H’burg to Ho Chi Minh

Brent Finnegan -- May 19th, 2008

I spotted this EMU cross-cultural documentary as it was being posted on YouTube last night. Jon Helfers and Jon Styer documented their group’s trip from EMU to Vietnam in the summer of 2007. The documentary is split up into 16 chapters. A few highlights: the students’ visas to Iran are rejected, their visit to Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum, and bringing Vietnamese students back to Harrisonburg.

9 Responses to “H’burg to Ho Chi Minh”

  1. Jon Helfers says:

    Wow, I just started posting these to youtube and it has already made the news. That’s Harrisonburg for you, amazing!

    Just one comment there are now 17 chapters, chapter 11 was too long so I had to split it up for youtube. Also that section is in my opinion a highlight of the film; Mark gives a great account of visiting the Vietnamese American War museum in Ho Chi Minh City.

    Hope everyone enjoys the film.

    Jon Helfers

  2. Thanh says:

    This was a very interesting and impressive documentary, as well as a very interesting and impressive group of students and teachers participating in the program. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Kyle says:

    Why is EMU in Vietnam? Is it truly a “cross-cultural” endeavor or is it yet another Christian attempt to force their beliefs and values on another culture. (So well perpetuated by Christians under the euphemistic term “mission work.”) Folks, there is a reason why the rest of the world hates us….and it’s not just because GWB is an arrogant moron……….

  4. David Miller says:

    While I can understand that your opinion of missionaries is yours and therefor worthy of validation please be respectful to whom you are referring. If you have met this group of persons traveling and would characterize them in this manner then please say so, otherwise please know that you are stereotyping and many people locally are able to do amazing work even though they travel under the cross. (The new Rocky movie might be right up your alley though!)

  5. Mike says:

    “Folks, there is a reason why the rest of the world hates us….”

    Because America has the highest concentration of internet trolls?

    I find it hilarious that someone who claims to speak for “the rest of the world” is bashing people who are actually traveling abroad and learning about it.

  6. Del says:

    Somebody jump in here and straighten me out if I’m wrong but I believe the Mennonites were some of the few Westerners allowed to stay in the country after the fall of South Vietnam.

  7. JGFitzgerald says:

    The idea of Mennonite missionaries forcing anything on anybody is a humorous one. Perhaps Kyle is one of those posters who expresses an extreme attitude in order to mock the attitude itself with the strength of his expression.

  8. Draegn88 says:

    Perhaps it’s just YouTube; I have the volumn at max and can barely make out what is being said in the videos. There is also alot of background filtering in the videos as well.

    Was there a specific reason given why the visas to Iran were denied?

  9. Jon Helfers says:

    First, of all I’m glad that these videos can inspire some lively debate. Jon Styer and I spent a year bringing this film to fruition. It’s great that even after the original showing it is still having an impact on our community.

    Second, as a co-director of this film and member of the EMU student group that traveled to Vietnam, I would like to clear up what seems to be a few misunderstandings about the trip.

    To address Kyle’s concern, this trip was not evangelical in any form. The purpose—like most EMU cross-cultural trips—is not to “convert” people to Christianity but to create empathy with other cultures and people groups around the world.

    This particular cross-cultural was not one-sided but rather an exchange. One faculty and eight students (including Jon S. and myself, who were filming, not taking classes for credit as the others were) traveled to Vietnam for almost four weeks. Following the trip to Vietnam, two faculty and two students from An Giang University in Vietnam visited Harrisonburg for approximately the same amount of time.

    The purpose of this exchange was for EMU and AGU students to begin to see how the “other” (students from former enemy nations) lives. It was a small glimpse into the lives of another culture but it did build on a semester-long history course about Vietnamese history for EMU students and a similar curriculum called IC3 for the Vietnamese students. If you would like further information you can look at the IC3 website at: http://www.emu.edu/ic3/. I believe if you watch this film you will see that those students who participated in this cross-cultural had an experience that went from seeing students from other nations as the “other,” to seeing students from other nations as colleagues.

    It is true that EMU is a Christian university and some of the students who went on this trip would probably consider themselves Christians; thus some of the inspiration of empathy and understanding undoubtedly may be rooted in Christian and Mennonite values. However, by no means does this mean that those students and faculty from EMU who participated in this trip had any intentions of “converting” or “proselytizing” to Vietnamese or Iranian students who participated in the larger cross-cultural exchange program.

    Third, the IC3 program is not just between Vietnamese students and students from the United States; it also includes a university in Iran. The film only briefly alludes to the fact that this group of EMU students were supposed to travel to both Vietnam and to Iran. Unfortunately the EMU students’ visas were denied at the last minute and the group was not allowed to travel to Iran at that time.

    To my understanding the visas were rejected for several reasons. According to the faculty at the University in Iran the primary reason was that Mennonite Central Committee had sent a delegation to Iran a few months prior to our group’s intended travel. However, unbeknownst to our colleagues in Iran and our group, Mennonite Central Committee is only allowed to send one delegation to Iran a year. Consequently, because our visas were being asked for by Mennonite Central Committee, we were not allowed to go at that time. However, a few members of the group did later travel to Iran and meet with the students they had been dialogging with on-line for the past year. Undoubtedly there were other political reasons for our group not being granted visas but at this point it is speculation. Unfortunately Jon Styer and myself were unable to take the later trip and amend the film we made.

    I hope I have cleared up any misunderstandings and if others have questions or comments I welcome further posts to this blog, or you can e-mail me at jon.helfers@emu.edu.

    Thank you.

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