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In the beginning, though, it looked like Le's children might be right. On the family's first day in Five Points, thieves removed the snow tires from Le's old car. The second day they took the battery. "Do not panic, kids, I comforted them. I put a sign on my car...'Friends, God loves you, and we love you, too.' After that, nobody disturbed us."
At the time, the Vietnamese Evangelical Church was holding its afternoon services in Aurora. But Le also liked to have a neighborhood house of worship. With no Baptist church nearby, Le and his family joined the Agape Christian Church at the corner of 25th and California streets ("Sanctuary," August 15) so that they would have a place to worship on Sunday morning.
At Agape, Le met the Reverend Robert Woolfolk, a leader of the black community. "As his music director had just left," Le remembers, "he asked me to take this position and my daughters to play the piano and organ."
One day Le told Woolfolk that he dreamed of studying theology. The reverend gave it some thought, then called the Denver Seminary and arranged a meeting between Le and the dean of students. "You need a full scholarship, don't you?" the dean asked Le. "So you will have to pray hard, because you have to get approval of all seven members of the leadership board."
Le did as he was told. Two weeks later a letter arrived notifying him that he had been accepted with a full scholarship to study for his master's of divinity. If he had not been willing to move to Five Points and trust in God's protection, Le would tell his listeners, he never would have met Robert Woolfolk, his friend and benefactor.
By 1988 Le's far-flung congregation had grown to the point where he decided he needed to hold services in two locations: Denver and Aurora, where he had bought a home.
That house was finally filled the next year, after the government of Vietnam allowed Le's wife and two youngest daughters to join him. When at last they were able to put their arms around each other again, Le knew exactly how long it had been: "Seven years, one month and seven days."
It was a good year all around. In August 1989 Le received his master's degree and was ordained. In September he opened two more Vietnamese missions--one in Boulder and one in Westminster, which would later move to Northglenn. Those were followed by a Colorado Springs outpost in June 1990.
Out of nothing had sprung five Vietnamese churches. And these churches did more than attend to the community's spiritual needs. They offered programs designed to aid Vietnamese refugees in their adjustment, including English instruction and classes to help them understand their new country. Church projects provided newcomers with places to live and job opportunities, as well as clothing, furniture and other household goods. There was even a program to help bring Amerasians to this country. Most of them children of U.S. servicemen and Vietnamese mothers, they were not accepted in Vietnam. The Vietnamese Evangelical Baptist Churches in Colorado--as Le's organization was now known--brought these children over and even tried to locate their fathers. Sometimes the men already had wives and families and didn't want to meet their Vietnamese offspring. But others were happy to be reunited with children who now often were grown, with families of their own.
With Le running five churches and assorted programs, his friends and family wondered if he was spreading himself too thin. "My answer was, 'This is the Lord's business, not mine. I am just a tool, ready for his use.'"
Two years after he finished writing My Life, publishing it himself in a modest booklet, Vinh Le keeps adding new chapters. The ranks of his Vietnamese missions have grown by two more churches--one in Denver and another in Englewood--with a total congregation of about 500. Le no longer ministers to them alone; he's been joined by four other Vietnamese pastors and is solely responsible only for the Aurora and Englewood congregations.
Le is finishing up his doctorate through Golden Gate Baptist Seminar in San Francisco. All six of his children have attended or are attending college; they are an American success story. Two daughters have married and moved to Atlanta, but Van leads the choirs at his father's churches, and the rest of the children sing or play the organ there.
Le is a happy man. Even when he describes the darkest moments of his past, he can hardly speak a sentence without laughing. The dragons have been vanquished. There are no obstacles that cannot be conquered by faith.
The next mountain he wants to move is back in Vietnam, where two of his sisters still live and where he hopes to establish a college of theology. Named after an Old Testament king who returned from Babylon to rebuild Jerusalem, the project is currently mired in bureaucracy; the Communist government is quick to ask for money but slow to live up to promises.
"But Lord willing," Le says, "someday we will return--not to stay, but to leave others to spread the gospel."