Brother John Mai (NO-SF) spent the summer doing service in his home country, Vietnam. He joined an educational service trip organized by a Brother from Vietnam that included visits to Catholic parishes.
Brother John Mai came to the United States from Vietnam in the 1980s after several tumultuous years. His strong desire to help the poor in Vietnam has motivated him to go back to his home country to do service almost every year since 1995. “I feel very, very happy to do that work because I feel those kids are very, very poor and very hungry–not only hungry in food, they are hungry in education,” Brother John said. “They are happy. We are happy to see them happy.”
This summer, service in Vietnam included teaching children in a church as part of a summer program. The church welcomes children of all religions and teaches them math, science, reading, writing, and English. Children also have the option of studying catechism and attending Mass.
Brother John did not only work with children, he also gave lessons in the use of computers to Carmelite nuns in his hometown of Nha Trang city in Vietnam, along with members of other orders from various towns. He taught them to make video slideshows and DVDs and how to use their creations for liturgy, prayers, retreats, and activities for teenagers.
The government in Vietnam took over the Brothers’ schools after the fall of Saigon in 1975. The Brothers were determined to carry on their mission and continued to educate and serve the poor outside of the formal classroom. They teach catechism in churches, tutor students in various facilities, and operate formation houses and programs to recruit new Brothers. At present there are 95 Brothers in Vietnam and three Brothers in Cambodia. The Brothers had served in Cambodia from 1906 to 1973, and the Vietnamese Brothers returned there in 2004 to teach the poor and care for sick children.