My name is Truong Chinh Dinh and I was born in 1958 to a middle class family in Vietnam. We enjoyed a fairly good life until I was 8 years old. A series of incidences led me to start questioning the meaning of my life.
In 1975, the fall of Saigon made life even harder. Under the iron fist of the Communist government, we lost our freedom, opportunities and human rights.
In 1980, to avoid being conscripted and sent to the Vietnam-Cambodia war, my third elder brother and I decided to escape by hijacking a government boat to Thailand. This was when the first great miracle happened to me.
A small group of us were on the boat when suddenly, a larger group of soldiers got on. They were heading towards a different destination from our intended one. We were worried that we’ll be overpowered if we tried to force the boat to our destination. All of a sudden, it started to rain and all the soldiers moved to the passenger basement of the boat. The rain was brief but it gave us a golden opportunity to control the boat for a few minutes. We managed to steer the boat to our destination and no one was hurt. We thought that “Ông Trời” the Vietnamese God had saved us.
My elder brother and I stayed at a Thai refugee camp for two years before being accepted and resettled in Melbourne. We are thankful to God and Australia for their love for refugees. When we first arrived, there were not much help available. As such, we missed our family and suffered from loneliness. We also struggled to find acceptance within the Australian community (it wasn’t multicultural back then). To support ourselves and family back in Vietnam, we were often exhausted by hard labour work. It was a dark period for me and that’s when the second miracle happened!
It wasn’t as dramatic as the first miracle but it happened through a combination of incidences. Firstly, God reminded me of the kindness shown to us by the Baptist people we met in Thailand when we were refugees. Secondly, He sent a Vietnamese Student Pastor to visit me occasionally and then later on he invited me to join a small group of Vietnamese Christians (meeting at Reservoir Baptist Church) who welcomed me warmly to their community. Thirdly, God showed me his words when I started reading and studying the Bible in English. Through these incidences, I realised (in fact God opened my eyes, mind and heart) that the God of the first miracle is the God of the Bible. God told me what i needed to know. He loves me and his love is the meaning of my life.
From then on, I developed a deep desire in my heart. I wanted to help people know, experience and enjoy God’s love like I did. I started volunteering at church and driving non-Christian friends to our small worship service. I also accompanied church leaders with their visits and shared my testimony. Eventually, I decided to further my understanding of the Bible and took up courses at Kingsley and Whitley College.
In 1996, I married the love of my life, Phuong. God used her to make my life fully meaningful and He gave us a special gift – Samantha, my little “Imago Dei” in 1998. They are my third miracle(s).
These miracles helped me find the true meaning of my life and through my studies at Whitley College, I realised (again, in fact God opened my eyes, mind and heart) that I was called to pastoral ministry. The two verses that impacted me most are: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) and “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27).
I’m thankful for God’s calling and how He used other people to influence my future ministry and pastoral style. The Whitley teaching staff and BUV leaders (Dr Frank Rees, Dr Keith Dyer, Dr Geoff Pound, Dr Mark Brett, Dr Merril Kitchen, Dr Colin Hunter, Dr Ken Manley, John Simpson, Allan Marr, just to name a few) have been instrumental in helping me shape the development of my theology and pastoral ministry.
From 1999, I was also given the opportunity to serve with the BUV Multicultural Task Force (later known as Multicultural Ministry Group) where I developed a vision for a reverse Multicultural church that worships in different languages. The focus of the ministry is to attract English-speaking generations into a multicultural congregation. This may seem too idealistic and challenging with issues such as availability of facilities, the possible tension between diversity and integration, and the drastic changes of local cultures and sub-cultures etc., However my wife and I see ourselves as the first brick for this type of church and with God, all things are possible!
In 2001, God further refined my ministry direction and vision by showing me who he wanted me to minister to. Through Luke 4:18-19: “They are the poor, the forgotten and the marginalized”, I understood God’s calling and moved to Brimbank to plant a Vietnamese congregation.
The year 2006 marked the fine-tuning of our spirituality by an unexpected encounter with and experience of the Holy Spirit. Pastor Phong Truong helped us so much in understanding of them and he has since become our spiritual companion. Perhaps this is the manifestation of Acts 1:8 to remind us to “walk and live by the Spirit” rather than “just do ministry” by our own human strength and wisdom. We now define our ministry as “helping one another to be fulfilled by the Holy Spirit so that we can become like Jesus’ disciples who share God’s love and the Good News of Jesus to the poor and forgotten.”
We have also been blessed to be a member of the Vietnamese United Revival Ministry.
Please pray for my family and our community at Brimbank New Life Baptist Church as we continue to be faithful to the Word, the call, the vision and ministry that God has revealed to us.
Rev Truong Chinh Dinh
Pastor, Brimbank New Life Baptist Church