I had a revelation that shook me. When I was a kid, I had such a great opportunity to show love to the Vietnamese "boat people" and I missed it! I only had my own little bitty love, not the never-failing love of Jesus. Not yet. I grew up in a series of very poor neighborhoods and I remember the new surge of refugees coming to live among us. There is either love, or fear. We all chose fear. We were warned by the adults to keep our pets close, the Vietnamese would eat them! We had to stay away, so we didn't catch any diseases they might have brought. Foolish. Senseless. It grieves me now, and what I wouldn't give to go back to 5th and 6th grade and befriend the sweet, skinny, befuddled new kid at school. That young Vietnamese boy had not a friend in the world that I could see.
It shames me now. What I wouldn't give to go back and be kind. Love them and help ease their transition into American life.
They were poorer than us, and that made a mark. Their houses smelled funny, and were crammed to the rafters with their relatives. They were so different from us. If only I'd have known the dangers that kid survived to get to Mr. Deacon's classroom. The deprivation he had experienced that put our poverty into the "living in luxury" category.
To think what I missed; could have learned and turned from. To think what I could have given!
There's a line on page 234 in the first paragraph that says" Prejudice begins with ignorance, and whenever one culture first meets another, there is ignorance."
This book; it's a memoir and it hits home to me because I lived among these people and didn't know a thing about them. They were strong because they had to be. They were sharing and they were a people who thrived in community.
Part of their community- the biggest piece really, was Church. They came to know Jesus on the journey through some supernatural events, even though they didn't know who Jesus is.
On page 247-248 are these words:
"For us, the Vietnamese church in Fort Smith was a community where people with similar problems and needs could come together and help one another; it was a place of learning and spiritual growth; and it was where we learned to serve others and to give back. We were a poor refugee family "fresh off the boat" in America, but we felt blessed to be here and believed we had a responsibility to give back, and the more we gave the more we received. That's a mistake often made in America: we spend our lives seeking to be served, instead of seeking to serve others, and the more we receive, the less we seem to have."
I'm letting you know this book is worth reading because these people's story is worth being told. I had a hard time putting it down. Vinh Chung and Tim Downs did a fabulous job of telling this story. You will be richer for reading it, and maybe more compassionate and generous?I really want to mention what's on the book covers:
My name is Vinh Chung.
This is a story that spans two continents, ten decades, and eleven thousand miles.
When I was three and a half years old, my family was forced to flee Vietnam in June 1979, a place we had never heard of somewhere in the heartland of America.
Several weeks later my family lay half-dead from dehydration in a derelict fishing boat jammed with ninety-three refugees lost in the middle of the South China Sea. We arrived in the United States with nothing but the clothes on our backs and unable to speak a single word of English.
Today my family holds twenty-one university degrees.
How we got from there to here is quite a story.
Where the Wind Leads is the remarkable account of Vinh Chung and his refugee family’s daring escape from communist oppression for the chance of a better life in America. It’s a story of personal sacrifice, redemption, endurance against almost insurmountable odds, and what it truly means to be American.
All author royalties from the sale of this book will go to benefit World Vision.Flap Copy:
Vinh Chung was born in South Vietnam, just eight months after it fell to the communists in 1975. His family was wealthy, controlling a rice-milling empire worth millions; but within months of the communist takeover, the Chungs lost everything and were reduced to abject poverty.
Knowing that their children would have no future under the new government, the Chungs decided to flee the country. In 1979, they joined the legendary “boat people” and sailed into the South China Sea, despite knowing that an estimated two hundred thousand of their countrymen had already perished at the hands of brutal pirates and violent seas.
Where the Wind Leads follows Vinh Chung and his family on their desperate journey from pre-war Vietnam, through pirate attacks on a lawless sea, to a miraculous rescue and a new home in the unlikely town of Fort Smith, Arkansas. There Vinh struggled against poverty, discrimination, and a bewildering language barrier—yet still managed to graduate from Harvard Medical School.
Where the Wind Leads is Vinh’s tribute to the courage and sacrifice of his parents, a testimony to his family’s faith, and a reminder to people everywhere that the American dream, while still possible, carries with it a greater responsibility.