The air is heavy with dust, grit and humidity. Looking across a modest compound situated two hours north of Bien Hoa, in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, I experience a barrage of feelings.
Born in the United States, I’ve grown up with so many benefits that our founding fathers established as essential inalienable rights. Those privileges and freedoms, woven into the very fabric of my American soul, seem as right and natural to me as breathing.
It has taken me many years of growing, learning and international travel to really grasp how precious and fragile these freedoms truly are.
Moses, my Vietnamese traveling companion, introduces me to little Lua, her dark eyes staring curiously into my Caucasian features. As we talk, I learn about her 30-year-old father, a fisherman who perished on a lake when his frail boat was caught in a sudden storm.
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Lua’s mother, desperate to provide for her three young daughters, went into the sex trade, spiraling the family faster and deeper into chaos and despair. Eventually, Lua and her two young sisters were completely abandoned.
Now one year later, these three girls and 44 other orphaned children live in a loving Christian home.
“Do you like living here, Lua?” I ask. She nods shyly.
“Why do you like it?” I persist.
Her eyes brighten as she responds, “Because pastor and his wife love us and take care of us.”
It’s not a rehearsed, programmed answer; I know she means it with all her heart. Having lingered in this place, I have seen the love in action, sensed the children’s peace, and heard their singing and joyful chatter.
I now call the place “Redemption,” because it reminds me of how precious and fragile life, security and freedoms really are in a world of uncertainty and chaos. But this is precisely the world Jesus entered. It’s why he came, and to this day, what his people are all about.
From time to time, people ask me, “Why do you always have to bring Jesus into the conversation?” It’s a fair question. And the answer is never more clear to me than when I find myself in a place like Vietnam, where there is no understanding of the Magna Carta, the Constitution or the Bill of Rights, and there is no Gideon Bible on the nightstand in my hotel room.
America, with its prosperity and freedoms, seems very distant in this place. But then I think of the resurrection of Christ and the life he offers to anyone and everyone — anywhere in this wide world — who comes to him.
My friend Moses likes to quote a familiar phrase to me: “Micah, freedom is not free. Someone always pays for it.”
It’s true of our American freedoms, and it is true of those in Christ.
I turn my heart toward heaven and my face to the West, breathe in the heavy, thick and gritty air and say, “Thank you, Father, for raising Jesus from the dead so we can experience life and more life in him.”
The Rev. Micah Smith is president and founder of Global Gateway Network www.globalgatewaynetwork.org with offices in Richland. Questions and comments should be directed to editor Lucy Luginbill in care of the Tri-City Herald newsroom, 333 W. Canal Drive, Kennewick, WA 99336. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org.