Southeast Asia is opening up to Christian mission, and The United Methodist Church is there on the ground floor. The area, which includes Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand, is one of more than a dozen "mission initiatives" of Global Ministries.
The first formal annual meetings of the mission took place early in 2008, but a United Methodist presence goes back to 1998. That year, a team from the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries made a trip to meet with Vietnamese Christians.
Vietnam now has about 60 United Methodist local churches and fellowships, most of which are in the Ho Chi Minh City area, although there are five newer congregations in the Hanoi area. Much of the church's social ministry in Vietnam takes the form of providing job training to women and scholarships that enable children to attend elementary school.
The United Methodist Church is quite new to Thailand, where the work began in 2006. There are three United Methodist churches, two of them established in 2007, and one fellowship in the country. A fellowship is led by lay people and may or may not have regular worship.
The United Methodist involvement in Laos began in 2004 with Hmong United Methodists in the United States. Now there are some 80 churches. Much of the Laos work is in community development. For example, there is a program to finance well-digging in order to help communities get clean water.
All of the mission initiatives of Global Ministries involve global networks of mutual support and fellowship. These networks are comprised of individuals, congregations, districts, annual conferences, and church-related institutions.
Sustained mission partnerships often emerge. For example, the West Ohio Conference is partnering with the Southeast Asia Mission. St. Mark United Methodist Church in Seneca, South Carolina, has engaged in the ministry in Laos from the outset. Santa Clara Korean United Methodist Church in San Jose, California, is partnering with Global Ministries in Thailand.
The Vangs serve in Laos, coordinating the ministries within the United Methodist Mission and being a liaison between the United Methodist Church and the Lao government as well as working in ministries with women and children. Read More
In October 2006, Global Ministries commissioned the first United Methodist missionaries to Thailand in South East Asia.
Global Ministries began work in Vietnam in 1998 when a team traveled to visit Vietnamese Christians and learn about their lives and ministry.