Given to God as a Tithe-Called to be a Pastor

STEP Student Reflection (Year 1)

By Pham Dinh Ton

My name is Pham Dinh Ton. I am Vietnamese. I am thirty-nine years old. I have a wife and two kids – a son and a daughter. I was born in a Christian family. My father has ten children and I am the last one. When I was a child, my father told me he would give me to God as a tithe. I did not know what it meant until God called me to be a pastor.

I love the Word of God. A pastor introduced me to studying the Bible from 2006 to 2008. In 2009, I received God’s calling to be a pastor. God led me to a Korean pastor working with a Mennonite church. I worked for him, and he introduced me to the Mennonite Bible School. I studied from 2010 to 2013. I graduated at the end of the year 2013. In 2015, I was ordained to be a pastor of a Mennonite church. From 2017 until now, I have been taking care of two churches. 

As a young pastor, I felt worried, tired, and at times empty. I needed to learn how to deal with my thoughts of self-doubt and the ability to study more, increase my knowledge, and to improve my skill set in pastoral care for my ministry, for the present and future of my congregation. This was the motivation that led me to look for a school to study in, and Bishop Tuyen Nguyen introduced me to the STEP program and encouraged me to apply. I joined STEP with joy and excitement. I did not worry about the school fees because Bishop Tuyen Nguyen helped me to apply for an LMC grant. However, I had to struggle a lot with my time. There was a lot of homework. It is easy to understand the content, but the language is challenging. Reading, understanding, and writing it down took me a lot of time. 

Phuoc Thien Mennonite Church in Vietnam. Photo provided by the author.

Since I joined STEP, I have had to pause or stop some projects in my ministry. My family time has also been limited, affecting the amount of play time I can spend with my children. My little daughter (4 years old) said, “I would like you to have time to play with me.” I struggled with balancing time to play with her while allowing time to complete my homework assignments. I thank God that He helped me to not give up and finish the first year of STEP. There were many times I would have liked to stop, to give up. But my supervisor, Bishop Tuyen Nguyen, did not allow me to stop, and my wife also encouraged me to continue. I know God has provided me this good opportunity to study and the Holy Spirit will help me to move forward in His will. God wants me to help His churches in Vietnam. God reminds me in 2 Peter 3:18 “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.” I recognize that God wants me to know Him clearly.

In my first year of STEP, God has taught me many things that are good and useful for me and my ministry. STEP has taught me to communicate for change; preparing my sermon with one theme. Anchored by one point that is easy to follow and understand, my sermons are better received by my audience, helping them to remember the scripture and apply it to their life.  My pastoral care ministry skills have also improved with an increased ability to listen and ask effective questions. God teaches me to walk as His disciple through various disciplines like worship, reading the Bible, praying, meditating, and fasting. Here is where my faith grows, in a personal, closer relationship with God.

I am now starting my second year of STEP and I pray that God continues to bless my ministry and family. That God provides me the strength to never give up on the calling to be a pastor, no matter the cost. God bless everyone. I pray the prayer of Paul in Ephesians 1:17 “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.”

Pham Dinh Ton lives in Long Thanh District, Dong Nai Province. It borders Ho Chi Minh City. He pastors two churches – Tan Hiep Mennonite Church and Phuoc Thien Mennonite Church. The numbers of two churches have over 150 members including children. He often uses his free time to fellowship with members in the church with tea, and coffee to build their faith. He says the job of a pastor is not easy, but he loves it.

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