Vietnamese UMC makes history with groundbreaking11-04-2011
Vietnamese UMC makes history with groundbreakingBy Todd Vick
Sunday, Oct. 9 marked a historic occasion for the South Central Jurisdiction as well as the Arkansas Conference. That afternoon, about 55 people gathered to break ground on a notable United Methodist Church’s building—the first Vietnamese UMC in the jurisdiction.
Vietnamese UMC Fort Smith celebrated as they broke ground on their 4,000 square-foot building at the corner of Alabama and Albert Pike in Fort Smith.
The Rev. Phil Hathcock, director of connectional ministries and assistant to the bishop, brought greetings on behalf of Bishop Charles Crutchfield.
“You are in the thoughts and prayers of United Methodists in Arkansas today,” he told the congregation.
Vietnamese UMC is the first predominantly Vietnamese congregation in the jurisdiction, which includes United Methodists across eight states. While there are many Vietnamese mission churches in the jurisdiction, this is the first church to receive an official charter from the denomination.
“It’s a big day and a big step,” said church member Linh Hua.
The church began when a group left the local Vietnamese Baptist church and began worshipping in the choir room at St. Paul UMC Fort Smith. Now in its 11th year, the church has weekly attendance of about 30 people. In addition to worship, the church holds a monthly Bible study and has a mission outreach to several churches in Vietnam, including one through which 200 souls were saved last year.
The groundbreaking ceremony, just like the church’s Sunday morning worship, was multi-lingual. The Rev. Terry Gallamore, pastor of Vietnamese UMC, leads the congregation in worship by way of two translators, church members Do Van Le and Linh Hua.
The ceremony included Scripture readings, a message by the Rev. Mackey Yokem, superintendent of the West District, prayers, and the traditional row of people with shovels turning dirt. However, a unique feature of this ceremony was the singing: Hymns sung simultaneously in English and Vietnamese provided a Pentecost experience as people praised God in multiple languages and interpreted for each other.
“This is one of the greatest days of my life,” said Gallamore.
The church received in 2010 a $50,000 Catch the Vision grant for the purchase of land. The congregation raised other funds through the sale of egg rolls as well as profits shared from special first Saturday sales at Taipei, a local restaurant owned by one of the members.
The West and Northwest Districts provided additional funding, and the West District held a special Pentecost offering.
Vietnamese UMC now has $120,000, just short of their $150,000 goal. Their financial goal will provide enough money to get the building “in the dry”—that is, the exterior construction completed. After the building is in the dry, the congregation will finish the interior with labor provided by church members and other groups.
The Rev. Bob Crossman, Conference minister of new church starts and congregational development, pointed out that the location chosen by Vietnamese UMC provides good positioning for the church to attain Imagine Ministry’s goal of reaching the mission field. Two-thirds of the 3,000 Vietnamese residents of Fort Smith live within a five-mile radius of the church’s property.
The Rev. Vick serves as associate pastor for youth ministries at St. Paul UMC Fort Smith.