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Mourning the death of her mother, Que N. Nguyen was 17 when she boarded a plane in Vietnam with her father and two younger siblings.
They came to the United States with only $50 and the suitcases they were allowed to bring. Her father, Vy, spent years in a forced labor camp after the Vietnam War. Immigrating to the United States proved to be a new opportunity for him and his family.
Yet culture shock combined with grief overwhelmed the teenage Que, who had left behind everything she had ever known.
She did not expect the journey to eventually lead to a saving relationship with Christ and positions of ministerial leadership.
Nguyen is pastor of the Vietnamese Christian Center in Worcester, Massachusetts, and the new interim president of the Vietnamese Assemblies of God Fellowship.
Born in 1974, about six months before the end of the war, Nguyen lived in Ho Chi Minh City, known as Saigon before the end of the war. His father served as a captain in the South Vietnamese army, assisted by American troops. After the war, the victors sent Vy to a prison re-education camp. The newly victorious government also took away Que’s grandmother, a colonel in the Women’s Armed Forces Corps.
Nguyen was 7 years old when her mother, Nga Mai, woke her up one morning to tell her that her father had returned.
“I looked at this man I had never met in my life,” Que recalled. “I didn’t quite know what to do.” Although polite, she did not kiss him.
Que had little hope in an American relocation program, so she focused on her studies at school in the communist nation. A picture of North Vietnamese revolutionary Ho Chi Minh was to be the biggest image displayed in every household.
Her exposure to Christianity came through a tract titled “Unconditional Love”, which she found in her mother’s closet. Later, she heard a prayer before a friend’s birthday party meal. She believes these represented God planting seeds.
In 1989, his mother fell ill and died. Nguyen, then 15, says she became depressed and isolated.
“I didn’t want to talk to anyone,” she said.
When her family – including her sister Hang and brother Khanh – emigrated from Vietnam in 1992, Que faced more pain, leaving behind friends and relatives from a time before social media and text messaging. .
“It was really a low point in my life,” she says.
They settled in Jersey City, New Jersey, and her father worked 10-hour days washing dishes in New York. The British English Que had learned in Vietnam did not resemble the dialect spoken by Americans, so she had difficulty understanding people.
Six months after arriving in the United States, Vy Nguyen’s former army buddies moved the family to Worcester. Life has become calmer.
“But for me, emotionally, I was a wreck,” she says.
The trajectory of his life changed after his father met Pastor Samuel Dong Truong and his wife, Esther, during an ESL class. The Truongs told Vy about Jesus.
Suddenly, Que’s father started going somewhere every Sunday afternoon. He said little until Memorial Day 1993, when he asked Que if she wanted to attend a church picnic. She did not do it.
NEW DIRECTION OF LIFE
But in mid-June, the pastor invited the family to lunch. Que agreed to go. There, Esther Truong told Que how Jesus died to pay for sins so that those who believe may have eternal life. She asked if Nguyen would like to pray to Jesus and receive him as Lord and Saviour. Nguyen says she felt a rush in her heart and prayed.
Nguyen began attending the Vietnamese Christian Center, was baptized, and joined the worship team. The pastor asked his son, Phuong Truong, to teach Nguyen to drive a car.
Phuong told his mother that Nguyen talked too much. But after finishing driving lessons, he kept calling Que.
Nguyen graduated from Worcester Polytechnic Institute with a degree in biochemistry in 1997. She and Phuong Truong married in 1998. For seven years, she worked as a research associate for a pharmaceutical company, before returning to the school. She graduated from the School of Pharmacy in 2007. She has been a clinical pharmacist for 15 years.
During this time, Nguyen held various roles in the church, including as a translator after her stepfather moved to Florida in 2003 for health reasons. While leading children in worship in 2009, Nguyen says she heard God’s call to train future church leaders.
She attended classes at the Southern New England Ministry Network School of Ministry for two years. After the pastor resigned, Nguyen believes God told him to take leadership.
“I didn’t want to,” she said. “I am a woman and this is an Asian church. In Asian culture, men are always the leaders. But she received her ministerial credentials, and members of the Vietnamese Christian Center church elected her pastor, a role she assumed in 2013.
Nguyen still works full-time as a pharmacist for the Department of Veterans Affairs in Worcester. The normal daytime office hours of the outpatient clinic allow him to have the dual role.
In 2011, Nguyen and her husband became parents to Timothy and Josephine in 2014. More recently, Southern New England District Superintendent Nicholas W. Fatato encouraged Nguyen to seek ordination.
At the request of Dennis J. Rivera, director of the AG’s Ethnic Relations Office, Nguyen became acting president of the AG’s Vietnam Association in May, a month after receiving her ordination.
One of Nguyen’s goals is to develop training materials in Vietnamese for those called to be ministers. She encourages future church leaders to get accredited with the AG and to work with Global University to provide them with an online training program.
“Language evolves,” she says. “We need training materials for ministers, written in Vietnamese for Vietnamese Americans. We have adopted some of the cultures/values here. So we are shaped a little differently from the people who live in the old country.
Nguyen also wants to connect ethnic churches to their local district/ministry networks and the General Council, which can provide programs, training conferences and other information.
Daniel T. Lam, treasurer of the Vietnam Association of GA, pastor of the Vietnam Assembly of God in Boston.
“Que is a great leader,” Lam says. “She is very well organized. She knows how to bring people together. His ethics are well known and respected. She has a good relationship with many people and many pastors respect her. He is a very easy person to work with. »