Southeast Asian Lutheran Schools Are Thriving

August 4, 2017 | Posted by Demian Farnworth

Thirty-six hours.

That’s how long it took LCEF President and CEO Rich Robertson and Vice President-National Lending Larry Crume to fly from the U.S. to Hanoi, Vietnam. Their goal?

Visit the Concordia International School of Hanoi (CISH).

CISH has been in operation for the last six years. In 2016, CISH dedicated their new building (financially supported by LCEF), an event in which Robertson and Crume had the incredible opportunity to participate.

However, launching CISH wasn’t without its challenges.

The school started with only 50 students—including Americans, Australians, Britons, Vietnamese and Koreans—and decided to base its operations in rented facilities in central Hanoi until it could build a permanent location.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t such a great idea. Enrollment at the school lagged behind expectations.

Why school membership lagged

Eventually, the school learned that parents in the community were reluctant to commit to a private international school without permanent roots. Once those roots were planted, however, membership rose.

Last year it climbed to 250 students. And with the new building and facilities, they’ve already grown by nearly another 120 students.

“The growth has been absolutely phenomenal,” says Crume. “To be able to provide a Christian education in a country that is not favoring Christian education is incredible work by the team.”

Also in 2016, CISH won the Lietz Mission Award at LCEF’s 2016 Fall Leadership Conference. This award recognizes the outstanding efforts of ministries associated with The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.

The importance of personal presence

Coincidentally, the Asian Lutheran Educators Conference was also being held that same weekend, so the pair had the chance to meet some wonderful people doing incredible work in the Asia Pacific region.

“We had the opportunity to spend time with several educators during the Asia Lutheran Education Conference,” Crume said, “which we sponsored.”

Robertson and Crume also visited the Hong Kong and Shanghai Concordia International Schools, spending time with the folks out there. Both Hong Kong and Shanghai have high enrollment. Both are positive influences on their communities. The two men made a lot of personal connections and learned about other ministry opportunities in Southeast Asia.

“Having a personal presence is such an important part of what we do,” said Robertson.

A promising future

Robertson and Crume visited the Church of All Nations in Hong Kong and toured some of the facilities at the Hong Kong International School (HKIS). The HKIS began in 1966 and has grown to be a multi-campus operation with more than 2,500 students and over 500 employees. Their visit was to discuss lending opportunities and LCEF investments.

In Shanghai, the primary purpose was to build relationships. CIS Shanghai had just welcomed Mary Scott as its newest head of school. LCEF provided initial financing for this school from its earliest days and enjoys a great relationship with it.

Asked if the trip was a success, Crume said, “Hanoi has such a promising future. We are looking forward to the wonderful influence that school will have on the students and their families and the community.”

Furthermore, enrollment projections indicate that CISH will be at capacity within the next few years. Once that happens, it will be ready to take on the second phase of its campus development. Praise God for bringing the light of the Gospel into the Southeast Asia mission field!

Demian Farnworth
Senior Content Writer for the Lutheran Church Extension Fund.