Before this trip, Hanoi was the farthest North destination that I’ve been to. Many people said: “A trip to Lao Cai – Sa pa this season? Are you crazy? Want to die?” I’d never known how frost of the North really was so I wanted to have experience there - a place where my father was born.
This is the first time John has been in Vietnam
All my life Viet Nam has always been a spectra or a dream to me. With all my close family members in the USA, there's little emotional attachment or incentive for me to travel back. This dream of returning, however, reluctantly became a reality for me this week.
A jail cell with 20 sets of arms reaching out yearning
I've heard things and seen things on TV but nothing will compare to seeing things live from my own eyes. Words cannot describe the feeling I felt when I saw a jail cell with 20 sets of arms reaching out yearning for a hand shake and/or someone to talk to...the only thing is that they're not criminals. I stand to watch and comprehend what was going on and slowly noticing I'm holding out my breath to a funky odor not sure where it was coming from.
Father Martino and Angela with OBV children
The past week has been a whirlwind of emotions. As the mission is nearly coming to an end, I feel that I have already experienced a lifetime of lessons and wisdom. I go to bed every night with my heart racing and my mind pacing while reminiscing about events from the previous day. From meeting the OBV children to visiting with the homeless, mentally ill, and physically disabled orphans of Can Tho, I have realized they all share a commonality of sufferance. The suffer physically, mentally, and spiritually. Every face lacks colour and every pair of eyes lack sparkle. I see a sadness in the eyes of the OBV children through their playful exterior. They are young, SMALL, and look half their age. They are underdeveloped and malnourished. Their subtle reactions and non-verbal cues reveal the betrayal they have experienced and still relive every day. In one moment, one of the children would laugh and play, while in a another second she would withdraw from the group with a waterfall of tears without notice. It remains unbelievable to me that there are thousands of children like them still being sexually, physically, and emotionally abused every day by men and women who are supposed to love them, support them, and guide them.
John with OBV children
What should I say about my first trip to Viet Nam? I love the fact that I'm visiting the land of my ancestors. There's so much to see and learn.
On this trip with Fr Martino and One Body Village, I've learned a very important lesson. The world is as beautiful as it is ugly.
Is my love desolate?
As usual, in January every year, Father Nguyen Ba Thong has a month for "resting in busy" in Vietnam. It is called "rest" as he can rest from his mission of serving God's in the U.S. It is called "busy" as he spends this little time coming and sharing with many people who need his "one voice, one hand" in Vietnam.
This is a reflection of I.V. – a volunteer for OBV, working in a hospital in Chicago. She attended an auction in OBV’s fundraiser night and won a special handicraft of an OBV girl – a cross stitch painting. This painting is hang in her front room making many people interested and curious about its origin. When hearing I.V.’s explanation, they are so touched. The painting is about a beautiful girl and become a motivation for I.V. to arrange her job only in one day to join mission trip in Vietnam, Cambodia with Father Martino in November, 2012.
This is a reflection post written by Vy Dinh. Vy Dinh is a volunteer usually helping OBV to organize many Awareness night. She joined the group during the mission trip in November 2012 and these are some of her thoughts about it.A bulletin board in the kitchen is decorated with a calendar and a long list of chores for the children living there. On Monday, X and Y takes care of cooking while Z takes care of the bathrooms. It appears that the duties rotate for each child so that no one gets stuck with the same chore each month and everyone picks up range of domestic skills.
Dr. Thanh Tam with Vietnamese children in Cambodia
How can I possibly share with you the experience and emotions that I have gone through during my 8 days/3 countries trip.
I am not a stranger to poverty, hunger, suffering, loneliness, pain, illnesses, tears, and separation. I knew before the trip that what I will see would be heart-breaking. I know that as a woman and a mother, I will be touched by helpless, innocent, suffering children, that I will cry easily by the sights of their outstretched skinny little hands begging, or their ribs-showing bodies sleeping on sidewalks next to their street vendored mother. Little did I know that what I have seen, especially those eyes, would stay in my mind deeper and stronger.
Father Thong, Singer Hien Thuc and the children of OBV
This year is almost over, before the passing of time, we all feel a sense of something significant. We can’t help but think about all of the blessings God has given us. Exclusively the children of OBV, even though they are not followers of Jesus but they all know how much blessings they have received from God, Father Martino as well as many dedicated individuals.
Father Martino, Dr. Nga Vu - member of Board Director and volunteers in Mission trip 2012
Mission Diary Day 1
Went to the airport to pick Father Thong, seeing him carrying so many things, including two coolers of frozen foods, promising to be a fun filled party with many special things. And……
Members of Nhịp cầu hạnh phúc (OBV VN) and volunteers "flew" at night
Translated by Ngan Le. You can read the original in Vietnamese - entitle "Chuyện bên lề hành trình xuân"
Every year, during the days before the Lunar New Year, Nhịp cầu hạnh phúc (NCHP) usually has a series of events lasting several days with different activities such as consultation, charity and communication.
Same as last year, NCHP had a lot of activities from January 6 to January 16 including: a course on “successful communication” for college students, exchange of experiences in raising and education children with parents in Chanh An, giving out free medical care as well as medicine, sending gifts to poor families and giving presents to homeless in Ho Chi Minh City. All of the main activities have been reported on the NCHP website nhipcauhanhphuc.org. As for me, joining NCHP as a guest, will tell the side stories along the way.
Finally we meet the children that we have heard and read so much about
I felt excited waking up today because I will finally meet the children that I have heard and read so much about. These children are the reason why I have left the comfort of my daily routine to embark on this mission with Father Martino. It was a bit frustrating hearing from Father Martino that we will not be doing anything; he will be taking us on a journey to observe and learn not only that of OBV’s children but other unfortunate path of life.
Group picture before the “flight”
One of the many activities of the mission trip “Lend a Hand” 2012 is the “night flight” especially created for Vietnamese who live in the United States. Besides the opportunity to see the reality and the secrets of the streets of Saigon at night, they could also bring a little joy to people living in poverty or homeless for the New Year. This is a reaction from one of the participants from that night:
In this spinning pace of life to make money for food and shelter, have you ever stopped to listen to other people?
We were strolling on the streets of Saigon around 3 AM after the “flight”. Saigon was sleeping at this time; all of the stores were closed. There were still some people but all of the sounds, noises and dust have calmed down and give way for some fresh air and quiet environment to take over the streets. We exchanged our thoughts and feelings about the flight as we were walking. The excitement of sharing some gifts with people was still visible on our faces.