Moving to Vietnam has opened the eyes of this City News volunteer writer to some truths about home.
By Andrew Ong
A year has passed since I relocated to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam on a long-term basis for work. Although it is work that brought me to this country, I know it is God who orchestrated this move for me to be here.
Life in Vietnam isn’t remotely close to life in Singapore, as you can imagine.
In Singapore, almost everything works with clockwork precision and efficiency. Life in Singapore can be quite predictable. Vietnam is very much the opposite.
In Vietnam, almost everything works, but not in a manner that is predictable. To put it simply, life here is pretty much an adventure. You never know what to expect each day—everyday is a new experience. It’s never boring or mundane!
Now, after a year away from home, I have started to notice a couple of things about Singapore and they have provided me with a wider viewpoint of life and my faith.
1. Fast doesn’t mean achieving more
Since plugging into the global economy, Vietnam’s emerging economy, especially in its economic capital in Ho Chi Minh City has been buzzing with life. However, its pace is nothing close to Singapore’s frantic and relentless need for speed and efficiency.
Of course, we can attribute Singapore’s fast pace of life to our acute awareness of our country’s vulnerable position in a global economy. But nonetheless, I think we can do better when it comes to recognizing when to slow down and stop being busy.
In Vietnam, the pace might be slower but I find that I can accomplish more in life. There is more time to focus on relationships with my wife, my colleagues and friends. To me, building relationships take precedence over achieving tasks.
2. Selfless leadership is key to nation-building
I probably don’t need to say this as most of us know it. Singapore has been greatly blessed with a well-run government that has provided selfless leadership to its people during its early days of independence.
It is possibly also a blessing that Singapore is a tiny piece of an island state that is easily manageable for leaders. Whichever view, I’m grateful that there has been not only political stability back home, but also progress as a nation over the last couple of decades.
3. Our poor are not that badly off
I’ve no intention of undermining the plight of the poor in Singapore. But having observed the conditions of the poor in Vietnam, I would say that the poor in Singapore are much better off.
In Singapore, I’m aware that we do have an extensive social safety net that provides assistance in areas such as housing, healthcare and education. And Singaporeans in general are also a generous and compassionate people who are almost always ready to lend a hand to meet a genuine need.
The poor or those who fall into the poverty group in Vietnam live in dire and impoverished conditions that are unacceptable by any human standards. And it is not uncommon for many children to be deprived of educational opportunities due to financial constraints.
4. Space to express our faith
As Christians living in Singapore, we ought to be thankful for the freedom we have to express our faith in Singapore.
Things such as being able to congregate as a people to worship, or being able to evangelize, or the availability of the Christian resources should not be taken for granted. Without this space to express our faith, we would not be able to know God so freely.
In many aspects, Vietnam is a nation in transition. It has been through too many cases of religion politicizing and this has caused upheaval among its people. Therefore, with the preservation of Vietnam’s peace and stability a top priority, freedom of religion is an entitlement, not a right.
5. A home to strong churches
Because of the religious freedom that we enjoy in Singapore, this has allowed our churches to grow and thrive. There are not only churches at every corner, but there are many strong churches as well.
We might not realize this, but discipleship is a privilege. Most times, we take for granted our cell groups and churches which provide us with Bible study and mentorship that draw us towards a deeper walk with God.
In Singapore, God has richly blessed us that we can be a blessing to those around us and beyond our borders. This is evident with the countless overseas missions that our local churches embark on annually.
This not only speaks of our readiness to spread the love and good news, but it attests to the rich resources which God has provided His people in Singapore. Hence, we ought not only to be thankful that we are home to many strong churches, but as a small nation, we can serve as a blessing to those around us.
Not to sound overly sentimental but the truth is, after being away for a year, what I miss most is my home church: City Harvest Church. I now truly consider it a privilege that I can not only be part of this spiritual family, but I have also grown a deeper conviction that this church is His “prized instrument” in fulfilling His redemptive plan in Asia.
Happy 23rd birthday, City Harvest Church. Let’s keep loving God wholeheartedly and loving people fervently as we have always done.
Andrew Ong, 34, is a general manager of a Singapore-based advertising agency in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Besides volunteering in the Singapore Business Group (HCMC), he is actively involved in other community outreach projects to alleviate the plight of the poor and disadvantaged in Vietnam.