A young disabled man who is receiving funding for education from Samaritan’s Purse is an example of God’s grace at work.
Randy Bishop is a Samaritan’s Purse staff writer. He recently traveled to Vietnam with staff photographer David Uttley to record just a little of what God is doing through our work in the resilient country. Over the course of 11 days, they saw a variety of projects bringing relief and hope to the poor, the disadvantaged, and the disabled.
Touring Samaritan’s Purse projects in Vietnam was an amazing whirlwind experience. From the rugged northwest highlands where we have medical, agricultural, educational, and water/sanitation projects serving minority communities to the busy streets of Hanoi and its outskirts where we offer vocational training and scholarships to the disabled and others, it was clear God is at work.
There were many unforgettable moments for me, but one stands out. That moment occurred when I interviewed a 24-year-old man from the highlands named Bang.
Strength Born in Adversity
Bang was severely injured about six years ago when a motorcyclist ran into him as he bicycled home from school. He spent two years in the hospital. His entire right side—arm, hand, and leg—remains extremely weak, though he can still walk with difficulty. His speech now is also slow and halting.
Nevertheless, upon his release from the hospital, he returned to rural life undaunted by the traumatic brain injury that had robbed him of normal mobility and dexterity. In fact, he was able to take out a loan to start a chicken farming business. He became quite a success and gave his parents a new home in their village. Bang, who once wanted to be a policeman, is surely a fighter if ever there was one.
Then, in 2012, avian influenza decimated his flock. He lost everything. But again, he didn’t give up. After being recommended to the nationally renowned Hoa Soa Vocational Training Center in Hanoi, he moved in 2013 to Vietnam’s capital, many hours away from his family’s village.
He became one of 30 ethnic minority pupils at Hoa Sua whose studies, along with room and board, are currently funded by Samaritan’s Purse. These students, just a small group within the school, also receive a monthly stipend from us to use as basic needs arise. And Samaritan’s Purse provides them with special extracurricular activities, such as field trips, and additional training in English, living values (honesty, service, etc.), and life skills (goal setting, interpersonal communication, etc.).
When I met Bang in March, he had been studying at Hoa Soa for six months. He is learning to embroider, and his skill with the needle is improving. It’s tedious and deliberate work for him, but he perseveres with an infectious positive attitude.
Thanks to a class on making life plans provided by Samaritan’s Purse, Bang has his future seemingly mapped out—he’s going to finish his year of training and then team up with his girlfriend, who is also a former Hoa Sua student, to start a craft business in his home province.
“I like embroidery because this is art,” Bang said. “Sometimes it’s quite boring, but when I see the product of my hard work, I am quite happy. I feel getting the scholarship from Samaritan’s Purse is like getting a rare opportunity for a disabled person like me. I’d like to wish the donors good health and thank you very much.”
Worshiping the One Who Redeems
As we talked and I watched him slowly pull his needle up and down through the cloth with difficulty and meticulous care, tears began to stream down my face. Bang, while so positive in so much, is certainly conscious of what he has lost. He shared that he once loved to draw and was good at it, but he no longer can hold his hand steady enough to properly express that artistic talent. He also loved to sing and used to perform at his school in Lao Cai, but he says his voice is not as beautiful anymore. And he assured me of his former ability in the social sciences, like history. I think the relevant implication behind this assertion was that his memory today is not what it used to be.
I was overwhelmed by so much loss and pain. I thought of my own two boys, ages 6 and 9, and how I would feel if they were in the same situation. I thought of my wife, Kay, who is an artist herself. I know I thought about myself. How would I handle catastrophic injury? Would I be as hopeful and strong as Bang?
Yet I think there was much more to my emotional response than just sadness or anxiety or shame at my own weakness. As I have thought and thought about Bang and my tears, I realize those salty rivulets likely had an element of worship in them, though I did not recognize it fully at the time. Why? Even though Bang’s suffering was difficult to witness, I could sense God’s redeeming hand in the situation, working out His good plans and purposes.
Hoa Sua is among the premier vocational training facilities for disabled youth in Vietnam. Bang is now receiving caring instruction from a concerned teacher in an environment committed to his ultimate social independence and success. Not only that, but Samaritan’s Purse staff and our local partners are also pouring love and hope into his life through extra training, special activities, and frequent visits. And most importantly, as I discovered later, city believers have planted Gospel seeds in his life.
The common grace of God in Bang’s life (an indomitable spirit, supportive friends and relatives, a good school) is abundantly evident, and His special grace seems at work too. I believe my tears included an element of excitement at all God is and might be doing. How like the Father to transform our suffering into our benefit and how worthy of worship!
I feel this young man’s experience provides excellent insight into the sum of the work of Samaritan’s Purse in Vietnam. The weak, the poor, the disadvantaged, the disabled, and the orphaned discover hope and relief in our projects, and many are woven into a story only God could have written for them, a story that ends in realized joy despite past pains. Though Bang’s narrative is, I hope, far from over and I don’t know how it will turn out, I have to trust that God will bring to completion the good work He has started in him and throughout Vietnam.
“… Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6, NKJV).