With Love from Vietnam

Here you will find a letter written to my dear friend while I was teaching in Vietnam. Well, it started as a letter then morphed into a blog.  I have many sacred memories packed with challenges, melancholy, joy and gratitude. And this is one of many.  Hope you enjoy.
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Dear Kathy,

It is wonderful to hear you are feeling quite well.  God is so good to provide you with peace and help in this busy season of life.  He always knows exactly what we need.  Kathy, you are cherished by many.  You deserve the very best, and He has provided that to you. How our Father loves you so.  Question: How are you doing with everything, emotionally and spiritually?

As for me, things in Vietnam are coming to a close, and it is bittersweet.  Being here has changed me in more ways than I am probably even aware of.  For now, I can only see a glimmer of what is to be seen. I anticipate more will follow in the coming weeks, months and even years.  But this week, I realized I just want to be a normal, regular person with an ordinary life that God uses to do extraordinary things in the lives of other regular people.

Interestingly, over the past two weeks I have finally become accustomed to my environment, only to leave in less than a week. Oh, the irony of life. It’s difficult to fully express what I experienced. On one side, I am captivated by the beauty of the landscape.  It is like something in a National Geographic magazine or a scene in a movie.  It is breath-taking. On the other side, some of the living conditions are heartbreaking.  But you know, Kathy, the people here have a kind of peace that most in our affluent countries, both Christians and non-Christians don’t possess.  I think it’s because they truly enjoy living life. They don’t just like living; they enjoy living.  They work hard and they rest hard.

As our time here draws to a close, things have been moving much more quickly than before. With us leaving in a few days, we have been very busy with dinners, lunches and outings—building relationships. Yesterday we spent the day at a school in the city, a district in the countryside and the home of two of my previous students. One of my students told me that visiting his house made him so very happy. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  His expression of joy and gratitude was a recurring theme surrounding our ESL teachers here in Vietnam. It made me feel like our visit was the greatest thing that’s ever happened in his life.  In fact, his exact words, “I am very happy, honored and proud when you and (the other) teachers came to visit my house.  It is a dream for me.”

I share this with you with tears in my eyes because just one month prior I was considering coming home.  So many things happened that first month; I started to feel like it was time to come home.  Mostly, I felt ill-equipped to teach English. I felt so ineffective that I couldn’t possibly be a help.  But God used it all to humble me.  He brought me to a place where I had to rise to the occasion, depend on Him, learn what I didn’t know and teach from my heart. It worked, and he used the students to do it.  I thought I came to help them, but they helped me. The truth is we helped each other.

Thinking back, had I left early, I wouldn’t have been here to visit my student, bear witness to his expression and be a part of something great in his life.  What a tragedy it would have been to miss such a joyous moment in someone’s life. Even more tragic to rob him of it. Many of the people here are just happy to be acknowledged. Then again, I suppose, most people just want to be acknowledged.

I now realize an extraordinary life is about the people we serve and the fruit we bear. To this point, today a teaching colleague said something rather profound that left me speechless.  After being referred to as someone’s hero, my natural response was, “No, I am just a regular person. I am not a hero.”  My colleague looked over at me responding, “But to someone you are a hero.”

It made me wonder if perhaps the mark of extraordinary living is simply producing good fruit right where you are planted.  Ravi Zacharias said this about Jesus’ life:

He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village where he worked in a carpenter shop until he was 30. Then for three years he was an itinerant preacher.  He never wrote a book. He never held an office.  He never traveled more than two hundred miles from the place where he was born. He didn’t do any of the things one usually associates with greatness. He was only 33 when the tide of public opinion turned against him.  He was turned over to his enemies and went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves.  When he was dead, He was laid in a borrowed grave.

Nineteen centuries have come and gone, and today he is the central figure of the human race and the leader of mankind’s progress.  All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the kings that ever reigned have not affected the lives of man, as much as that one solitary life.  Twenty centuries later, critics have not been able to obliterate Him. Contrary views have not been able to smother Him.  And somehow, within the deepest recesses of the human heart for millions of people, in this world, the name of Jesus Christ still brings the concept of hope, and the reality that there must be somebody out there who put my two feet on this earth and with a reason to give me some hope.

His words aren’t anything that I haven’t heard before.  But it was perfect timing.  A perfect reminder for this season of life, leaving a lasting impression on my life.

So by definition, a hero is a person, typically a man, who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities. Kathy, I don’t believe I am a hero.  But I am a servant to the Hero of mankind.  He has given me hope, a purpose and a life worth living.  I am a messenger to the God of Hope.  And my courage comes from trusting in His unfailing word and love.

To be honest, most often I am weak.  I am so weak.  I spend many days crying out for His mercy, wisdom and grace, begging to be used by Him.  My deepest desire is to live out my faith in such a way that my words will define what has already been seen in my actions.  Then others will see the true and faithful Hero who answers my cries and cries of every heart that calls on Him.

Kathy, I am sad to leave Vietnam and I am happy to come home. There are many things I miss about home.  For starters, I miss my friends and family, which includes you.  And I really miss green smoothies, raw vegetables, coconut oil, coconut sugar, nuts and vegan food. Oh, and the fresh, crisp, breeze that comes off the ocean!!!  I miss the size I used to be.  As I said earlier many things went wrong the first month, two being my diet and exercise or lack thereof. Consequently, I have gained about 7 pounds.  This has been really hard for me, especially for someone that has a past that includes an eating disorder. But it has been good for me to face my body image issues.  I will explain more when I see you.

I love you and look forward to seeing you soon,

Jia

 

References:

Zacharias, R. (Presenter). (2014, August 15). The Uniqueness of Christ History, Part 1 of 2 [Audio podcast]. In Let My People Think Broadcast (Producer)

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