"Oh NO! We've hit a child."
Margaret West, production assistant for the TV special film crew, had seen it coming. Her wail came from deep inside her heart and pierced through into mine. I felt horror and shock.
Rebecca Gibney and I had been talking. Margaret and Greg Low, the director, had been looking out the window. They saw the little boy, about four, being chased by other children. He stepped onto the road to evade them. Our van, driven by a local driver, hit him in the back.
Our van wasn't going too fast. Maybe only about 40 kays. Through most Vietnamese villages you would be crazy to go faster anyway. There are not many motor vehicles on the road in Vietnam. But there are millions of bicycles and motor bikes. They weave in and out, usually three and four abreast, with pedestrians hugging the edge of the road as well.
Our driver hit the brakes. There was a squeal of tyres sliding, then a jolting bang, Margaret's scream and we slithered a further few yards.
Greg was out of the door before the van stopped. The driver leapt out too. The boy's mother saw what had happened and appeared with a scream. She scooped the boy up. Blood came from a wound on the back of his head and he had a few scrapes on his hips and knees.
We bundled mother and boy into the van and the driver set off for the nearest hospital. The rest of us were left standing by the side of the road. Within a few minutes our second van arrived and we hitched a ride.
Greg was worried that the head wound looked very serious. It was hard to tell. Heads bleed a lot.
We prayed hard, if quietly, and our prayers were answered. The boy did not need hospitalisation and was able to go home. Bruised and lucky.
Incidents like this remind me about the essential importance of each individual life to our Father God. There are many people in the world in life-threatening situations. More than 30,000 children will die this very day from hunger related causes. We cannot relate personally to the thousands. But when one child is hurting, and you are personally involved, there is nothing more important than that child's welfare.
Sight for $50
In Da Nang we visited a Blind Institute. The doctor explained how he performed surgery to give sight to patients with cataracts.
In most western countries we can now cure many cataracts with new techniques that give the patient 100% vision. Fran Irvine, our President's wife, and Christopher Radley, who works with World Vision of Britain have had this surgery with perfect eyesight the result.
In Vietnam they simply remove the whole cloudy lens. The result is no ability to focus. The patient has to wear coke-bottle glasses, but it's better than being blind.
The doctor introduced me to the Deputy Director of the Institute who had had the operation to correct his cataracts. His magnified eyes peered out at me from behind glasses that looked an inch thick. But he could certainly see.
Then the doctor introduced me to a woman who had not had the operation. The lens of each eye was a cloudy white and she stared sightlessly into the middle distance.
"When will this woman have the operation?" I asked.
"Oh, she won't have it," said the doctor, "she can't afford it."
"What will it cost?" I asked.
For the lack of $50 this woman would be blind for the rest of her life.
Of course, we can do something about this woman to ensure that her life is not blighted by the lack of $50.
We visited a hospital up in the mountains in the middle of a malaria epidemic.
The hospital can only treat the malaria. They have no money for food, yet some of the children were obviously malnourished.
The patients rely on whatever food their relatives bring to the hospital. On one bed was a young boy and his mother. Both sick with malaria. It was hard to see how they were getting enough food.
One of my strongest impressions from Vietnam (apart from a new appreciation of the quality and variety of Vietnamese cooking) is the enormous potential of the place.
We met so many well-educated, wise and intelligent people. People who know what to do but cannot do what is needed.
Very often they lack resources. We can do something about that.
Very often there are structural barriers. Politics and bureaucracy sometimes get in the road. Hopefully change will continue to come in these areas as well.
A Life Changing Experience
A properly organised visit to World Vision projects is a life changing experience. Ask our colleagues who went on the Get Close Tour.
Or ask Rebecca Gibney who was our "star" for the TV special in Vietnam.
"The best job I've ever had," she said. More a labour of love, and an expression of Christian faith, for Rebecca who attends Blackburn Baptist Church and has recently joined the Bible Study group of our Board Chairman, David Jenkin.