By Sr. Madeline Nguyen
My name is Sr. Madeline, and I am currently a ministerial Novice of the LHC, LA. I have gone on the Mission trip to Vietnam 3 times since 2015. Having been born and raised in a well-sheltered environment, I had no understanding of what true poverty is. I only got to see it through TV and from those living in the streets. I have never experienced it myself. My first reaction to going on the Mission was that this is going to be an adventure and the young blood in me was filled with curiosity. The reality quickly rushed in when I came in close contact with the indigenous brothers and sisters in the North of Vietnam.
With preferential love for children, the poverty found among the kids captivated me the most. I saw children running around without shoes, their faces covered with layers of dirt mixed with smeared snots. A five-year-old older sister had to kangaroo wrap her younger sibling, who seemed to be only a few months old. Due to their living condition, it is common for parents in these mountainous areas to leave their children unattended and have siblings care for one another. Their houses were built with walls of leaves or mixed dirt bricks. They rarely eat a full meal. Education is most likely unaffordable. Trips to markets, doctors, and Churches are at times hindered due to the weather and long-distance travel. They had nothing. No one would even suspect their existence here in this deepest and most remote part of the mountain region. I could not believe what my eyes had seen; this is the poorest of the poor! I soon come to a humble recognition that the kind of poverty which I knew in my area is not true poverty. I came to recognize my ignorance and indifferences to these visible images of suffering Christ on Earth, particularly in my own mother homeland.
Though the facts of their poverty were apparent, I quickly took notice of their radiating joy and simplicity through their laughter and interactions. Never have I seen such children so poor and yet so happy. I thought I could do some kind of charity work for them, but they were the ones doing great charity to my soul. I learned so much from their lives and their testimony of priceless joy to be found nowhere else in the riches of this world. They are my great benefactors.
One particular experience I still remember was the time I helped care for a boy whose eyes were seriously infected with puss. The procedure was painful, and I had the privilege to hold and comfort his little body in my arms. The pain overtook him and put him to a deep sleep after a tiring battle. Removing him from the crowd of people, I sat in the Chapel gazing at my Christ Crucified with this little boy soundly asleep on a stranger like me. I could not help but burst into tears for I have recognized that I was holding the very body of Christ Crucified in my arms. The poverty is so real, and the pain caused by inadequate care is unbearable. After waking up, the boy sprang off from my arms to resume his play without even caring about who I was and what happened; he is free. Years after that, I asked for him each time we came back to the place. Though he had no clue of who I was, he left in my heart a deep imprint of a tangible Christ Crucified.
As I boarded the plane back to America, I realized that once I take off, I will return to my status as a well-protected citizen of the United States, and yet the people in my motherland would be left behind and continue to endure the disadvantages of poverty. No matter how much I desired and what I did during the Mission, I know that I did not change their circumstances much. Rather, it was my life that has been changed! Because of them, I was given an opportunity to rethink how I lived my life and share in solidarity with those who are suffering in many ways. For them, I want to live each day in a more meaningful way, so that my life can be a continuous prayer for them and my hands and feet can keep reaching out to my human family in any way I can.
This is my testimony of how the experience of Mission of Love had impacted me on both human and spiritual levels. It is the power of Love. From Love it came, by Love, it is transformed, and towards Love, it shall conform.
Allow God Who is Love to enrich your life with love for our brothers and sisters, and perhaps, Mission of Love is a place to begin!
Sr. Madeline Nguyen, LHC