For most of my adult life I have been fascinated by a place that most people have never heard of before.
The tunnels of Cu Chi.
About an hour northwest of Saigon and a couple hundred years in the past, the tunnels survive as a testament to the amazing perseverance, patience and commitment of the Vietnamese people.
In and of themselves, they aren’t much to see. Throughout a forested area and invisible to the unsuspecting eye, you wouldn’t even know they are there.
But during the war in Vietnam, thousands of people in the Vietnamese province of Cu Chilived in an elaborate system of underground tunnels. Originally built in the time of the French, the tunnels were enlarged during the American presence to the point where there were over 150 miles of tunnels
. When the American military began systematically bombing the villages of Cu Chi, the survivors went underground where they remained for the duration of the war.
These secret tunnels which joined village to village were not only fortifications for Viet Cong guerrillas, but were also the center of local community life, including classrooms and hospitals and even theaters where performers entertained.
As justifiably sensitive as many still are to the war in Vietnam, these tunnels are a surviving testament to the challenges some people are willing to endure and/or face in times of great sacrifice.
Awesome to see. Difficult to imagine.
Then we went into the tunnel.
We were given the option of crawling through a tunnel. Narrow, dark, and more than a little intimidating, we were told the tunnel was slightly over 100 yards long…but not to worry, there are exit holes about every 20 yards if you decided you wanted out. In our group of 20 visitors, Ngu and I were the only ones who crawled the entire distance. I actually considered coming out at one point when the tunnel narrowed to a point where I was crawling flat on my stomach to get through. But peer pressure can be a great motivator. 🙂
On the ride back to Saigon, I thought about the experience. It was scary and claustrophobic…and yet now there are lights inside and no rats, snakes or bats to contend with, no humans waiting to kill me if I made one mistake.
How did they do it? How did the Viet Cong faithful endure days, weeks or even months in these conditions? And what made brave young American soldiers volunteer to go into the holes to see what was inside or to root out the enemy?
Amazing to me
The example we see in this place, the capacity of the human spirit to endure great hardships because of a profound belief in the purpose, is mind-boggling when you actually stand here.
I could draw a lot of parallels but I think it really shows me one obvious thing – it’s easy to talk about commitment, it’s something entirely different to crawl into the darkness, trusting the purpose.
“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.”
– Isaiah 9:2