By Joyce Coronel
Tempe is thousands of miles from Vietnam, but a taste of home for many is just around the corner at two Tempe churches.
Mission del Sol Presbyterian Church, located on Warner Road west of McClintock Drive, has opened its doors to a Vietnamese congregation, the moving having been announced in an email message to parishioners from Pastor David Hodgson.
“They will be using the hall on Sunday afternoons between noon and 6 p.m. and we are welcome to join them for worship anytime, even as they want to be involved in some of our mission projects,” the Mission del Sol email reads in part.
The new congregation numbers 100 people but the reach goes far beyond what takes place at Mission del Sol. The Lord’s Church of Praise, as the Vietnamese congregation is known, will be livestreaming its bilingual services in a broadcast they say reaches 100,000 believers in Vietnam.
“They are a mission church, both here and in Vietnam, and are drawn to our Mission Hall as the perfect place to worship and from which to broadcast,” the Mission del Sol email states.
Hodgson’s message indicates his church is willing to sign a 3-year lease; Lord’s Church of Praise has said it will invest $50,000 in the Tempe church’s hall to paint, build a stage and improve acoustics and lighting, Hodgson noted.
But Mission del Sol isn’t the only Tempe church to embrace the Vietnamese community. Holy Spirit Catholic Church on McClintock north of Guadalupe Road has been holding services in Vietnamese for several years now.
The Rev. Peter Bui, pastor of Holy Spirit, came to the U.S. as a refugee from Vietnam in 1978. He was 5 years old and joined the wave of thousands of “boat people” who entered the U.S. during the 1970s. One of 12 children, he remembers the machine-gun-toting pirates who accosted his father’s fishing boat, weighed down with dozens of relatives as they made their perilous journey to the U.S.
The 40-something pastor rose from his humble roots to eventually study philosophy and theology at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum in Rome. He speaks five languages.
Bui said that about 400 people attend the 4 p.m. Vietnamese Mass on Sunday afternoons at Holy Spirit. A Vietnamese language and religious education program attracts about 120 children for Sunday afternoon classes that begin at noon.
Being able to worship God in their Vietnamese language is something Bui said is paramount for the community.
“It’s very important for them, especially the older generation that can’t understand English,” he said. “They feel much more at home just hearing the language.”
Not everyone who attends the Vietnamese Mass at the church is from Tempe, Bui said. Many come from Gilbert, Queen Creek and southeast Chandler.
“They make a sacrifice every Sunday to attend. They don’t want their kids to lose their culture.” The Vietnamese are not the only Asian Christian community in Tempe and West Chandler. Half a mile from Mission del Sol, St. Columba Kim Korean Catholic Church on McClintock south of Warner is home to about 250 Korean Catholics.
All services at the church, including two weekend Masses, are in Korean.