Anh Sau, VNCS worker carrying relief supplies. MCC Photo by Lance Woodruff
Vietnam Christian Service is a cooperative relief and service program of Church World Service, Lutheran World Relief, and the Mennonite Central Committee. Personnel, financial resources, and material aid are drawn from each agency...
Our cooperative effort emerges from the shared cncern and the interest of many American Protestants for the agony and suffering of the Vietnamese. Our desire is to relate helpfully to the people caught in this tragic situation...
Twelve major Protestant groups are represented on the staff. Most of the personnel are in Vietnam for two to three years...
(Vietnam: Who Cares? Atlee and Winifred Beechy, Herald Press, Scottdale, PA, 1968, pp.142, 143.)
Vietnam Christian Service was a unique ministry born of USA church inspiration and support, carried on in the ecumenical context of the World Council of Churches, sensitive to the established churches in Vietnam and the Christian Conference of Asia service program. This ministry had elements of refugee relief, long term reconstruction, training of social workers, physical therapists and a wide range of services--all done within the tragic context of the Vietnam war and the divisiveness that war caused internationally and in the USA...
In this decade, VNCS involved approximately 200 Vietnamese and 200 overseas staff and used resources in excess of $10,300,000.
The general goals for VNCS, as stated in the "Vietnam Christian Service Objectives and Philosophy" of June 8, 1966 were that the organization sought:
- ...to carry out a personalized, efficient and impartial ministry to persons in need.
- ...to carry out a ministry of Christian Service in the midst of disorder and suffering
- ...to witness to the cross of Christ and to the reconciling power of love in the midst of violence, fear, hate and despair.
Bread distribution point near Saigon, 1966. MCC Photo by Lance Woodruff
An August 1, 1967 VNCS program review, in a revised version of the April 1966 paragraph, quoted above, added these thoughts:
We are not concerned about the racial background, the religious or political beliefs of those we help...We are also giving special attention to the needs of children in the areas where our teams are working. We wish to be continually aware of the changing needs in this country and the most effective ways of meeting these needs.
A revised "VNCS Philosophy, Objectives and Guidelines" became effective on January 1, 1973...
Direct service activities by VNCS are to be discouraged so that training objectives may be foremost, with Vietnamese rendering whatever direct services may pertain. The principal goal is to meet acute human need--irrespective of ethnic background, religion or political creed-in a style that enhances the dignity of the Vietnamese with whom we serve...Such training may be in public or private institutions and will pertain through the refugee work as well. It is so important that it must permeate all VNCS activity.
(Vietnam Christian Service: Witness in Anguish, Church World Service, 1976, pp. 3, 30, 31, 36.)
Vietnam Christian Service was formed in late 1965, and remained active in Vietnam until April, 1975. Mennonite Central Committee withdrew from the VNCS partnership in 1972.