|First of all, thank you to everyone who prayed for me while I was in Vietnam. I felt your prayers, and God took care of us every step of the way. There were some tense moments along the way, as there always is with international travel, but we made it home safe and sound late Sunday night.
As I write this blog, I’m struggling to put into words all that I experienced during our wheelchair distribution. I knew the trip would be powerful, but I underestimated how transformed I would be.
After a few days touring in Danang, we traveled from Ho Chi Minh City (also known as Saigon) five hours by bus to the Mekong Delta, a rich farming area that is called the food basket of Vietnam. Over half of the nation’s rice is grown in this area, along with many fruits. The fields are green and plush and stand in stark contrast to the shacks, ramshackle huts and litter that line the roadways.
When we arrived at the hotel, a lovely little gecko greeted me in my room. Let’s just say it wasn’t exactly like our hotels here in the States! We immediately started prepping and getting wheelchairs unpacked and ready for distribution the next day. The site was up and ready to go the next morning, but I was in no way emotionally prepared for what I was about to witness.
My job was to sit with the interview/intake person and write down the stories of each client in English. Hearing the accounts of the beautiful people who sat before us quickly became overwhelming as we listened to story after story of situations that were blatantly unfair. There was the woman in her 40’s who has been crippled since birth and has never had access to a wheelchair. She has crawled around on the ground or been carried by others her entire life, yet she sat before us with a strength and resolve, both physically and emotionally, that was incredibly inspiring.
There was the little girl who suffers from seizures because she had a fever when she was an infant. Because there was nothing like Tylenol or Ibuprofen available, or any way to cool her off, she now is unable to walk and has severe brain damage.
Then there was the man who struck himself in the leg with his pineapple spear. Having no money, he couldn’t afford to go to the hospital to have it treated. He developed an infection in the wound and his leg had to be amputated. Simple antibiotics could have saved his leg.
One little boy and his family totally stole my heart. I would sing to the people waiting for their wheelchairs when I had the chance, and this one boy and his family would follow me and Thomas, a young man from Canada who sang with me, and sit in front of us as we sang. Through an interpreter, his mother explained how much the little boy loved music. He had a huge grin on his face as we sang to him and clapped and waved his hands in the air. The music made him so happy, and my heart melted at the joy in his eyes.
The stories go on and on. I had to excuse myself from the interview table a few times because I couldn’t quit crying. I wasn’t ready for what I was hearing. The reality of their lives cut my heart to the core.
Here are a few pictures of some of the beautiful people we were privileged to serve:
This is the little boy who loved our singing and his family, along with Thomas and other members of the team.
The best way I know to describe Vietnam and my experience there is tragically beautiful. Beautiful stories of hope and resilience, yet it was tragic all at the same time.
I know one thing for sure, I went there to try to change lives, but I was the one who was changed.
It was like witnessing a miracle to see the joy in their faces as they sat in their wheelchairs. No longer would they have to be carried around on their loved one’s backs. They were free to move about on their own. It makes you think about how small their worlds have been since many have been confined to their homes, with very limited outings. I can’t imagine laying around in the same place day after day, week after week, year after year. Horrible. Yet that’s what many of them have done. It was a testament to the power of the human spirit.
I also loved watching a team of people who didn’t know each other before this trip come together and work so well together. We all did whatever was needed to the best of our ability, and it was beautiful.
Upon my return to the States, I find myself feeling guilty about all the things I have…and all the things they lack. Why was I blessed to be born in America while they were born in a country that doesn’t provide the simplest healthcare for its people? Why are babies still being born with birth defects from Agent Orange? Why are so many people who suffer strokes unable to leave their homes? Why are sweet little children left permanently disabled because they don’t have something as basic as Tylenol?
While I don’t have answers to any of those questions, I know one thing for sure, I pray this feeling doesn’t go away. I want to bottle it up and remind myself of all that I witnessed in those sweet faces when I start to feel sorry for myself for trivial things. I will try with all my might to keep these images front and center in my mind so I never ever forget to be grateful.
And I know I was truly blessed to have been given the opportunity to experience this tragically beautiful corner of the world.
Hugs and love,
Jill Miller is most well known as a Nashville recording artist, singer, songwriter and she is also a certified speaker, coach and teacher with the John Maxwell Team. Jill dedicates her life to ministry through leading worship at women’s events and has touched thousands of women across the country through her relatable sharing. Author of “Grace Finds Wings – A Journey in Song,” Jill shares the stories behind the songs on her CD, “Grace Finds Wings,” and finds ways to touch your heart and help you discover grace in things like infertility, divorce, financial struggles, marital infidelity and loss. Jill recently released her 6th CD, “Twelve, the Freedom Soundtrack,” has opened for the legendary Loretta Lynn and sang the national anthem for President Bush.