Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Journey

On April 30, 1975, the city of Saigon, Vietnam was in turmoil. It was the day that Saigon fell to the Viet Cong and the Americans pulled out of the war. Everyone who could get out of the city, did. Anyone with the means to leave, left. The tension had been intense for a long time, but today, a woman who worked in a bank where information was available, could see that things were happening fast. Those who were going to survive would have to act quickly. She had eight children at home. The oldest was eighteen and the youngest was six. She knew that they had to get out.

By now, the only way for this woman and her children to leave the city was by boat. So Mom gathered up her children, packed up some documentation, a few valuables and family photographs, and loaded up the family on two Vespas - all nine of them!. They drove through the crowded, chaotic streets toward the docks. Helicopters overhead were loaded down with VIPs desperate to get out of the country. Shots fired out and bullets whizzed past. Military guards threatened to stop the family at the check points. Bribes of money were given. When the family finally arrived at the docks, the crowds were desperately pushing and shouting. Refugees were being loaded onto barges that would be towed out to sea. As the family moved closer to the barges, they clung to each other, being careful to stay together in the pressing crowds. Finally they were close enough to lift the children onto the next barge. The children were quickly transferred one by one, and just as the last child was loaded onto the barge, the crude boat began to pull away from the dock. Mom was left behind.

The barge was towed away, children and mother helplessly separated. As soon as they were out in the open sea, the tug-boat disconnected from the barge and left it. The barge drifted. The crowd of people on board had no food or water, no shade. They had no way to steer or power their craft. Their only hope was that they would be rescued by the Americans; being found by the Viet Cong would be deadly. After three days and two nights, an American battle ship was sighted. The Americans were combing the sea for these barges full of refugees and taking the people to Guam. As the eight children were hoisted onto the gigantic battle ship, they began to hope that Mom might have been rescued, too. After a few hours of searching, the family was reunited. They arrived in Guam and were placed in a refugee camp.

The stay at the camp was short for this family. They were extremely fortunate to have an aunt who lived in the Denver area. They were able to make contact and the aunt made arrangements for the family to come to the United States. Just two weeks after leaving Saigon, this family arrived in Denver to begin a new life. And two weeks after that, I met my husband, the second son. I have always been amazed and grateful that they made that perilous journey.

Life is full of journeys: some more perilous than others. We journey from peace to war to peace, from danger to safety, from oppression to freedom. Sometimes it means that we give up everything, that we leave it all behind. Sometimes we risk much. Sometimes the loss is unbearable. We journey into the unknown, where the people, the language, the food – the very way of life – is different and strange. Always, we journey toward a vision, toward hope, toward new life. The spiritual journey is like this.

We travel through the chaos of sin, where life is threatened and death is waiting. We leave things behind. We summon our courage. We seek freedom. We seek peace. We go to a new land where everything is a new creation. As we explore the depths within ourselves, we bring light to whatever darkness is there. We strive to bring order to chaos. We leave death and destruction behind. The brokenness within us is healed as we let go of those things that destroy us. As we journey toward God, we are made new. We find a new spiritual home and the life that is truly life. We could choose to stay behind – it may seem like the safe alternative, but this is the way of death. If we wish to truly live, now is the time to begin the journey, to take the risk, and discover the new life that waits for us as people of God.

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