I'm sitting on the runaway at IAH this time tomorrow, waiting to take off for my seventh adventure in Can Tho, Vietnam. This is about the young ladies who met me at the airport in Saigon on my first trip. It is from September 14, 2013.
Two weeks ago on a Friday night, I was the guest at supper of four of my former students; sisters Emmy and Jessica, Victoria, and Tony. All four of them sat in my classroom several years ago and all did well. They have something else in common. All four are from Vietnam and more specifically, from Saigon (or Ho Chi Minh City, depending on who you are talking to.) Amazingly, except for the sisters, the quartet did not know each other in Vietnam even though they live close to each other. Instead, they met at Westbury Christian School in Houston, Texas, USA. Without a doubt, the world is shrinking in ways we probably don't even comprehend yet.
We ate at a place called Pho' Binh which specializes in pho', a soup which is my favorite food on my trips to Can Tho. I brought some pictures of my 23 day in July excursion and told them all about it. As we are all FACEBOOK friends, they knew much of my journey but it's always different hearing it in person. They talked about their lives as college students and their time at WCS and their homeland. They had come to see me the day before and visited my classroom during my planning period. They were drawn to the flag of Vietnam that adorns my wall and told me how much it would mean to a student from their country to see it hanging in my class.... although they did promise to buy me a new one because mine is a very inexpensive model. And as the evening came to a close, one of the young ladies said something that has stuck with me, so much that I can still quote it word for word:
"Coach, we wish that everybody would see us like you see us."
It took awhile to sink in. In fact, fifteen days later, I'm still not 100% sure what she meant. I would guess it has to do with living in a strange land. Even though there are many folks of Vietnamese descent abiding in Houston, and even though these young people are fluent in English, it's still not home. And maybe, even though I always felt close to these four before, my walking where they have walked in the nation of their birth cemented that feeling that I have a unique perspective on their lives that differs from most Americans. (Did I tell you they met me at the airport at roughly midnight in Saigon on my first trip in July of 2011? Please take into account that I had just been in the air for twenty plus hours! From left, Jessica, Victoria, Emmy, and the inimitable Thuy, another WCS student.)
And as I try to put the pieces together mentally, I remember that I didn't say I would become all things to all men.... but Paul did. I just went on three mission trips and greatly enjoyed myself. And I didn't go to their world to see what their world was like....... but Jesus did. But this is what that one sentence has done for me- it made me glad that the Father sees me like He sees me, in spite of myself. It made me overjoyed that Jesus sees me like He sees me, flawed as I tend to be. And it made me rejoice that the Holy Spirit sees me, just as I am. You know, they would not let me pay for dinner that Friday night although I insisted that I will foot the bill for the next outing. But the best gift I received that night was a twelve word statement that made me look in my own mirror of my existence and thank the Lord that there is more than one perspective on the life of Steve Hawley. I always need that second opinion.