Photo by Le Dac Phuc

Above, the Treadways meet with Phung Thi Gia, a teacher in Xuan Dai, Vietnam. 

Name: Karen and Major Treadway

Hometown: Major grew up in Clinton, Miss., and we worship with Northside Baptist Church when we're there. Karen grew up in Aloha, Ore., and we met and married at Village Baptist Church in Beaverton, Ore. (The place we have lived longest as a family is Salatiga, Indonesia, followed by Hanoi, Vietnam.) 

Assignment: As representatives for MCC’s work in Vietnam, we spend some days in the office in Hanoi and other days in meetings with partners and MCC workers.

“We enjoy connecting to people in Vietnam and having the opportunity to connect the people of Vietnam to people in other parts of the world.” – Karen Treadway

Typical office day: Days begin with Edward, our toddler, running into the bedroom, then we tend to Andrew, who turns a year old in September. After breakfast together, we walk to the MCC office for a morning of work, taking Andrew along. At midday, Edward comes to the office, and we gather with the MCC staff for lunch, talking about culture, life, work, family and everything in between. Following lunch is a rest time that takes us until 1:30 p.m., then work resumes. In the late afternoon we return home and spend time with our boys before dinner. We eat and put the boys to bed, then our house is quiet — or as quiet as it gets in a city of eight million.

Joys: Witnessing and being a part of cross-cultural learning and sharing— those “aha” moments of getting something about life in another culture. We also find great joy in working with Vietnamese staff who care deeply about the work of MCC not only Vietnam, but also in other countries around the world.

Challenge: Working in two different cultural interpretations of time. In the U.S. and Canada, where MCC’s home offices are, time is firm, definite, planned, exact. In Vietnam, time is important, but the level of its priority rarely supersedes the importance of relationships.

On communities crafting local solutions to their challenges: That is a key difference between charity and development. If the community takes part in finding the solution, they have a greater buy in for the duration of the project, and they are more likely to continue after MCC has fulfilled its commitment to the community. 

In Vietnam, there was a microloans and savings project working with a local women's union. MCC committed to contributing one portion to the community's two portions. As such, MCC contributed 20 million Vietnamese dong (approximately $1,000). Almost ten years later, and long after MCC's contribution to the project has ended, the community now manages a pot of 400 million dong – approximately $20,000! Even now, when MCC is no longer working with this particular women's group, the group continues to offer loans from this pool of funds and to increase the livelihoods of its own community members without the presence of an outside agency. 

"If the community takes part in finding the solution, they have a greater buy in for the duration of the project"

Deciding to serve with MCC: After we became engaged in December 2007, we started praying together about what ministry might look like in our lives as a married couple. We prayed and waited, prayed and waited, while trying to be as open as possible to whatever God might lay before us. A friend had mentioned MCC, and after months of job searching, Major checked out MCC's list of openings in July 2008. He applied for a position teaching at a Bible college in Nigeria, so naturally we ended up coordinating exchange programs in Indonesia!  

After completing a four-year term in Indonesia, we returned to Portland, Ore., on Lunar New Year 2013.  We were very open to future service with MCC, but we anticipated spending five or six years in the U.S. first. About nine months later, the Vietnam representative position became available. We immediately felt at peace about applying for the role, and a few weeks later we had accepted. Ironically and poetically, our plane landed in Hanoi the day before Lunar New Year 2014.

On starting a family while serving abroad: We have felt thoroughly blessed to start raising our kiddos in community-oriented cultures. Edward was born in Indonesia, and within 12 hours of his birth, he was being passed around between loving, caring arms of friends from Central Java. Similarly, here in Vietnam, Andrew was surrounded by love and care from our Vietnamese colleagues and international church community within hours of being born. Here in Vietnam, Edward and Andrew have several “aunties” – the kind woman who helps to look after our boys, two women from our office who are always politely competing for time with each of them and the many sellers along the market street between our house and the office, a route we walk daily.

So much of the experience of being a parent transcends culture. When someone sees our kids, we might not share a language yet, we might not know much about each other's cultures, but we certainly both understand the joys and challenges of being parents! There might be different norms of what you feed them, how you feed them, how you clothe them, etc. But every parent understands the joys of watching your children learn, grow and experience the world. We all know the challenges of teaching children how to behave, and the tantrums they throw when they are tired.

Favourite foods: In Vietnam, one of our favourite foods is called Bún Bò Nam Bộ.  It's a rice noodle dish with beef, fresh greens and herbs, crushed peanuts, fried shallots, bean sprouts, and a light, sweet/sour/slightly spicy sauce poured on top.

In Indonesia, one of our favourites was ikan bakar and ikan goreng, which are whole grilled/fried fish about the size of a dinner plate. You order one for a few friends and yourself to enjoy with rice and chili paste!