Pieces of Stories

Sitting on the beach writing this blog I am overcome with the beauty of this place, but I am also reminded of something my friend said a few weeks ago as we watched the sunrise over the beach and praised the one who created it:

“The people here have no idea who to praise for this beauty”.

"Morning by morning new mercies I see"

Officially most of the people here would identify as Buddhist, but in talking with them we learned quickly that it’s less about religion and more about superstition. There are temples everywhere and small shrines in nearly every building you enter, but when you ask them why they believe what they do the response is “I don’t know, it’s just important.”

They have no idea that the creator of all this beauty and of every single person wants to know them personally and loves them more than anyone can comprehend.

This is, of course, the very reason we are here. However, thinking about it has been a struggle for me the past week. How are we supposed to share the love of Jesus with people whose very culture denies the reality of him?

Despite fighting doubt I know God sees the big picture and knows exactly what our purpose is here and I asked Him to let me see a piece of that picture. All that week he showed me windows into the Kingdom through people and their stories. Here are just a couple of the people I have befriended here:


The first thing I learned about Charity was that her favorite color is pink.
Later I learned that one of the reasons her favorite color is pink is because it represents kindness, a quality that radiates from her. She quickly became my best Vietnamese friend, and her kindness showed in her passion for her family, the environment in her hometown, her love of her nephews, and her friendship with us. She eagerly took Shannon and I to try on Ao Dai’s, which are traditional Vietnamese dresses. It was a wonderful time, and an activity me and Shannon thought was free until Shannon saw her pay the shop owner when she thought we weren’t looking so we wouldn’t feel obligated to pay even though she had already treated us to lunch!
After trying on dresses we invited her to coffee with us, and sitting on a balcony passing around our different drinks we got to go deeper. She is passionate about the traditions of Vietnamese culture and preserving them, that is why she loves the traditional Ao Dais. She told us about praying to the shrines for good health and luck, and though she doesn’t know why, it is very important in the culture here. In return we shared about Jesus, and God who loves each of us.
Charity comes every night to the café and greets us with the most joyful smile whenever she walks in, eager to share her day and her heart with us. Her Vietnamese name is Thanh, but a few weeks into our friendship she asked Shannon and I to give her an English name. Eager to speak into her depth of kindness so clearly from our Creator, we chose Charity which means “generous love, dear beloved, loving kindness”. And she truly is full of generous love, loving kindess, and is dearly beloved by the Father and by us.

Trying on Ao Dais with Charity!

Paul is every bit a slightly awkward, very studious, teenage boy. He showed me in the midst of my culture shock that teenagers are the same no matter where in the world you go with a story about how he met his girlfriend at summer camp, started talking to her on Facebook, and mailed her a book about long distance love for Valentine’s Day. But even at 16 he has the depth of wisdom of someone decades older. He has grown up in a Christian church and one of his favorite verse is 1 Timothy 4:12 “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.”
He is passionate about God and about the Bible. He is always eager to share what he has been studying that week when we talk at the café and what he has learned and discuss it with me.

Huy:Huy, who is referred to amongst ourselves by many other names including Huey and other mispronunciations of his name, comes to the cafe every single day around 3:30 to eat a chocolate muffin and hang out with us. He loves Prison Break, chocolate (hence the chocolate muffin), and likes reading “too much” so he tries not to do it too often because he doesn’t want to do anything else until he’s done the book. He is also extremely observant and likes to tell us exactly what he sees in us and in each other. He told me I was an introvert the second time we ever talked and tells me repeatedly I have an “artist’s soul”, sometimes because I’m playing guitar in the cafe and sometimes just because I like coffee so much. He loves Tori because she is always happy and makes him laugh, and says Hailey has a “big laugh” and a “dignified mind”. He always makes us smile, especially when his observations are twisted by the language barrier into not quite what he meant, or when he found out that calling girls beautiful usually means you want to date them (after we had all been called beautiful many times) and he protested that he didn’t want to date any of us. He’s admitted that he is searching for something, and often asks why we smile all the time, and by sharing life with him here we’re excited to be showing him that what he’s looking for and why we smile all the time are both Jesus.

 Huy and Tori

the end: These three people and the many others I have met have many differences; they are different ages, have different jobs, different relationships, different priorities. Some are Christians, many are not. They aren’t even all from Vietnam! But they are created by God with purpose and with love, and He is doing things in their lives that I cannot truly see, but I have the joy of hearing and seeing and being part of their stories.