In early November, I set off again to Vietnam, this time with 8 Navigate Adventure students as well as leaders Abigail and Jessie Skelly. As the final ‘extreme’ trek for the 2016 Adventure students, we embarked on a journey to Vietnam for two weeks. Our aim was to expose the students to a different culture and to challenge the way they think about the world around them and their faith.
As soon as we arrived, we were hit by the heat and humidity. Our senses were overwhelmed with the sights, sounds and smells as we exited the airport and drove into the city. Even in the buzzing city the poverty is still evident. However the most confronting part was encountering a culture where having and expressing faith in God is risky.
Pastors are under scrutiny and must tread lightly in how they minister to people. It was great to see God’s love at work. The students were challenged by the people they met and the stories of courage and faith they heard. One of the students Mimi reflected this: “In Vietnam I was exposed to followers of Christ living in an environment where they have to be extremely courageous everyday. I was challenged in how much I am willing to sacrifice and was inspired to be more courageous in my faith.”
We spent the two weeks travelling in the south of Vietnam, participating in a range of experiences – some beyond our comfort zones and some that brought immense joy. The trip was marked by kindness, generosity and peace from each person we encountered, especially Fiona Briers, an Australian and founder of GMP’s partner project ‘Bright Solutions’. She was a huge encouragement to us as a team and her courage and faith in God was an incredible witness! We were so thankful to her for opening up her heart to us, as well as welcoming us into her space.
The ladies that Fiona works with at Bright Solutions welcomed us into their workspace and shared their lives with us. They shared traditional Vietnamese food with us, taught us some of the language, showed us their work and shared their stories through limited words. We cannot express the gratitude we have toward these women and the inspiration they are to us. The majority of them are sole income earners for their families and they juggle their work, children and home responsibilities. They carry such hardship, but they exude such joy in their relationships.
We also had the opportunity to visit a rural area where GMP is working with people living with a disability. It was a humbling privilege to walk through the villages and meet people who are suffering still as a result of the war. And although communication was limited by the language barrier, we were able to see the thankfulness and joy that was a result of GMP’s contribution to their growing livelihood and dignity.
One of the students Dave said, “Spending time in Vietnam opened my eyes to the plea of the world that sits outside our perspective. This experience gave us the opportunity to learn to love and communicate with people who were different to us, and this was difficult at times. We were able to learn from them and thanks to their hospitality; we embraced their ways in very real ways.”
Our time in Vietnam was a fitting end to our time together as Navigate Adventure. The students were each challenged physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Matthew 5:3 (MSG) says that “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.” This verse captures the way God was working through each of the students not only in Vietnam, but throughout the year of Adventure.
You can read more about GMP’s work in Vietnam here.
You can find out more about the Navigate programs here.