Vietnam is a country located on the eastern edge of the Southeast Asia peninsula and has over 2,000 miles of coastline. It has a population of over 100 million with the vast majority practicing a blend of Buddhism, Confucianism, Daoism and traditional ancestor worship that has been infused into every aspect of life. Less than 1% of the population are Protestant Christians.
Over the past thirty years, Vietnam has demonstrated extreme resilience in recovering from years of war and exploitation and today they are in a state of rapid economic growth. While this growth is positive and exciting, the community of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities remains hidden, marginalized and under-resourced. They have very few educational and job opportunities so it is not uncommon for someone with an intellectual disability to spend most of their days at home invisible to the rest of society. Their greatest felt need is friendship and a need to belong. The Christian community in Vietnam is the answer to this lack of friendship and belonging.
Although the Chistian community in Vietnam is small, it is enjoying a season of religious freedom. The doors are now open for local churches to welcome, equip and partner with neurodiverse individuals and their families for community transformation and the growth of God’s kingdom.
We are working in a major metropolitan city with others in our community to build, model and mobilize a movement of inclusive workplaces and accessible communities where people of all abilities can follow Jesus and transform our city. Our focus is on working with neurodiverse young adults and their families to provide dignity and independence through job skills training so they can make a successful transition into meaningful employment. Most of the young adults we work with are on the Autism spectrum, have Down syndrome or have other cognitive and developmental differences.
A few years ago, we launched a locally run and sustainable retail business and vocational training center for neurodiverse young adults. After completing the training program, we help with job placement assistance within our growing network of partner businesses. Another important way we are coming alongside these amazing adults is by providing social opportunities for them to make friends, have fun, serve in their community and develop a spiritual life with the support of peer mentors.