Hiep Vu and Tawny Thanh, Bolivia
Dear family and friends,
After days of prayer and reflection, we have decided to retire at the end of April this year. This newsletter will be the last one we send to you, our friends and families, through the Maryknoll Lay Missioners program.
When Vietnam started to open its doors in 1994, we followed in the footsteps of the Vietnamese Sisters Supports Association and, together with their founders, “anh chị Quý Lan,” visited the Vietnamese religious sisters who were quietly serving in the three main regions of the country. That was the beginning of a new calling for us, and five years later, after much prayer and discernment, we decided to join Maryknoll Lay Missioners.
We started our service with Maryknoll Lay Missioners in 2000 and for 10 years served in Asia. We took a few years off to serve our elderly father and then went back into mission in 2015. Being lay missioners has opened our eyes to being God’s beloved children, and we have learned many valuable lessons from serving in Thailand, Myanmar and Vietnam, and now in Bolivia.
Our most memorable lessons have had to do with love and forgiveness.
One of the people who taught us those lessons was Vic, an orphan living with HIV/AIDS in Thailand. Vic loved M&M candies. Each time we gave out chocolate treats, Vic had to have two of each color. He often hid them in a small bag and would then enjoy them slowly, never sharing with anyone else. One day Mack, another kid in the group, was sitting sadly by himself. His tuberculosis had gotten worse. He had finished his candy a long time ago. Vic was sitting next to Mack, watching him for a long time. Seeing that Mack was getting weaker, Vic decided to give all of his candy to Mack. Previously, Mack had frequently been provoked by Vic, who was jealous of him. How can I ever forget the affectionate gaze with which Vic looked at Mack when he gave him his candies. From then on, Vic would always sit next to Mack until he was taken to the hospital. Mack cried when they said good-bye, raising his hand and watching as he departed. Vic was with God a month later because of AIDS.
As we serve the poor and the marginalized in society, we experience God wanting to use us to convey His love to others.
We extend our deepest gratitude to you and our families and friends for accompanying us over the past 20-plus years. Your financial contributions have given us more means to serve. Your continued and silent prayers have been indispensable for our service years — from remote villages to social programs for children and teenagers and from computer classes to programs for people living with disabilities. We have always felt you nearby.
As we prepare to come home, we also want to urge all of you to continue to help Maryknoll Lay Missioners financially. The lay missioner program, which is separate from the Maryknoll Fathers and Sisters, depends on the contributions of generous donors like you and your family.
The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly reduced these contributions. Please include “Maryknoll Lay Missioners” when you are considering your financial contributions. Our fellow lay missioners in Bolivia will continue to use our remaining mission accounts for projects they are working on.
Although we will no longer be in mission with Maryknoll Lay Missioners, we strongly believe that God is still inviting us to follow Him and answer his call, even if it will be through a different direction and place according to His will.
After April 2021, please contact us via our personal emails —firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Our emails firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com will no longer work.
Best regards to you, friends and families. May the grace and peace of the Risen Lord stay with us forever. Please remember each other in daily prayers.
In God and Mary, Hiep & Tawny