Four weeks ago, we arrived in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, which also marked our first time in a third world country. Immediately, we were struck by the sounds, sights, and smells that assailed our senses. Everything is different here, and unfortunately the poverty is as rampant as the rickshaw drivers crowding the narrow streets.

The Ben Thanh Night Market is popular with tourists and locals alike, as the evening hours offer somewhat of a respite from the heat and humidity. We headed there in search of Jewish tourists, and fifteen minutes in, a group of people greeted us with “Shalom!” We started talking with them, and eventually inquired if they were Jewish. Experience has taught us that shalom doesn’t necessarily mean so. “No, we’re not, it’s a long story. We are travelling on a ship run by an Israeli shipping company. We had some mechanical trouble, so we stopped here to repair the ship.”

“Is there anybody Jewish on board?” we asked.

“Yes, of course! The captain and some of the crew are Jewish.”

We pulled out our business cards. “Would you do us a big favor? Here’s our card, can you give it to all the Jews, and let them know that they are welcome to join us for Shabbat dinner? All the information is on the card.”

They agreed, and we thanked them profusely.

That Friday night, we were at the Chabad House, about to begin Shabbat dinner with several guests around the table. A middle-aged man walked in, looking around to gather his bearings. We rushed over to greet him.

“Shabbat Shalom, welcome!”

He smiled. “Hi, Shabbat Shalom. I’m Yair, from Tel Aviv. Listen, it’s hard to believe I’m here. I work for a shipping company, and we were heading somewhere else, nowhere near Vietnam! Then, our ship started malfunctioning, so we had to stop and get it fixed. It took longer than expected, and some of the crew started exploring. One night, they came back and told me that they met two rabbis in the marketplace. They gave me your card and told me that I was invited for Shabbat. Well, our ship is still having trouble, so here I am!”

We quickly got him settled, and recited the Kiddush, which was followed by a delicious meal, and lots of singing interspersed with words of Torah. It was close to midnight when people started filing out the door, uplifted and rejuvenated by the Shabbat experience.

Yair approached us and shook our hands. “Thanks so much, boys. With this situation and all, I would never expect to have a regular Shabbat with food and songs just like home. Chabad is great!”