Selling tickets was neither fun or easy. The teach had to go to five different parishes to invite the people of God to attend the event. After working hard, 300 tickets were sold, and everybody waited impatiently for the big day to meet Fr. Martino Nguyen Ba Thong.
Finally the day arrived. The organizers showed up bright at early at 2pm at the restaurant, eagerly anticipating Fr. Martino's arrival. He walked in at 3pm with a T-shirt, shorts and bare feet, living up to his nickname as 'Homeless Priest'. The lack of sleep was clearly etched onto his face. With him came Sister Hanh from Georgia, Mr. Quoc from Austin. Everybody immediately rushed over to welcome him and moved his huge luggage to center stage. He disappeared for a while, and came back in his clergy uniform. Immediately he was surrounded by this group of people, all in admiration of this young priest who sacrificed everything to rescue and save children of sex trafficking back in his motherland and neighboring countries.
Guests began to arrive at 5pm, with the organizers split into 2 groups. One group worked as ushers, showing guests to their tables, while the other gorup set up a kiosk to sell t-shirts with designs reflecting One Body Village and their work. Miss Loc Ha, the MC began the event at 6pm, by asking Fr. Lam of the Order of the Holy Spirit to give a blessing, followed by a rendition of "Beside You, I am" accompanied by the choir. Mr. Martino talked about his work and shared heart wrenching stories of all that he had witnessed.
The organizers introduced singers to come up for entertainment, while Fr. Martino changed into costume for the next feature of the program.
The event closed with a young member from Austin, Texas, who, touched and inspired by Fr. Martino's work had designed the t-shirts sold at the kiosks. 200 shirts were sold that night. A youngster bought 20 shirts for his soccer team, while another bought 15 to give to his friends as gifts. Fr. Martino ended the event by expressing his gratitude to all the guests and benefactors. Even though it had not been organized as a fundraising event, many of the guests donated cash and cheques to support the children.
As a thank you gift, Fr. Martino handed out CDs 'Dead End', with songs and short clips to remind everyone that the children were not forgotten, despite their horrible pasts.
Thank you everyone for your support, and see you again other year.
July 23, 2009
Translated by Marie, Jacqueline Huynh and Mr. Phung. The original version in Vietnamese entitled "Tường Trình Tiệc 'Đến Với Các Em' Ở San Diego!"