During a turbulent period spent at an orphanage in rural Vietnam, young Phuong was thrown a lifeline in the form of visitors who came to the centre and shared Christ’s love with her. Phuong became a believer, and dreamed of one day returning to share her faith with the children at the orphanage. Phuong now visits the orphanage monthly to run classes for the kids and despite local opposition from government officials, she has seen eight children make decisions to follow Christ.
The first thing you notice about Phuong is her bright, sunny smile and her optimism. It’s hard to believe that this young woman endured a tumultuous past which included 13 years spent in an orphanage.
Today things could not be more different for 22-year-old Phuong. Her diligence and determination are evident in the fact that has completed a communications degree, has worked as a translator for an international news broadcaster and carried out communications work for some major urban development projects.
She has overcome a lifetime characterised by significant deprivation and disadvantage to get to where she is today. Yet for all of her achievements, her lack of self-pity and her steadfast determination to share with the next generation the faith that helped save her is what makes her truly extraordinary.
Every month, Phuong commutes three hours by motorbike through heavy traffic and along rural roads to reach the orphanage. Phuong and her team of volunteers endeavour to show the children Christ’s love. They play games with the children, run classes including arts and crafts and computer skills, and share teachings from the Bible. They also cook with the children, help them with their household duties, and organise the occasional party for them.
None of the children at the orphanage are allowed to own Bibles. Local government officials have pressured the staff at the centre to keep “the Christians” away and to stop them from sharing the Gospel with the children.
In the face of such obstacles, it’s a miracle that since the team started visiting the orphanage, they have seen eight children make decisions for Christ.
“The staff at the orphanage know we are Christians and because of pressure from the local police, they wanted us to stop sharing God’s word,” she said. “We gave the children Bibles but the staff took them away. Now we help the children learn and memorise verses of scripture.”
The children have grown attached to Phuong and her team of volunteers. “We keep in touch with the children in the centre, and they share their feelings with us, and I know that they consider us to be their friends,” Phuong said. “They’re lonely and want people to talk to, and they consider myself and the team a group of big brothers and sisters whom they can share with.”
The children also look at Phuong as a role model and are encouraged by her example. “Whenever I translate for visitors to the orphanage, the children watch me and tell me ‘You speak English very well – you must study hard’,” she said. “They have promised me that they will try their best to study hard as well.”
Phuong considers sharing the love of her Heavenly Father with the children a privilege and a joy. Her “earthly father” died when her mother was pregnant with Phuong. Her mother fell ill, and was forced to give up Phuong and her sister.
After Phuong left the orphanage, she shared the Gospel with her mother, who made a decision for Christ and enthusiastically studied the Bible for a year. Her mother also gave up the practice of ancestral worship in the process. Due to condemnation from relatives and accusations that she was not honouring her late husband and grandfather, Phuong’s mother drifted away from the faith.
“My mum respects my faith. She believes God has provided for me in many ways and brought good things into my life,” she said. “She asked my sister to believe in God and become a Christian, like me, as I have a good life while my sister is thin, sick and has problems with her relationships.”
“My mother and sister aren’t believers – yet – but I believe they will be one day.” Phuong came to believe in God under the influence of visitors who came to the orphanage and shared stories from the Bible, including the Christmas story.
Journey in Faith
Buoyed by the love shown by the visitors at the centre and the impression they left in sharing Bible stories, Phuong made a decision to become a believer when she was nine years old. Before she left the orphanage, she decided to return one day and share the Christian faith and love that had been shown to her.
“When I was at the orphanage, I met a lot of volunteers and it was my dream when I graduated from the centre that I would go back to help others,” she said.
A number of believers helped Phuong grow in her faith along the way. “I accepted Jesus into my life when I was in the fourth grade. When I moved to university, I learnt more about God and my faith grew stronger,” she said.
“In 2010, I committed my life to serving God and serving people. At that time, I stayed with another Christian and she introduced me to her church and we studied the Bible together for almost a year. That caused me to grow and grow.”
Her journey towards growing and maturing in her faith hasn’t all been smooth sailing, and she has faced a discouraging amount of opposition in her ministry. “When I was a first year student, I also organised a group to come to the centre every Saturday, where we taught maths and other subjects but we ran into some problems, and my faith was weak,” she said. “The group lasted for nearly two months, before wrapping up. I felt like I had failed and stopped for four years.”
Healing from the baggage of the past was also a part of her journey, which led to her taking an opportunity to attend counselling every week for nearly a year. “I had big hurts in my life. Dad died when mum was three months pregnant, so I never knew him and I wanted a father’s love,” she said. “I went to a Christian counsellor, and it’s helped to heal the past hurts.
“It’s my dream to become a counsellor, and to share God’s love with others by counselling. Ultimately God is our healer, and I want to play a role by helping the orphans and the poor children in that journey. That’s my heart’s desire.”
Phuong is intelligent, vivacious and conscientious. With her qualifications, talents, and affable personality, one could envisage her enjoying a high-flying career. Former employees often ask her whether she can carry out short-term work and she only takes up the contracts if she has the time.
Despite her many opportunities, Phuong’s priority is to help the children of the orphanage come into relationship with her Saviour. After coming to know Christ there herself, Phuong believes she has come full circle.
“God is faithful, and led me back to the centre to fulfil my dreams. It’s my heart’s desire to share Christ’s love with the children and I believe it pleases God,” she said. “I believe I am nothing, but in God’s eyes I am very special and He will use me for his glory.”