Lovers of the Holy Cross Sister Anna Tran Thi Hien and four other nuns get up at 3.30 a.m. and prepare breakfast for hospital patients. They provide chao
(rice cooked with meat or fish) for hundreds of poor patients and their relatives at a public hospital in Dong Ha city in Quang Tri province. They teach basic education, catechism
and how to play musical instruments to 45 orphans and children with physical disabilities aged 1-18. They also feed and wash babies. Children are sent to local public schools and accommodated by the nuns at church-run Lam Bich Home. Many of the children are deaf or visually impaired and are from the Pako and Van Kieu ethnic groups who live in extreme poverty in mountainous areas.
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"We try our best to bring Jesus' love to people in need through our services and loving care," Sister Hien said. The nun, who has worked with ethnic groups for four decades, said about 1,500 ethnic villagers have found happiness in their life and embraced Catholicism. Some use their houses as chapels for others to pray on a regular basis. Tens of thousands of Pako and Van Kieu people live in Quang Tri and Thua Thien Hue provinces. "They trust us and treat us like their relatives because we speak their own languages, understand their feelings and worries, and offer them opportunities to live with dignity," Sister Hien said. The 59-year-old nun, who is also a qualified doctor, said the nuns offer them food, seeds, poultry and cattle to help them earn a living. They build and repair houses for flood victims, take patients to hospitals and teach vocational skills to youths. Sister Hien, who teaches Braille
to blind people, said she does not ask them to follow religion but "they find humane values and meaning in their life and then they look for God." "From my experience, missionaries have to love and serve poor people in humility," she said. "Evangelization means sharing divine love with other people and helping them live with dignity." Last summer La Salle Brother Paul Tran Van Buu gathered 600 students of all faiths to join summer activities at Cay Da church in Quang Tri province's Hai Lang district. Catholic volunteers helped children from the sixth to 12th grades study mathematics, physics, chemistry and English. Brother Buu, who initiated the program in 2008, said children also develop solidarity, love, friendship and live in harmony with the environment by learning problem-solving skills, making camps, swimming in the sea and going sightseeing at weekends. "We aim to encourage students in rural areas to be fond of studies and refresh themselves with entertainment," he said. Brother Buu, 79, said local people live mainly on crops and many children spend summers working on farms to support their families, so they do not perform at school as well as those in cities. He said at first he persuaded parents to allow their children to attend summer courses at the church and he offered them books, notebooks and scholarships. Consequently, 40 children came to the first course. Children have opportunities to approach church activities, share joys and sadness with others, respect elderly people, behave well in public and learn other humanities. "We train them to be good people and recognize that they are children of God who loves them," Brother Buu said. "We see God in those we serve." Father John Baptist Truong Thanh Cong, head of Can Tho Diocese's evangelization committee, said charitable activities by Catholics "should aim to introduce God's love to people and get them close to God. If not, our deeds only are like philanthropic work done by non-Catholics." Father Cong, pastor of Rach Vop parish in Soc Trang province, said his parish offers free medicine and healthcare to hundreds of people who live in poverty and have poor education. They could not afford to get medical treatment from public hospitals in cities. "Patients are advised to trust and pray to Jesus to cure them, and many are cured of their illnesses," the priest told 116 bishops, priests, religious and laity who attended a national conference on evangelization from Sept. 3-6 in Hue city. The conference focused on looking for practical ways of evangelization among Catholics. Father Cong, 64, said local Catholics provide free coffins to bereaved people and prepare decent meals for the homeless, unemployed and disabled. They also use boats to carry people across rivers without bridges. "We also invite Catholics from other places to visit and share their faith experience with non-Catholics and provide them with food, clothes and scholarships," he said. "Evangelization means to lead people to meet God and live a happy life." The church in Vietnam
serves seven million Catholics among a population of 94 million.