John arrived home safely on Saturday! He is oh so very tired and his car battery is dead from all this heat, but he is home and smiling! Oh, John had a wonderful time in Vietnam. He has so many adventures to share, some are still coming since he has been very tired the past two days.
Overall John was super pleased with the conference, he was inspired and in awe of the love the parents and administrators have for these special children. The only things lacking is knowledge, which he and his team so graciously offered. Over the two weeks they established many relationships and encouraged so many caregivers.
I asked John what stood out to him the most and he said it was the teaching he was able to do. The Vietnamese were so attentive, writing down every word he said - very humbling. His talk took on a life of its own each time he presented, the beginning talk was very "to the text" but as he talked with more people the more he adapted and changed what he was saying to be more personal. The parents left the conference so encouraged and inspired to teach their children - most of these parents believed the lie that their children were never going to amount to anything and thus they felt sorry for them - never expecting anything from them. John was quite a light to these parents - he talked a lot about trials and struggles and how working hard to overcome adversity isn't a bad thing. He shared that children will rise to the expectations of encouraging and pressing parents and teachers. John was the only - the only - disabled person they had ever met who had done anything with this life. In their culture special needs children, if not abandoned, receive a free pass to do nothing but watch TV and are basically alienated from society. The parents seemed very burdened - John's encouragement went such a long way to lifting their hearts. Think about the sacrifice these parents went to - they are only allowed 2 children in Vietnam so to keep one with special needs is a huge sacrifice in their culture. What a sad reality, life there, John said, was not filled with meaning and purpose.
The last few days John went up into the mountains to continue working on various relationships and help plan a Northwood teaching conference this upcoming October. John saw the hand of God work in mighy ways one afternoon in Sapa- in a matter of 2 hours the October conference (they were planning) had doubled in attendance, locations changed, interpreters found and met with, equipment loaned, and curriculum adjusted and approved. What was once just in the beginning phases ended up being completely worked out and finished. Wow! God has big plans for this conference in October!
One story John shared just broke my heart, he said as they were going down a mountain and he saw three children all our kids ages - 6,3,1 - the oldest was commanding 3 water buffalo up this huge curved road, the 3 year old was carrying his little sister on his back - there were no parents for miles. That seemed to be the norm up in the mountains. John said he saw a lot of children - very few were being supervised and most were under the age of 6 - playing along roads many miles away from a town or adult. Their water system isn't drinkable but often he would see children playing in the culverts next to the waste. It was so very sad to see.
There were many other crazy stories that helped me appreciate the luxuries in America - like A/C, chicken (instead of kitten), sanitation, driving laws, and building codes! Please explain why they have a law that you must wear a helmet, but no law that says you need to drive on the right side of the road or stop for pedestrians????
Overall, John had a great time and looks forward to going back next year with a slightly different talk that centers on encouragement, goals and expectations for special needs children.
Thank you all for praying! God used this trip in John's life in so many ways - he is still digesting all that he experienced and processing! I'll be posting pictures as I edit though the 500+ pictures of Vietnam at the following link: http://www.babyhomepages.net/johnandmelissa/pictures.php?viewalbum=47040