Các anh chị mến,
Có một tâm tình thật đẹp của một người bạn trẻ vừa mới trở về sau ba
tuần đi phục vụ thiện nguyện tại VN. KA có cảm nhận rằng, reflection
của cô phần nào đó phản ảnh thật về Christian identity trong mọi người
chúng ta. Mời qúi anh chị kiên nhẫn đọc qua một chút nhé. Nếu có thể xin
chia sẻ và cho các cháu đọc cũng hay lắm.
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Going to Vietnam this year with Frere Phong has been extremely exciting, inspiring, and eye-opening. This three-week trip brings strangers together and allows them to explore why they are proud to be Vietnamese and Catholic. I found that although the bus rides were long, the meals predictable in a certain region, the bug bites irritating, and the trains disgusting, I found that it was well worth. Through intriguing conversations with peers, natives, and children, I learned a variety of things about my roots, and even though I was not looking to learn anything about my faith, I walked away with a better understanding of what kind of Catholic I want to be.
I know what it means to be a Vietnamese American since I have grown up in the United States. I know that Vietnamese families can be quite large, parties usually consist of eating all day, there is some form of starch in every meal, and that 6 o'clock dinners mean they are starting at 7. Although these are a few details about being a Vietnamese growing up in America, I have to admit that my American identity is extremely dominant. I talk back to my parents, I want to move out of my parents' house before I get married, and I come home past midnight. In this sense, I could say that I am more American than I am Vietnamese. It was not until this trip that I understood the meaning of being Vietnamese, not Vietnamese American. Seeing the natives of Vietnam among other things really helped me see that our culture is tremendously deep rooted.
The H'mongs, Bahnas, and Jarais all have a beautiful way of life. Their smiles are so pure and they are never ashamed to show their colors amidst the poverty and oppression they live in. Seeing these people helped me really appreciate the history of all of Vietnam, not just what is displayed in textbooks or travel brochures. The natives of Vietnam are looked down upon as people of backwardness, lacking culture, and lacking sophistication. I did not see any of these when I talked, danced, and sang with them.
One of the most memorable events among many that helped me see where I come from was eating with the H'mongs at their one church. This meal showed me that we are very much connected and equal. Although the kin of the area marginalize the H'mongs, I hoped that sharing this meal with them showed them that we share a common background. It helped me see why we, as Vietnamese, are taught to be appreciative and humble. The H'mongs never once complained about the flavor of the food we ate, the amount of food provided, or the hot weather that for some of us, deters our appetite. They waited to be invited to eat and even then were very shy about reaching out for anything on the table. We are taught as Vietnamese to be humble. The H'mongs smiled with a pure appreciation for life and everything that was good in their lives. They thank God for everything they have even though it is not much. They do not complain about the 15-kilometer walk from the mountains to attend mass. We as Vietnamese are taught to be appreciative of what we are given in life.
I am proud to say that I was able to eat with them and I want to thank them for teaching me more about our culture.
Most people are comfortable with saying, "I am Catholic" and fully believing this statement blindly. For me, this has been a reoccurring internal conflict. I am not comfortable with saying that I am Catholic without having my own personal reason about what it means to me to be Catholic. It is not good enough for me to say that I am Catholic because my parents baptized me or because I was raised that way. I do not feel at all connected to my faith in church every Sunday or through reading the Bible. I went on this trip thinking I would have fun site seeing and that I would be doing community service by helping those less fortunate. I am leaving Vietnam surprised that I feel somewhat more confident about why I am Catholic and what kind of Catholic I want to be. I want to be the kind of Catholic that feels for people and wants to do more than send money to various charities or to attend church every Sunday. I want to go out of my way, away from my comfort bubble, and immerse myself in a community where they praise God every day for simple things like a piece of bread. I want to see firsthand God's love for all of humanity. It amazes me that some of the natives in Vietnam praise God willingly even though they have been pushed into to the outskirts of society and have very little to survive. These people worship God with their voices, bodies, clothes, and they celebrate with passion. I want to celebrate with passion and I intend to do this by immersing myself with the people of God.
It was exciting when we hiked up to the beautiful waterfall in Bac Ha. It was inspiring to see my parents so active with their faith. It was eye opening to see all the ways God shows the world that he cares and that we are all equal in his eyes.