Returning to Vietnam

It was the end of summer in 1967 and my senior year in high school was about to begin, I had just spent a couple weeks with my Marine Corps sweetheart and steady boyfriend, Don Mundy, and he was shipping out to Vietnam.

I vowed to write to him every day and made good on my promise, although there were some days that I had a difficult time putting my thoughts on paper and other days that I shouldn’t have written anything. His responses seemed slow in arriving (it often took two weeks to get a letter from Vietnam) and many times the letters were stained with mud because he carried them in his pocket as he walked through rice paddies.

The nightly news showed images of the “conflict” every night bringing the war right into our living rooms and the way that we kept “score” of who was winning, was through body counts. It was a time of turmoil in the U.S. and as an impressionable teenager, I felt caught in the middle. On the one hand, my sweetheart was doing the job he was trained for and was serving his country like so many other young men had done in the past and he deserved the heartfelt gratitude and prayers of everyone in the country, but instead of looking at those young men as heroes, many people blamed them for the war itself.

On the other hand, war is never pleasant and I’m a peace lover at heart. I suppose I wanted to be a “flower child” but I wanted to support Don in what he was doing for our country and was angered by those who didn’t revere and honor our military.

To make a long story short, Don survived the war with relatively few physical problems and arrived back in the states via Great Lakes Naval Hospital, we were married in March 1969 shortly before he was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps.

We are going to celebrate 40 years of marriage on March 8, and on March 9 he is shipping out to Vietnam again.

Don has been selected to go to Vietnam as part of a delegation of nine people with the Shawnee Valley District of the United Methodist Church. He will be among those helping to select the first Methodist Seminary inside Vietnam and will not only be visiting many of the Vietnamese house churches, but will also help in selecting the facility. The facility will be located in Ho Chi Minh City and is expected to house a school to train pastors, a clinic, a worship center, day care, senior center and a library. The gospel message is spreading rapidly in Vietnam and the Vietnamese government has accepted and recognized the United Methodist Church for the first time in history.

When Don received word that he would be part of the missionary team he was overwhelmed. He is excited to be going back to Vietnam carrying the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ instead of carrying a machine gun and hopes to make some new friendships and share his experiences as a pastor.

According to those who have initially made trips to the country, most of the Vietnamese people who are members of the house churches are between the ages of 20 and 30. The number of house churches has grown exponentially from only a few several years ago to more than 100. There are more than 140 who are in line to become pastors and the Methodist church plans to fast-track them into that position to keep up with the growing Christian population.

Our District Superintendent Joseph Bishman has shared that most of the population of Vietnam is younger and that they have no remembrance of the Vietnam Conflict, but the team will have an opportunity to meet veterans from the war who are now Christians. The trip promises to be a time of healing and restoration for several of the team members who are veterans of Vietnam.

Once again Don will be serving in Vietnam, doing what he has been trained to do and I honor and revere each team member for their service to God and the sacrifice each is making.