Saturday, September 02, 2017


This coming Wednesday, I will give my annual Vietnam report to our congregation. As always, there will be pictures of children. This is about two I met in the past. It is from July 31, 2013.
I saw Ann Stone at Bible study tonight and I thanked her profusely. Ann, our congregation's accountant, takes care of the money end of my trip to Vietnam; She is irreplaceable in her advice as well as keeping up with the donations which made my mission possible. I gave her my annual gift; a framed picture of me and some little ones and a hand sewn Vietnamese cell phone purse. We caught up a little bit and talked about my coming in next week to do some housekeeping on my ledger. She's taking a week off- her daughter and son-in-law are in town! That's about the best possible reason for some vacation time! Ann kept up with me on Facebook and through the nightly update I sent out on e-mail, and as we talked, she mentioned a picture. I knew the exact one she meant. It was a little girl who lived next door to the house where Nhanh taught English until the authorities allow the use of the church building again. I tried to persuade her to look at me and so did her father- she is already good at playing hard to get! It was the best picture I took during my 23 day trip but it was a lucky shot. I just keep snapping with no sense of skill but the law of averages and the low cost of a digital camera allow me to get one right every so often. 

This little girl was at the wedding of the cousin of Phuong/Yen/Oanh/Dat and she showed up in a number of the pictures I took that day. She obviously loves the camera and is very social but what impressed me is that I don't think I have ever seen anyone with a face more perfectly symmetrical. In every shot she's in, whether by herself or in a group, her picture is perfect, and obviously not because of the expertise of my photography. It's a gift she possesses, not from anything she has done, except of course, for the willingness to smile and be confident. Like all of us, she is the product of the genetic makeup of two parents and they produced a beautiful child.

In that same Bible study I mentioned previously  our youth minister, Steve Lehman, showed a five minute clip about a young lady with an extremely rare condition which has left her in the eyes of the world very unattractive. And yet, she has used the horrific comments directed towards her appearance as motivation to rise above the pain she has endured since childhood. Both the little girls in Vietnam and the girl in the video are judged by their looks which is not what the Lord measures. Steve referenced the story of Samuel going to anoint David and he read 1 Samuel 16:7, after the prophet was sure God had selected Jesse's oldest soon, Eliab:
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
How the Lord's standard differs from the world's standard which also includes you and me. I love showing pictures of cute children in southeast Asia. This is a bad pun, but let's face it, the human side of us reacts to cuteness and beauty and it puts you where I am, which is a good thing. But the world is often ugly, too; we'd just rather focus on the pleasant. When I was teaching a Bible class with the young people in the church in Can Tho, I asked the young ladies if they would prefer the preacher to be handsome or unattractive- you know what they said. (Of course, their preacher is their cousin!) In the film presentations of the Gospels I use in my classes, Jesus is always good looking; it would bother us if He were ugly. Maybe it's a good thing there were no cameras in that day. When I was little, we used to sing the hymn, "Let The Beauty Of Jesus Be Seen In Me." The song wasn't talking about whether His face was absolutely symmetrical but about the perfection of His heart. His beauty can be transferred to me spiritually. And if it's there, you won't need a camera to see it.

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