I have never doubted how much my father and mother love me. Growing up as immigrants to Canada they worked long hours to provide for me. Even though we never went on a vacation, I have fond memories of eating together. Meal times were always special because we remembered that there was a time when we hardly had anything to eat. Every evening we ate together as a family with grateful hearts. I knew that my parents loved me, loved us. I would not have had the privilege of growing up in Canada if my parents hadn’t taken a risk back in 1979.
On June 16th, 1979, my father and mother, three brothers and two sisters, three aunts, three uncles, and grandparents, boarded a 19 meter-long boat to escape Vietnam. The Vietnam War ended in 1975 and Saigon, our beloved city, fell to North Vietnam. The number of Vietnamese that escaped is estimated at a million. The survival rate was 60%, while 40% of those escaping would die of starvation, illness, piracy, or at the hands of government officials. We were known as “The Boat People”. My siblings and I ranged from 13 months to 9 years of age. Only recently did I dare watch the YouTube accounts of “The Boat People”. Tears streamed down my face as my heart was overwhelmed by the love and sacrifice of my parents. They left the only home they’d ever known to give their children a better future.
This summer, I will be part of the Short Term Missions Team going to Cambodia to work with marginalized Vietnamese families who live there. Although these Vietnamese people did not escape by boat, they illegally smuggled themselves into Cambodia after the Vietnam War. In Cambodia, the government does not acknowledge them, so they have no legal citizenship. Thus, children are trafficked into prostitution or sent into garbage dumps for survival. Wow, this is close to my heart. I can’t help but think I could have been one of them.
As we celebrate Good Friday, I am reminded of an even greater love than my parent’s love: God’s love expressed through Jesus at the cross.
Isaiah 53:4-6 says,
Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
Yet we considered him stricken by God,
Smitten by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
And by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
And the Lord has laid on him
The iniquity of us all.
What amazing, astounding, sacrificial love! Look what He has done for us, for me: took up our infirmities, carried our sorrows, was stricken by God, smitten, afflicted, pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities, had laid on him the iniquity of us all.
I have been taught in my faith to personalize it; that Jesus did each of these things for me. But as I’ve been journeying through Lent and to the crucifixion, and have seen how Jesus communes with my complicated life’s story, Jesus gave me a profound aha moment. He not only died for my sins but for their sins too. How the Viet Cong captured the South and took away our freedom. What the pirates did to us on that boat. How the Malaysian government tried to kill us over and over again. How the Cambodian government is marginalizing the Vietnamese people. How children are being sent to brothels. Those sins that tug on my heart, like salt on an open wound, were laid on Jesus at the cross. Jesus took up those sins that were committed and were so personal. What love! I have no doubt that He loves me and He loves them. My parents sacrificed their homeland and all that they had ever known to give my siblings and me freedom. Jesus died on the cross for my sins and for their sins. He has freed us all!
Prayer (taken from When Jesus’ Heart Broke, by Henry Nouwen)
“As I look, my eyes begin to recognize the anguish and agony of all the people for whom you gave yourself. Your broken heart becomes the heart of all of humanity, the heart of all the world. You carry them all: abandoned children, rejected wives and husbands, broken families, the homeless, refugees, prisoners, the maimed and tortured, and the thousands, yes millions, who are unloved, forgotten and left alone to die…” read more
Contributed by Hannah Temple