Vietnam is all color and excitement. The streets are teeming with motor bikes and vendors, stray animals and new food. My mom and I went with a group from International Cooperating Ministries (ICM) to simply see. To see some of the church buildings that ICM has helped build. To see the pastors and hear their stories. To see the faith of believers under persecution.
We visited congregations and everywhere we went, we were greeted with the biggest smiles, hugs and huge homemade meals. I could eat those fried spring rolls and mystery dipping sauce probably forever.
It is common for pastors to go to jail when building a new church. We asked them, “if jail time is the consequence, then why do you keep building churches?” And the response was simple. “Because God said so.” They are so faithful and committed to sharing the hope they have found in life with Jesus, that is seems nothing could stop them. We have so much freedom in our country, which is something we often take for granted. Even among believers, church can be seen as an inconvenient intruder on our weekend plans, an after-thought, or unnecessary.
I have to admit, I knew close to nothing about Vietnam culture or even the Vietnam War.
We heard stories of how the war affected the country and life under communism. Our translator, Mahn, told us his story of the end of the war, the communists taking over and his escape out of the country. No matter race or gender, nothing breaks down walls and connects people like sharing a story, sharing tears, sharing pain, sharing joy. We are all looking for love, safety and happiness. No matter how you go about finding it, that is at the core of being human.
This trip, as my mom put it, was life enriching. (Moms always have little nuggets, don’t they?) It sparked something in me that I’m afraid is insatiable. I want to hear more stories, share more laughter, shed more tears. Empathy is my number one strength (thanks, Strengths Finder) and I think I’m finally okay with it. Most of my life I saw sensitivity as a weakness. I hated the idea that other people could have an affect on me. I wanted to be stronger than my emotions. But it’s no use. I’m ready to love people, uninhibited. Bring on the waves!