By Becky Culver
I grew up during the Vietnam War. Certain graphic images and military words are etched into my memory: Mekong Delta, Ho Chi Minh, agent orange, napalm bomb, Viet Cong…and the image of a young American soldier sloshing through a muddy rice field in the relentless pouring rain.
I was always curious about Vietnam. Then my daughter married a young man of Vietnamese descent. His parents were born near Saigon and had to flee their country in their mid 20’s. They met at a small college in Pennsylvania where they were both beginning their lives over again in America.
I became even more curious about Vietnam.
So, I went on the Vietnam Connection team trip last November (because I love short- term mission stuff, too!)
The Vietnam that greeted me was quite different from my expectations. It was full of light and beauty and a friendly, hospitable, and determined people.
We traveled in the south part of Vietnam and visited the four Hope’s Promise orphan care homes, the three Thrive education groups and made three home visits to families of the children in the orphan care homes. Let me tell you about one of these three intimate home visits.
This visit was to the family home of a young man who now attends college in Ho Chi Minh City. We met his mother and two younger sisters who live together in their small home. His mother had been widowed at a young age with three small children and found herself moving to a small town that is known as a leper colony. She had no means to support all of her children and was growing desperate. In the meantime, she had heard about the local church and started going. It was there that the pastor learned about her great need, and where she learned about the orphan care program through Hopes Promise. A match was made and she relinquished her young son into the loving home of a Christian couple (who had recently lost one of their adult sons in a motorbike accident.) This son was quickly joined by four other boys who had been in similar difficult situations. They became a family of talented and intelligent young men, nurtured in the Lord by this loving and God- loving couple.
As we arrived, we were seated in their tiny front room, where we were served cold water bottles, green tea, and fresh oranges. The mother began to tell us her story which was translated to us by the Vietnam country coordinator. Much emotion was put into her words as she shared about her most desperate times. Tears flowed. But not only her tears- the housemother of the boys in the orphan home was there too. I watched as she began crying at this sad story from many years ago. The story continued, full of the pain of giving up her firstborn son, as well as gratitude to Hopes Promise for raising him up with great love and opportunities.
It was at this moment that the emotions of both mothers could not be held back. They stood, walked toward each other, and embraced each other with tears of pain and thankfulness. One for losing a son, and the other for the privilege of raising a son who was not her own. One for seeing her son’s success from afar, the other remembering the sacrifices she had made for that success. The love and respect between them were obvious and precious. The deep sacrifice that both mothers made was beautifully acknowledged by the other. This was a sacred moment. We were surprised to be part of such a personal expression of gratitude and grace between these two women. It was a moment when heaven and earth became very close and we got a glimpse of God’s amazing and intimate ways. Our tears flowed as these women expressed their brokenness as well as their love for each other. We did not need a translation for this. Two mothers’ hearts coming together in the love of one son. Simply beautiful. Simply God.
We left their home holding this sacred moment in our hearts. We got to see first hand how our heavenly Father takes care of His beloved widows and orphans. And all of this in the midst of a leper colony! As one of my teammates commented, “This is what Jesus did on earth every day – ministered to orphans and widows and lepers!”
Thank you, Hopes Promise, for allowing me to see and be a part of God’s ministry to “the least of these” through the Hope’s Promise orphan care program in Vietnam. I look forward to returning some day. Or if not, to have green tea and fresh oranges with my Vietnamese brothers and sisters in our forever homes in heaven! My treat this time.