It was a small group of people, just four volunteers, all from different churches, drawn together by a desire to help elderly people in Vietnam. This was ten years ago when I was in Vietnam with my previous organisation, a Christian non-profit that brought international expertise, volunteers and resources to meet the country’s needs. Through our network, this group had heard about the needs of a small, under-resourced state-run centre on the outskirts of Hanoi. It was a home for abandoned and neglected senior citizens, an indication of their extreme circumstances that their families would not or could not care for them in their old age. This group had a particular burden for this nascent program as they were all in the field of elderly care in the US.
None of them had been to Asia, none of them had experience in this area. One the greatest challenges was finding a time when all their schedules matched for their first mission trip together. We had identified a project that would have a major impact on the sustainability of the home. It would essentially start a small “hobby farm” with pigs and chickens that provided the elderly some activity and purpose, and also provide extra food and income. Mark, the leader of this group, caught the vision and didn’t want to delay the start, so they raised money and sent it over to people they had never met towards a centre they had never seen.
Over two years, we used the funds to implement the project, monitored it and provided resources and guidance at critical points. Each time my local staff and I would visit the centre, we would bring a letter from Mark, which would sign off with something like, “I know we’ve never met, but we are a group of friends from Texas who care about you. We are planning to come visit you as soon as we can!” Sometimes the letter would include a picture of them. Even so, the elderly home’s director was skeptical about these mystery benefactors.
“Do they really exist? What’s really going on? Is this some kind of scam you created because you don’t want to take full responsibility for the project?”
No, we assured him, there are real people behind this and they’re doing it because they love you. And yes, they really do intend to come to Hanoi one day.
That day finally did arrive. Mark, Joleanne, Melody and Steve came to Hanoi. They toured the facility, did therapy for the elderly, provided training for the staff and, of course, laid eyes on the pigs and chickens in all their dirty, smelly glory. There wasn’t as much fanfare or buzz about their visit. The centre’s staff had been there for years, underpaid and unrecognised, and rarely got excited about anything.
But when it came time for the director to say a few words at our tea ceremony, his eyes became moist and his voice cracked.
“The farm that you funded has helped our centre tremendously. But today you gave us an even greater gift because you came to see us and we get to meet you in person.”
John 1:14 says that, “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Christmas is the heart of what the Christian faith is about: there is a loving, invisible God who had spoken through prophets before but now expresses His love in the fullest, most direct and tangible way by coming to us in person.
You reveal Jesus when you live by the Word of God your daily life. What are some ways that you can make the love of Christ real and visible during this Christmas season?