“I escaped Vietnam with my younger brother in Jan 1982. I remember 17 people piled into a small boat, 7 yards long and 1 ½ yards wide,” shares Rev. Matthew Minh Le. “To this day, I know Jesus saved me. It was through the boat trip experience that I now have a clear sense of call doing God’s work. Experiencing the presence of God in the midst of danger gave me a deep faith and confidence in God. Escaping Vietnam was dangerous. If caught, I would face life in prison. I spent days in that small boat in the open sea. We could have drowned or died without food or water. However, we landed safely in Thailand. We were able to stay there for about 3 years. While there, our family applied for and was granted refugee status by the U.S. The U.S. transferred us to an Indonesian refugee camp. A member of the Christian Reformed Church in Garden Grove sponsored me and my family.”
Rev. Le started a church in Tustin, California with the support of Home Missions in 1992. The church merged with another congregation soon later, and he has served as the senior pastor of Little Saigon CRC since then.
When Rev. Le thinks about what he values about the CRC, he thinks of the mission-minded vision of leaders who had the foresight to engage the church in sponsoring refugees like him. He also appreciates Home Missions’ model of assisting congregations—they purchased the building for the Garden Grove church, but the church had to pay them back. “It is a good feeling to have partnership,” he says. He’s grateful for the open doors he sees for minorities and minority leaders in the CRC. “We have a church that expects everyone to work hard but is also willing to listen.”
As a leader in the CRC, Rev. Le sees discernment in the midst of a changing culture as a challenge for the CRC. “Knowing what to keep and what to leave behind is a challenge that most CRC leaders will have to face,” he says. “I am reminded of Paul’s pleas to Timothy not to neglect teaching of sound doctrine even as the people seek out teaching that fits with their lifestyle.”
In the coming years, Rev. Le hopes to see more support for churches that want to help missionaries to plant churches. He also hopes to see change in the expectation that newly-planted churches will be sustainable within 3 years. “Many Vietnamese people come from a Buddhist background and the concept of being and contributing to the church is a foreign concept to them. The transformation in their thinking will take years,” he says.
The Office of Race Relations is grateful for Rev. Le and his contributions to the Christian Reformed Church! May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and we're celebrating the gifts of people from these communities in the CRC. Thank you, Rev. Le, for sharing with us!
Together, we can truly become God's diverse and unified family. If you identify as Asian American (or Asian Canadian) or Pacific Islander, we'd love to hear from you. (Email the ORR communications coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below.) Look for more posts on the Office of Race Relations' Facebook page this month.