It was a hot humid day late in 2013. As my team was waiting for approval to set up a clinic about two hours southeast of Hà Nội, I met my future wife. I was with the U.S. team while she was with our Vietnamese counterparts and this was one of the many medical trips that we had volunteered for over the years. Neither of us were in the medical profession but the only requirement of the trip was to have a heart of service.
But my journey to meet my wife really started back in 2007 when I first decided to join the same medical team to build a clinic in Vietnam. Prior to that trip, I had always wanted to visit Vietnam with the intention of starting a business there. However, as I was able to extend a helping hand through humanitarian work, I fell in love with the people and the country in a way that was much closer to my passion. This sparked a change in my life. I began to relearn my heritage, my parents’ pasts, and started to listen to Vietnamese music to relearn the language.
Focusing on things that were important to me instead of trying to climb the corporate ladder had the added effect of bringing quality time to my family. We took several family vacations together and even visited my parents’ villages. As we became closer, my mom asked me one day why I was not married yet. I told her that it was up to God’s timing and it was more important for me to focus on things that was dear to my heart.
Not long after saying that, I met Hoa.
It was customary to make friends with the Vietnamese team as we work together, and while there may be some communication after returning home, it was usually nothing significant. But for some reason, Hoa and I decided to reconnect after the trip. My Vietnamese was a lot better by then so we were able to talk more deeply. I was intrigued to learn what life was like in Vietnam and she wanted to improve her English. At least that’s what she says if you ask her.
Our first video session lasted nearly two hours and became a daily occurrence for almost three weeks. Sometimes we talked twice in one day. It was obvious what was happening even though both of us carried doubts because of the stories we had heard about these things. I was afraid she only wanted to get to know me because I was American. She was afraid I was hiding something. Despite the fears, I decided to make a trip to visit her and see if this could really work.
Things did not look good in the beginning. I missed my flight and as I was getting on another, I was told that my luggage had been lost. It seemed that no matter how much I tried, I would only mess up.
After deciding to forgo trying to make everything perfect, I let God take over. The trip could not have gone any better from that point. Hoa and I got along fabulously and I even met her side of the family. Upon returning to the U.S., we had a video session for her to meet mine. My mom loved her right away.
I proposed four months later and we married soon after. Hoa received her visa to come to the U.S. and quickly connected with my family. She and my mom shared a special connection, spending hours on the phone with each other. When news of Hoa’s pregnancy came, Mom was elated and knew before anyone that a grandson was coming. Sadly, the addition of a new family member would be accompanied by a loss of another. My mom fell ill and passed away before our son could properly introduce himself. As difficult a time as it was, we survived as a family and I’m so grateful to have had Hoa by my side through it all.
If I had never joined the trip in 2007, it wouldn’t have caused the chain reaction that led me to meet Hoa. I have been incredibly fortunate in our marriage and family. I feel blessed as a result of just doing what was dear to my heart and being able to receive so much in return. Our journey is just getting started and we are looking forward to our next chapter together.
Alex was born and raised in Seattle, WA and Hoa was born and raised in Hạ Long, VN. They both enjoy traveling, playing tennis, and spending quality time with family and the new addition of their baby boy. They look forward to finding ways to leverage their skills and passion to make a difference and help others where possible.