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Mission Trip Reflection
CHARIS-Barré Mission Friendship | Kontum, Vietnam | 25 July – 1 August 2015
By Ivanna Chau

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Someone asked me why I chose to come on this mission trip with Barré.

Besides wanting to do something good, there was also an element of nostalgia that drove me to participate. Being an IJ girl myself, I was a beneficiary of St. Nicholas Barré’s contribution to education, and so, I was thrilled at the opportunity to give back for a similar cause.

But I soon found out, Teaching is no mean feat. It is one thing to use a language, but to teach it is an entirely different ball game. And technology is just a tool that cannot replace the human element in teaching. The power to educate resides in the execution of a well thought out lesson plan that considers not only the syllabus and content but also the capabilities and relevance to students.

By God’s grace, we pulled through and I am sure we came out of this trip much more aware and appreciative of the work our teachers did. This experience has given me much to be thankful for. The passion and camaraderie of our team were evident that God was quietly working through us. I looked forward to our daily meals and debriefs after class, because by listening to others I learned too. I liked how we respected and encouraged each person to share their views, but avoided being over domineering or overbearing. By giving a voice to everyone, we honour God. Because, when we listen to one another we show that we respect and love one another, and that is charity. In this little way, I know God was with us.

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Daily formation sessions were the icing on the cake. How wonderfully God had planned, for the ladies and the guys to have separate dormitories. (We originally thought, all of us would be constrained to share one dormitory.) Formation among ladies only was more intimate and full of laughter and joy. What better way
to wind down and end the day than with laughter. Not even the mosquitos and spiders could dampen that.

Speaking of spiders, I must say, I was reminded that what our eyes see may not be the whole truth. Trini and I always thought we saw only ONE spider hovering between our beds. Imagine my horror when Lilynne told me, “Oh that one on the wall is ANOTHER one, the one I chased out was on the floor.” OMG!! There were literally, more than meets the eye. Haha!

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The visit to the village homes, orphanage and church gave me much food for thought. I contemplated about charity, giving, human dignity, practicality and responsibility. The simple act of giving may be borne of good intentions, yet, the causal effect could be less than desired. My conclusion is thus:

Be it a person, a community or an environment, the Beneficiary, is often passive and reacts according to how and what they receive. Therefore, the responsibility lies on the Giver, to seek out the optimal how and what to give, in order to bring out the best reaction and outcome from the Beneficiary.

I certainly hope I made a positive impact on the students, especially the Phase 1 class in my team’s charge. I am truly grateful for their participation and sharing. They took in their strides our amateur lesson delivery, and despite us being total strangers, opened up to us their thoughts and their homes. I hope they continue
to stay the course and work on improving both their English and teaching skills. The measure of success for Barre’s programme in Kon Tum, I believe, starts with Phase 1 students’ effectiveness as English teachers to their own people. I am eager to see the results.

As I close off this reflection, I want to say a big Thank You to Mr. Hien, Mr. Hue, Thao, Father John Baptiste, Father Francis (Boc Biu), Brother Yeu, and all the kitchen staff at the Wooden Church of the Immaculate Conception, who made it such a conducive stay and fed us really well. Fruits and durians every day, plus free flow of Vietnamese coffee and tea. Many people in Singapore would be green with envy.

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This was indeed an enriching trip for my mind, body and soul. I learned new skills, tried new foods, renewed my values and beliefs, and made new friends. It could not get more wholesome than this. I know God was there with us, every step of the way. Thank You God! Amen!




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