Reflection On One Man’s Journey From War-torn Laos to America and From Darkness to Light in Jesus Christ.
Arrive Ministries Board Member, T. Cher Moua arrived in the USA 40 years ago. He says, “Only heaven will tell your part in impacting people’s lives for eternity.”
By T. Cher Moua (From a Refugee to a Pastor)
June 29, 2019 marks 40 years for two of my brothers, my mother and me when we set foot on American soil, the Land of the Unknown. Less than a year before this date, my family and I were struggling to survive the hunt of the Communist Pathet Lao Regime. We were without hope nor a future. Then, on September 22, 1978, my family and 400 others risked our lives to cross the Mekong River to Thailand which changed the trajectory of my life and future forever.
After spending 8 months in the Nongkhai Refugee Camp in Thailand, my two brothers, mother, and I were granted asylum in the US. On June 24, 1979, the four of us were escorted into a bus bound for Bangkok. After a week in Bangkok for orientation, we were shuttled to a commercial airlines bound for the US at midnight, June 27 through Paris. We landed in Washington, DC on June 29, 1979.
America has been known as the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. But for my brothers, mother and me, it was the Land of the Lost and the home of the displaced.
We came with nothing, except the torn clothes on our backs and each other – four of us! As refugees in a foreign land, we didn’t know what tomorrow would hold.
While we were in desperate conditions, God’s people reached out to us, shared the gospel with us, and assured us that there was a future for us if we would pursue it.
We were torn on every side: Family wise, we were separated from our extended family. Up to this point, our family had been together. We fled the Communist together. We hid from Communist Troops together. We foraged food together. We suffered together. We had never thought about separating from one another…until June 24, 1979. Then, all of a sudden, we had to go. Our second oldest brother and his family had to stay behind. The four of us decided to go to “Third world country.” But where was that “Third world country?” Was it hanging in space? Yes. I did learn about continents in my Geography class in second grade, but that was only learning from my teacher. To experience it was totally another story.
We were also torn socially and emotionally. We had to leave everything we knew behind. The culture. The language. The people. The way of life. Simple. Destitute. And hopeless.
Yet, that was “life.” Now we had to leave everything behind. And ventured out into the unknowns. We did not know where we would end up or how we would survive. Let alone succeed.
But by the grace of God, when we were displaced, stateless, homeless, directionless, hopeless, helpless, and future-less, he reached down into time to touch our lives through his people. While we were in desperate conditions, God’s people reached out to us, shared the gospel with us, and assured us that there was a future for us if we would pursue it.
We started this new life one step at a time. First, we learned to let go of the past. Forget about the life we used to have, which was constantly on the move – from one mountain to the next – to settling down, even in run-down apartments on the north side of Pittsburgh, PA.
Secondly, we learned to adapt into a new culture. New way of life. A life of another jungle. The urban jungle of America. We learned how to use indoor water and electric appliances and frozen food. We learned to navigate our ways around the urban jungles of America.
Third, we learned how to learn. Learned a new language. Learned to communicate with people from other cultures. Learned to get along with black and white students at school. Learned to befriend neighbors of another cultures and languages.
Fast forward 40 years later to the day.
I have been married for 37 years and counting. Blessed with five adult children and twelve grandchildren and counting. With three different cultures/people groups in my family – Hmong American, Mexican-American, Karen-American. I have been blessed to be called a child of the most high God and a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. I have been serving in ministry contexts for 32 years. I found myself sitting next to the late Billy Graham during one of his Crusades at the former Metrodome in 1996, before I prayed for the offering on Friday night.
“What an amazing God who redeemed me from darkness to light and called me to serve and impact others for his kingdom, in this place and around the world.”
In addition, I also had the privilege of rubbing shoulders with Governors and Legislators and other civic leaders. All because of the grace of God. As I reflect on my journey in the last 40 years, God’s word which the Apostle Paul spoke to the Athenians come to mind:
“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us” – Acts 17:24-27.
Thank you so much for partnering with Arrive Ministries so that we can continue to welcome those with refugee status and share our lives and Jesus with them.