The lesson learned and oft repeated over the ten-day trip was “just because it is not on the team’s schedule doesn’t mean it isn’t the real plan.” In addition to the predicted challenges of being unfamiliar with the Vietnamese culture and language, the students were also faced with the unforeseen challenges of changed airline schedules, visa problems, and needing to make major curriculum changes to meet the unique needs of the host teachers.
The pedagogical environment of the Vietnamese classrooms varies greatly from school to school. Each group of students is often a mix of the multiple ethnic groups who live in the hill country and coastal areas of central Vietnam. Limited space and resources often require several classes to be taught simultaneously in the same classroom.
As the team became aware of the unique challenges presented in these classrooms, they determined it was necessary to completely alter the originally intended approach, retool the curriculum, and literally overnight come up with solutions that fit their pedagogical model.
The next several days of teaching were immensely successful: the Cairn team and their host teachers quickly grew from acquaintances to friends, and the developed methodologies began to meet the host teachers’ needs.
The team’s final sessions together included field trips to an Ethnic Museum in A Luoi that showcased the crafts and lifestyle of the diverse culture and an outing to the local mountainside forest and site of a multi-tiered waterfall, where the team’s hosts surprised them with a picnic lunch.
The final day of serving ended with a parting banquet, where tears, thankful hearts, and a promise to stay in touch via social media were exchanged between the two groups.
Although the obstacles faced on this trip were challenging, the Lord used what should have caused frustration and disappointment to weld the team together for His glory.
Dr. Edgar Hardesty is a professor in the School of Divinity. He can be reached at [email protected].