This morning we left the convent of the Sisters Adorers of the Holy Cross of Thanh Hóa at 5am (We never did see the motherhouse in the daylight.) to visit a leper community further south in Quynh Lap. Like the other leper communities we have visited, this one is operated by the government, but unlike the others, this one is further along in the growing trend to let religious workers on site. In fact there are two of the Sisters Adorers of the Holy Cross of Vinh whom we met who live on site and serve the patients there. Furthermore, one of the buildings has a small Catholic chapel where Fr. Bình and I celebrated Mass around 8am. Incidentally, there is also a Buddhist temple in another small building near the chapel. The sisters and a few residents attended the Mass.
The sisters gathered all the residents, who were physically able to gather, to meet together and we distributed the gifts we brought. One of the residents told us that she have been grateful over the years for the consistent help they have received from SARA. Again, they receive a bottle of cooking oil, some rice, some candy and matching sweatshirt and pants: very practical in this cold, Northern Vietnamese weather.
After leaving Quynh Lap we made our way to Thanh Giã where there is a large parish church and school. There is an outreach to the disabled who live in the area and over 100 people showed up at the invitation of the parish (a diocesan priest and Vincentian sisters) to receive the gifts we brought. There were also many children, beautiful to behold. The sisters served us lunch. There was also a young Vietnamese-American woman from Texas who was spending 7 months there as a volunteer. She was glad to have someone to whom she could speak American English. Being from Texas (that is, a football fan) she tried desperately to find the Superbowl game on TV a few weeks ago, but to no avail. She was left to watch a few replays with Vietnamese overdubs.
We receive a very warm reception everywhere we go and it is due to Kim Dung’s 17 year relationship with some of these communities. They look forward to seeing her. She comes at least once, if not, twice a year.
In the time I have been here I know a few greetings in Vietnamese, but people keep talking to me as if they think I am fluent. The people have been so very gracious to me.
The government now provides some space for a chapel at this camp where Fr. Bình and I could concelebrate Mass. There are also two Sisters Adorers of the Holy Cross of Vinh who live on the grounds and minister to the residents.
There are few places I saw that were in any way accessible for those with disabilities. This only isolates further and adds to the sense of “disability”.
Again, Kim is attentive to the family members who care for their loved ones living with disabilities.
There was often singing when we would meet the people for whom we brought gifts. It has been my experience that Vietnamese LOVE to sing and to listen to singing.
These videos give a glimpse of how we would distribute the gifts.
Fr. Bình is very good with the children.
This childcare program provided for the Vincentian Sisters is another way to help those most hurt by poverty: women and children.
At the convent where we stayed the night at the Sisters Adorers of the Holy Cross of Quảng Bình. They care for children there.