Tag Archives: Christianity

Vietnam – With a Mission (WAM)

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Hoi An, Vietnam

 Dĩ hoà vi quý – Making peace is treasured

Vietnamese Proverb: Minh. Gọi nắng xuân về. Nhàsách Quang Minh. p. 116.

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Apartment life – Kuala Lumpur

Over the recent end-of-year holidays I was very fortunate to visit both Malaysia and Vietnam for three weeks.  My one week trip to Malaysia was a holiday in the true sense – visiting the land where my father was born.  His parents, or my grand-parents, were working in Penang, Malaya as it was previously called when a British Colony between 1949 to the mid-nineteen-sixties.  Penang is a very multi-cultural city with plenty of hustle and bustle.  One of the most encouraging aspects about this city was how the different cultures and religions were able to live peacefully amongst each other.  On the main street was a: large protestant church, Muslim mosque, Buddhist temple, and Hindu stores selling incense and idols.  Trips through Ipoh and Kuala Lumpur revealed a more Muslim nation with great food and welcoming people.

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Our boat driver and local houses     Mei Kong Delta

However, my trip to Vietnam was of a somewhat different nature.  Choosing to study and work as an engineering was a decision I made some years ago to hopefully help those less fortunate in practical ways.  After a brief presentation from one of members from the Kew Baptist Vietnamese congregation’s outreach group With A Mission (WAM) at an evening service I was encouraged to join the team for the one week mission and exposure trip.  As part of the trip we were to assist with the construction of some houses for local poor people, who, although owning land were often unable to construct or afford a decent house due to being widowed or elderly.  We were also to assist with a medical program that the church regularly runs.  Fundraising for this church and its activities was conducted prior to leaving.

We travelled to Kien Giang Vietnam, south of Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City).  This area was quite remote from tourists as I was the only ‘white’ person that I saw for about six or so days.  In this region we partnered with an amazing local church that is part of a broader network of churches involved with Socio-Medical Committee of the Vietnamese Evangelical Church of South Vietnam, SOMEDCO.  I would like to share three primary reflections in this piece:

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Newly built house and its owner

Firstly, I was shocked with how these very poor Vietnamese people lived and interacted with the rivers and water.  Each day we took a boat for over an hour (each way) along the Mei Kong delta.  In this tiny boat I saw how the river was used for washing people and food, and for drinking, however, it was also used as a rubbish dump for plastics and human effluent.  Regularly our boat’s motor propeller had to be taken from the water to remove tangled plastic bags that were stopping it from working – however, the driver would simply then throw these removed pieces of plastic back into the river before continuing forward.  Internationally, sanitation and poor access to clean water are among some of the largest reasons for infant death, and place a great drain on the communities where people may regularly become ill.

Secondly, I was amazed by the vibrancy and work of the local church.  Prior to leaving we had been fundraising for the work of a partner church in the region.  While we were there: over four houses were being constructed; their main church building was finishing its construction; their church manse was knocked down prior to building a new one; another smaller-church building was about to begin construction for a new congregation; and a medical program was run where many Christian doctors from Saigon visit the region seeing over 500 patients.  These Christians are a minority amongst their Communists and the Buddhists neighbours – however, they are well respected for their generous work by the local people.  Due to their poverty and most not having any formal ‘weekend’, except for schooling, it seemed that in these poorer regions that only the Christians had a day of the week that differed from any other of the week – trying to make ends meet.

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Vietnamese Refugee Boat, circa 1970s

Thirdly, I was humbled by the stories told by our Vietnamese team members.  I distinctly remember one morning at breakfast where Pastor Khoi was speaking about his escape from Communist Vietnam as a 14 y.o. boy on a refugee boat with his aunt.  He then proceeded to go around the table of primarily Australian-Born-Vietnamese (ABV) team members and tell how each of their respective parents had each risked similar trips.  The only two people at the table who did not share this same history was a local Vietnamese Christian worker and I.  Over 1 million Vietnamese asylum seekers died at sea between 1975 and 1995.

This trip was a wake-up-call and a reminder of both the realities of poverty in our world and the opportunities for Christians, among all people, to love those less fortunate.

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Dragon Bridge – Da Nang

Dragon Bridge, Da NangAfter the mission trip I was able to holiday with some of my new friends through: Saigon – a busy, dirty and changing city; to Nha Trang – where I discovered many Russian tourists and proportionally very few other international visitors; Hoi An – a city with a beautiful UNESCO world heritage protected zone that was heavily influenced by the Chinese; and finally, to Da Nang – arguably Vietnam’s most modern city, featuring many large bridges, including the now famous Dragon Bridge that breaths fire during public displays.

If you are interested in any part of the mission trip and or would be interested in participating or donating please visit: www.facebook.com/withamission


This post is the first of a series of posts about my travel experiences between March 2015 – March 2016 to New Zealand, Malaysia and Vietnam.

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Filed under Christianity, Engineering, Travel, Uncategorized, Vietnam

Bill Cunningham New York

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The best fashion show is definitely on the street – always has been and always will be.

Bill Cunningham

How excited about fashion can a twenty-something Australian engineer get about street fashion in New York when friends mine say to me, “You dress so poor!” – and not in an ironic sort of way?

However, I recently watched Richard Press‘ delightful documentary – Bill Cunningham New York – after a tip from a menopausal middle-manager came good.

Perhaps because the doco is only partly about fashion, or perhaps it is not about fashion at all.  Nevertheless, the film follows octogenarian street fashion photograph Bill Cunningham around the sidewalks of New York, to the high-society parties for the (oh so) rich and famous, to the catwalks of Paris – where Bill shoots for the New York Times.

Bill waits on street corners “It’s always the hope that you’ll see some marvelous exotic bird of paradise, meaning a very elegant stunning woman or someone wearing something terrific” and then it may be some shoes, or a hat, or matching pairs – but he quick snaps his manual film camera and he’s captured it – a moment, an image!  Probably only because of his age, and trademark blue jacket he doesn’t get assaulted for taking snaps without permission.  But the fashionistas seem to relish the attention lauding the praise of his eyes.

Bill shooting on bike

Just a regular day at the office

Saying things like: “I don’t know how to work, I only know how to have fun everyday”; and “If we all went out looking like a slob like me, it would be a pretty dreary world” – it is hard not to like Bill.  Energetic, honest, excitable, gifted and level headed, his passion for beauty is engaging.  Unlike other pretentious artists, Bill seems to enjoy his simple bike, blue cardigan and his humble, pokey little apartment – sleeping on the floor next to filing-case after filing case filled with a lifetimes’ worth of film.

Press shoots the film with both an energy and an honesty.  Alternating between shots of Bill at work; shots of Bill’s work; and interviews from upper crust celebrities including flamboyant author and socialite Tom Wolfe.

However one particular scene is unique – Bill is asked two questions – one about his personal relationships; and the other about religion.  Attending church every week, Bill is perhaps much like many of the older US generation, and yet it is the only time in the rollicking 83 minutes of footage that he is lost for words.  Struggling, after a substantial pause, and looking away from the camera, “It is something I need”.  Bill gives the impression that he values his Catholic faith in a deep and personal way; and yet, humbly does not want this to distance him from his friends and colleagues – from progressive NYers that may not hold such regard for Christianity.  A man of opposites, Bill straddles the fence – mingling with the Bold and the Beautiful, while not being seduced to compromise his beautiful spirit and love for the NY – “It’s hard to play a straight game in this city”.

In my workplace where us engineers ironically look more similar on casual Fridays than weekdays when the good old’e check shirts come out. Yet, I now feel somewhat inspired to be a little bit more flamboyant with my ‘fashion’, as Bill quips near the end of the film – “Lots of people have taste; but few have enough courage”.

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