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Friday, 27 June 2014 00:00

A Trip to Vietnam with Father Martino and Dr. Nga

I am not a professional writer; however, I would like to write something about my trip to Vietnam with Dr. Nga Vu on the occasion of Father Martino Nguyen Ba-Thong's 10th anniversary of his Priesthood.

Having known Father Martino since 2009, and I have also traveled with them a few times to Vietnam. This time, I departed from Los Angeles and met Father Martino and Dr. Nga in Taipei, and the three of us flied to Vietnam together. As soon as the airplane landed, Nga and I really felt the heat of summer. We were slowly moved through the customs while Father Martino quickly passed through and preceded to the baggage claim area. When we finished with the paper work, Father Martino had gathered all luggages, ready to proceed to the car. Yen-Thao and Hien-Thuc, a famous Vietnamese singer, were waiting outside to welcome us. They took us to the "5 Tháng 2" (February 5) on Võ Văn Tần street, a very beautiful fashion shop located in District 3, and this is also the headquarter of "Nhịp Cầu Hạnh Phúc" (OBV Vietnam). I then went to lunch with Nga and Yen-Thao, stopped by Thiên Ý Spa (one of OBV's businesses) to visit employees there. I was so surprised to see a very modern and high-class spa. I never thought that Father Martino could open these businesses. It was Nga, who spent her own money for OBV to open these shops to create jobs for local people and OBV's children.

Shop February 5

Spa Thiên Ý

Nga and I hit the road again to District 9. It seemed to be far away because it took more than an hour to get there because of the traffic jam, unsystematic drivers, and nobody yield to anybody else. I was not surprised to see this scene because I have worked in Vietnam since 2002. Finally, we arrived where we had been waiting for. Before getting of the car, we saw our children waiting in-line to welcome us with a big banner they had colored themselves.

D - a little girl I met 2 years ago

It's 6 o'clock and dinner was prepared with different kinds of vegetable, eggplant, beef, pork, and fish... looking very tasty. Before eating, Sr. Ngoc told little D. to say a thanksgiving prayer. I was extremely surprised at the maturity of this little girl, because 2 years ago, Father Martino and I could not look after this little girl because she was so overactive. She was only five and a half years old and just joined OBV family less than 24 hours at that time. Seeing her again today, she was so well-trained. I respected Sr. Ngoc and other sisters very much for teaching these children. After dinner, Nga and I went to the study room to have some fun with our children even though we were a little tired of traveling by plane and car in the last 24 hours. Somehow we still had plenty of energy to even organize a drawing and writing contest about Father Martino. Following are award-winning articles and drawings:

OBV tree - each leaf represents an OBV kid

By 9:00pm, they all must go to bed. Having been so tired, Nga and I also went to bed early. I got up very early the next morning because of the difference in time zones. Walking outside, I saw some children were wiping the glass windows; others were sweeping the floor, older ones combing hair for little ones... Inside the kitchen, I saw Sisters cooking buns pork soup. I had never seen such a large soup pot. 6:30 am, I had breakfast with two Sisters and our children. This was the first time I realized the warm, exotic happiness that cannot be described here. After breakfast, I sat down to chat with Sisters and learned more about daily activities of OBV children. I realized this was not a regular home as those I had visited in the past; children stayed here as a family with parents and siblings. I am the only child in my family; therefore, I was so happy to see a crowded OBV family!

Nga is weaving with the children

Older children help to prepare food

By 9:30am, the children brought out some baskets for weaving. I asked and found out that they were hired by a local business, and these baskets were for exporting to foreign countries. They were paid 5 thousand VND (25 cents U.S. currency) per basket. Nga also learned how to weave with the children while some older children and I were helping Sisters prepare for lunch. About 11:00am, Father Martino suddenly came to District 9 from Saigon, and 10 minutes later, singer Hien-Thuc and Yen-Thao also arrived. Father stayed back to have fun with children. Hien-Thuc, Yen-Thao and I had to return to Saigon to prepare for the trip to Phan Thiet with the whole OBV family.

That morning, all OBV children were eagerly preparing for the vacation in Phan Thiet. Yen-Thao and I had to leave early to Thu-Duc in preparing for Father Martino's 10th anniversary of priesthood ordination at the house of a benefactor who had supported Father Martino in the last 7-8 years. Looking at these cheerful and innocent children eat, play, pleasurably swimming... Nobody could imagine that these children had been through very painful and fearful moments in life. At night, the children organized a very meaningful program as a gift to their "DAD" on the occasion of his 10th anniversary of priesthood. Singing and dancing performed by OBV children from Cambodia and Thien-Y Spa's employees; acting, singing and dancing by OBV Children from Vietnam. The most amazing one was the fashion show by "5 Thang 2" employees with dress made by plastic that looked so fancy and beautiful.

Father Martino's 10th anniversary of priesthood ordination


Each cupcake represents an OBV child

The OBV Vietnamese children are singing


A fashion show

OBV Cambodian children are dancing

Older children of OBV family were watching the sea. Feeling so happy and peaceful!

This was a trip that had given me a lot of surprises and fun, unexpected happiness that cannot be expressed in words. I came, saw, and really respected what Father Martino, Sister Ngoc as well as all members of OBV family have been doing. I also had the opportunity to go "under cover", watched several dancing clubs in District 10to see some "old ladies" looking for "young pilots". When the music started, the lights were turned off so that they could begin "to work". I painfully recognized that sex trafficking were getting worse and worse, more diverse and popular. In the past, where was only adult prostitute; nowadays there were little girls and boys who were trafficked and forced into prostitution; there were also young teenagers willing to enter the job of "sell their own body", some for Vietnamese and some for foreigners! What to do to help today's society?

Fortunately, OBV has been there to rescue and help sexually abused children, but I still wish that no little child will ever need OBV's help or all people.

June 15, 2014

Hồng Nguyễn

Translated by Duy-An Nguyễn.  Original version in Vietnamese entitled "Chuyến về Việt Nam cùng cha Thông và Nga"

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