I found the person God wants me to be in Vietnam. He was waiting
for me in a small village in the center of the country in a small
three-sided house made of mud and straw; he had waited a long time.
It was here that the people touched me the most. For all the things
I thought I needed, these people had no knowledge of any of them.
They were so happy and thankful that we were there to help; all
they could do was thank us and welcome us into their homes.
Before I traveled to Vietnam, I took many things for granted,
and my freedom was probably foremost on the list. As an American,
I'm unrestricted in my daily activities. Sure, we have laws we must
adhere to, but when I hold those up to communist rules, our laws
pale in comparison. The fact that Binh can move within these
boundaries and still get so much done is a miracle in itself.
The team I am with is staffed by three doctors, three dentists,
and several support staff. We also have anywhere from two to four
interpreters as we travel between villages. One of my biggest
challenges is the incredible language barrier. In spite of my
communication shortcomings, however, the people of Vietnam are
patient and gracious when dealing with our team.
Our travels are filled with Binh's stories of great triumph for
the many children she has helped and with stories of the war that
drove her and her family from the country. All are sobering. Binh
tells us that she once bought a child on the beach for $52 to save
her from a life of prostitution. She gave her a home at one of the
orphanages. Children have been dropped on her doorstep. All are
loved; all are taken care of.
As we travel from orphanage to orphanage, I'm struck by the
disparity of the orphanages and their external surroundings.
Inside, an antiseptic cleanliness is bathed in warmth by loving
caregivers. Outside, it's as though the clock has stopped ticking
for 30 years. A building with bomb strafing on it or a blast crater
serve as sulking reminders of the war once waged in this
Lines are longer and slower in Vietnam. The people navigate
through a thick haze of heat and humidity. Each day the temperature
stays in the 90s, but the humidity shoots up to 100 percent. Things
are slower when it's that hot. One man tells me that Vietnam has
three seasons-hot, hotter, and hottest. And when they wait,
Vietnamese people wait patiently, most often in a crouched
position. Waiting for their turn at the too few opportunities they
have for medical or dental care.
One young mother walks many miles to bring her child to the
clinic (pictured far right). Born with a condition that hindered
his brain fontanels from fusing, this 3-year-old child will
eventually die from complications resulting from his enlarged skull
that is literally crushing his brain. The mother walked a great
distance-and waited for her turn. When she is finally able to see
the doctor, she has but one question: What can I do to make him
comfortable? No questions about making her life easier. She simply
wants to know how to make her son more comfortable in the few days
he has left to live.
It's that kind of devoted love I see in Binh. Ask her how much
of a dollar is actually donated directly to the children as opposed
to overhead costs, and she'll tell you 110 percent. "Because," she
says, "when you give a dollar, I'll add 10 cents of my own to that
dollar." Binh and her family live entirely on her husband's salary
and donate her salary to make the lives of her orphaned children
At one point during a breakfast meeting, Binh says something
that hits home for me. Every now and then, people ask her how she
can worry about kids in another country when in America, there are
starving, hopeless people. Her response is simple and to the point.
She says, "I know about this problem and can do something about
it." She knows she can't save the world, but she can make a
difference here-for these children. This is what God has called her
The task that Binh has undertaken seems enormous, but when I see
the fire that burns in her, I believe she can and will change the
way Vietnam treats its children. She has the vision and is gaining
resources every day. The road for her is long, and I pray that she
reaches the end. Even if she doesn't, the difference she has
already made and the people she has impacted and changed will
forever be remembered. She is not only changing the lives of the
orphans she is working with but also of anyone she comes in contact
Small things a person does sometimes change my opinion more than
the things I hear them say. Two days before we left Vietnam, Binh
told me she had something for my daughter-a small tea set for her
to remember my trip. My daughter and I play with it often, and
every time it reminds me of a trip and a woman who took the time to
care for yet another child. I'll never forget the things I saw in
Vietnam, and I'll never forget the things that can be done when one
person believes so strongly that things need to change. Binh can
stare down a government and all the while never lose her focus on
what's important in life. She inspires me to help people and to
find things in this world that I believe in. To make a difference.
Craig DeMartino is staff photographer for Children's
Ministry Magazine. He and his wife have two children.