind’
Despite cold weather, every seat was filled as the community showed up to this year’s event. VBS members were encouraged to invite family, friends and local community members.
“This year was like a fresh wind. People came out and we were surprised at how the community came out to celebrate with us,” Cao said.
Sam and Hannah Nelson, members of Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh, attended the Jan. 30 event as well. It was Hannah’s first time at a Tet celebration.
She said, “I was captured by the pure joy of these Vietnamese believers and how much they enjoyed being together. Whether we were singing worship songs, listening to teaching, eating delicious food, dancing or singing karaoke — there was joy, laughter and a sense of family throughout the entire night. I also felt instantly welcomed — even though I looked very different from everyone else in the room, I felt like I belonged.”
Pointing to God’s word
Sam, director of young adult discipleship at Providence, delivered a message on the rich man and Lazarus from Luke 16:19-31.
“My prayer leading up to this sermon was that this group of believers would find absolute joy and satisfaction in the word of God,” he said. “Oftentimes we can forget about the treasure trove that is God’s Word, and so I wanted these Vietnamese believers to be amazed at the beauty and simplicity of reading the Bible and responding in faith.”
On top of sharing the joy that is found in Christ, leaders also shared about Vietnamese culture and history with the younger generation.
Leading up to the event, many days were spent preparing a traditional long rice cake, Banh Chung. Church members helped prepare the ingredients, teaching the younger kids how to carry on the tradition. The men typically cook it, which by itself can take more than 10 hours. The rice cake feeds the community and brings everyone together.
“We also have fun games that are similar to what we do in Vietnam and then we have cultural songs that will encourage singers inside and outside the church to come and celebrate with us,” Cao said.
Apart from celebrating Tet, VBC stays active within their community all year long. From volunteering at Habitat Restore and Greater Outreach — an extension of Baptist Childrens’ Home in Thomasville — to working with OneBlood to host a blood drive and working with World Relief to help settle Vietnamese refugees, they love and serve their community to show them Christ’s redeeming love.
“Above all else, our heart is to share the good news of the gospel with those around us,” Cao said. “We want to share with them the message of Christ and how He can bring new life … not only the new life here on earth but an everlasting life. It’s our goal and our purpose to share that with our friends and family.”
EDITOR’S NOTE — Makayla Riggs wrote this article that was first published on Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s website.