The LORD Who Didn't Answer My Prayer

Nearly 2 weeks before our departure, Tia told me that her friend had just returned from Ho Chi Minh City and reported that it rained every night in Ho Chi Minh City. That information I found confirmed by any weather forecast I could find through the internet. Well, I said to myself, it’s after all GOD who pours out the rain and not the weather forecaster. I can pray that GOD stops the rain during my trip in Vietnam. The same GOD who stopped the storms for Peter and his fellow fishermen, will stop the rain in Vietnam for me and Tia. I prayed and believed it with all my heart.

Sept 23rd 2009, we landed on Tan Son Nhaht International Airport and were welcomed by a big rain fall. It was around 8 PM when we got into an airport taxi that brought us to our hotel. We unpacked some of our things, had dinner across the hotel, took a shower and got ready for bed, because we had to leave very early the next morning for Hanoi. The rain did fall on our first night in Vietnam, but our plane landed smoothly and hence we landed our bodies safe and sound on our cozy double bed in City Star Hotel.

Sept 24th, the sun shone on us bright and hot all along our journey from Ho Chi Minh City to Tam Dao, and then to Hanoi. Rain fell only on our way back from dinner to our hotel.

Sept 25th, we started our trip to Halong City in a bright Friday morning. Just as we stepped into our boat at Halong City Port, big black clouds started hovering our way. Little drops of water turned into big falls of rain which allowed none of us to relax on the deck and breathe the South China Sea breeze. Even after savoring a big lunch inside the boat, the rain had not yet stopped. We could not proceed to Halong Bay, because the crews did not want to take the risk. My prayer was not answered.

As I sat by the window watching the rain tapping so hard on the glass as if piercing into my face, I recalled Pastor Dave’s sermon just the Sunday before I left for Vietnam. He talked about the time LORD introduced himself to Abraham as Jehovah Jireh which means the LORD who provides. Although it was not at all a new topic for me, I broke into tears at the end of the sermon.

Pastor Dave told us that the LORD is Jehovah Jireh to us not because we got the job we had wanted, nor because we found a soulmate. But, very much, much, much more than that, it is because he gave his only son in replace of us. That moment I felt very embarrassed of myself. I had said to GOD, “Thank you Jesus for giving me the chance to travel to Vietnam.” In a way I had been saying, “You have been Jehovah Jireh to me, because you have provided my expenses for traveling to Vietnam.” Hey, Shuni! What’s Vietnam compared with HIS sacrifice for you?

I turned my head closer to the boat window as I didn’t want others see my tears falling. “Dear LORD,” I said, “even if you don’t stop this rain for me, you are still my Jehovah Jireh and will forever be. You are not Jehovah Jireh because you stop this rain for me and so provide me a nice trip to Halong Bay. You are Jehovah Jireh to me, because You’ve died for me.”

I wiped my eyes and joined in the laughter among a British man, a Vietnamese with his German spouse, and Tia, my traveling companion. Without realizing it, the sky above us was getting brighter and our boat engine began to roar.

Inside the caves of Halong I stood up dumbfounded. The Sculptor of these, has died for me!

Sept 26th morning, under a rather cloudy sky but not raining, our tour guide took us on a tour around Cat Ba Island. We photographers call such a sky a flat sky. That’s the kind of sky a lot of nature photographers use to dread off. However, as bare as the sky was, I could take some photographs that turned out to look good because of the flat sky.

For the rest of the day during our journey back to Halong City and then Hanoi, the sun shone so bright that only some stayed on the deck. I stood there wondering whether my ancestors had somehow been where I was. I took lots and lots of pictures on the deck. Even after a month later, my arms still looked like a piece of brown sugar pudding which is half dark brown and half light brown. I really had needn’t a better sunshine.

Sept 27th, we returned to Ho Chi Minh City. We left our luggage at Palace Hotel Saigon and headed to our own destination of interest. I was certainly for Saigon Zoo and Botanical Garden. Ho Chi Minh City was a big amusement for me. I just loved the atmosphere. So after being  finished with the zoo, I decided to take a walk along the streets. Unfortunately, I left my map at the hotel. But I didn’t want to care much about that. I thought I’ll just walk wherever my happy feet would like to. When they get tired, I’ll call a taxi and go back to the hotel. If the taxi driver cheats on the meter (as always has been said) and takes me round and round like the naughty Jakarta taxi drivers, I would accept it as a tour in the city. It’s after all an entirely new place for me. So no matter where the driver might take me to, it will certainly be a new place for me – and a place I probably would have not known either.

It turned out that my happy feet grew happier and happier on the pavements of Ho Chi Minh City. The sky started to turn dark. Wind began to blow hard. But happy feet could not see nor hear.

Suddenly rain just pored out without any prolog when I was right at a corner of a crossroad. I ran to the nearest shop at that corner to take shelter. I worried more about the camera on my back. Together with me, a motor biker pulled aside and took shelter in front of that shop. I felt happy by his presence, because it made me less look silly standing alone half wet.

I heard rolling doors right behind my back. I turned around and saw some women hastily pulling down the doors. Now, there, you are going to be shooed away. Before I could figure out how to plead this woman to let me take shelter in front of her shop, she waved her hands from under the half closed rolling door and signaled me to come in. I gave a confused look and she hailed stronger. As soon as I was in, all the doors behind me were rolled down completely except for one that was left opened only several centimeters from the floor. Followed by some other women, that woman smiled at me, and left me alone, before I could give a proper smile back.

It turned out to be a fish pet shop. Big and small aquariums lined up on shelves that filled the entire room. No wonder it was so urgent to pull down the rolling doors immediately. A drop of rain might pollute the aquariums. The woman just now returned with a plastic stool. I bowed and said thank you, but she seemed too busy to accept my gratitude. She just returned inside.

The rain was heavy with wind and banged loudly on the rolling doors in front of me. From the little space left opened under the rolling door, I could see the motor biker just now pressing his body to the door. It seemed like he was folding his arms on his chest. In such a windy rain, a piece of shelter above your head won’t do any good. You need a shield in front of you to fight back the rain blowing onto you. For another time I felt fortunate to be born a female. If I were a man, probably these women wouldn’t have let me in either.

So there I sat watching the fishes watching me while swimming back and forth. Some of them seemed smiling at me but not saying a word, just like the women inside. It seems that my tour to the zoo wasn’t complete, because I hadn’t met the fish family. I don’t understand much about the fish family, but they seemed to me like the very common fishes in Indonesia. I wish I had my book with me. I always hate being idle. However, I was grateful enough to be saved from the harsh rain.

I don’t remember how long I had been sitting there until I realized the rain had subdued. I decided that without the wind blowing so hard, an umbrella would then do some good. So I stood up and went to the back part of the shop and met a group of women chattering there.

“It’s not raining so hard anymore. I’d like to continue my walk. Thank you so much for letting me in,” I said while returning the plastic stool in front of them. None of them said a word. I reckon none of them understood what I was saying.

Cam on,” I said again. Maybe my pronunciation was terrible. They still said nothing, but smiled.

I went back to the rolling door, rolled it a bit up, slipped down, and rolled it back down. Not long after that I got a taxi and returned to my hotel.

Since that time, every time it rains, the smiling faces of these women flashes in front of me. It has been more than a month ago, but I still am not sure what were in their minds. When I stood in front of them with the plastic stool in my hand, they didn’t look surprise at all. So they all must have been aware that a foreign stranger had been taking shelter inside their shop. But when I expressed my gratitude, they didn’t look as if they had done something at all. It was as if I was just passing by and suddenly said thank you to them out of nowhere. If I were in their place, I certainly would have felt please with myself.

As I just followed my happy feet, I didn’t know on what street that fish pet shop was. But if one day I pass this shop again, I’d like to say thank you once again for sheltering me from a rainstorm on one evening. If GOD had answered my prayer by stopping the rain, I would have called Him GOD of miracle. I would be very proud because my GOD rules over the rain. But, I would miss experiencing the warmth of a group of local women. I would miss the demonstration of modesty. I would miss an experience no travel agent could provide, except by GOD Himself.

By the end of this first trip to Vietnam, I learnt my lesson. Don’t tell GOD how to save me.

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