When I hear the word “refugees” I immediately think of the individuals, the families, the youth who came to be part of my home church, First Christian Church in Charlotte, NC.
They came from Vietnam, from the mountain highlands. They came through jungles, fleeing persecution we cannot even imagine in the US. They risked so much just to find safety. To find a place where they could worship freely.
They gave up so much in the process. Family, support systems, familiar food and customs.
We call them “Montagnards,” a name the French gave them that means “mountain people.” But they are not one singular group. They are the Bunong. The Jarai. The Ede.
They are my friends. My fellow Christians. My extended family.
I personally know individuals and families whose lives were changed because doors were opened, borders crossed. Those same individuals and families whose sorrow increased when the doors closed behind them, leaving their friends and family behind.
I think of the youth I saw through middle school, high school. The many who have graduated from high school. The one we helped send to college. The one who made the hard decision to strike out on her own. The one who has dreams she is chasing while trying to be faithful to her family. The many who have found jobs to support their families.
In a place far from their home, I watched as a community formed, despite complicated cultural differences and struggles. Family was shown to mean more than a shared name or a shared culture. Family includes the people who walk beside you, where ever the journey takes you.
Today I am glad that there is a family at FCC Charlotte that can journey together this week as they grieve the loss of Dalin, a 19-year-old man whose family came from Vietnam seeking a better life. While the workplace accident that took Dalin’s life shows that the home they found is far from Eden, I am still grateful that doors were opened for them.
My life was made better for having known Dalin. My life was changed in the time I journeyed with him, his family, and the others in his community that call FCC Charlotte home. Though my own journey has taken me elsewhere, it is a loss felt deeply, even from afar.
For the many who grieve this week,
In our sorrow and in our lament, may we know the comfort of God’s never-ending presence.
In our despair and in our anger, may we know the peace that passes all understanding.
In our grief and in our fear, may we hear God’s call to hope and courage.
And through it all, may we journey as family.