Caroline Mrowiec, Orphan Voice’s Hope Therapy Center
It has been a while since I last posted, but this time I have an excuse. I have been conscientiously social-distancing myself in the wake of COVID-19. There, my second sentence in and I already mentioned the coronavirus; it was the elephant in the room. (A room with 10 people or less in it, that goes without saying.) This pandemic has made me feel connected to the US, even though I am on the other side of the world. For the same unifying reason, we have the same icebreaker for every conversation, are giving the same dirty look if someone coughs, and are exhausting the supply of products that make us feel more secure in these uncertain times (face masks in Vietnam, toilet paper in the US). We taught the kids at Orphan Voice’s group home a dance for learning hand washing.
To Vietnam’s credit, the measures taken have been effective in preventing any major outbreaks here, even though cases pop up around the country from time-to-time. Our therapy center has been allowed to remain open, but the schools here have been shut down for two months, face masks are mandatory in public places, and tourism has all but ground to a halt. All travelers on tourist and business visas are being denied entry into Vietnam currently, so if I leave the country, I will not be allowed back in at this time. My visa expires next week, but I am being allowed to extend my visa for three months without leaving the country, and hopefully I will be able to remain in Vietnam this way. This conveniently segues me into my next topic, overstaying my time here in Vietnam.
Can you believe I have already been in Vietnam for two years?? Of course you can believe it, I just felt like it was the obligatory comment to make when acknowledging my fulfilled commitment of two years of service with Orphan Voice. I had planned on moving home in February, at the end of my two-year commitment here, but last fall, I realized that there was a good chance we would not find a replacement therapist to take over for me in time, before my planned departure. I do not think I am necessary for God to continue His work here with this ministry, but last September, I became convicted that He was prompting me to turn my deadline of leaving Vietnam over to Him. I tried to ignore this conviction, asked God to give me a sign if He meant it, and got online to book a flight home for February. But wouldn’t you know, the ticket price on the date I picked to fly home was double the price of any other date in February.
The incident helped me decide to do what I already knew I should, so I am still in Vietnam for the present. I know I am free to leave when I choose, but I know sometimes the best decisions are not about choosing the easiest option- something I am always hoping my patients understand about therapy. I try to push my patients each session to do tasks that challenge their abilities, in order for them to gain skills to reach their goals. I try to motivate my patients as best as I can, but even the smallest child has free will. Exercising this free will means that sometimes progress in therapy is slowed down or even impeded, when the child is unwilling to attempt challenging tasks or follow the rules. The thing is, the challenges and rules are there for the good of that child, and they know I am there to help them succeed in each task. For me, I don’t want to slow down my own progress by refusing the challenges that God has selected for my growth.
“So what am I gonna do? I’ll tell your what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna do a little bit of this, a little bit of that. I’m gonna… stay up all day. I’m gonna sleep up all night. I’m gonna give it a hoooo! Heyyyy! Hoooo! And I’m going to stop worrying about calories. -Michael Scott” -Caroline Mrowiec.* Like my visa situation, I am taking things a few months at a time. At Orphan Voice, we are exploring other options for what coverage of my position might look like. I may move home this August, depending on what I believe God is calling me to do. I have more than enough funds to keep going here, without any additional fundraising needed.
Now that my old deadline has come and gone, I am so thankful it is not time yet for me to say goodbye to my life here in Danang. For one thing, I have a consistent routine here, and I have gotten to be so precise in how late I run for work, that I always spot the same man each morning, in the five seconds it takes him to walk by my apartment building as I am leaving. I noticed him from the first, because he is always wearing a neck pillow around his neck. Of course, I never have time to say hello, because of the nature of the situation, but I am sure he will miss the controlled chaos of watching me drive off each day, when it is finally time for me to move home.
*Only TRUE Office fans will get this reference.