Vietnamese family returns to say thanks

Dave Ogilvie

Christmas traditionally is a time of year when people are encouraged to give to those in need.
Food banks, churches, and other community organizations ask those who have much to share with those who are suffering through hard times.
Many people donate their time, money, and talents simply for the pleasure it brings others. They don’t expect—or even want—to be thanked for their generosity, but sometimes it does happen.
Such was the case last month at the Christian Reformed Church in Emo as a family the congregation supported 30 years ago returned to the district to give thanks and to visit those who assisted them when they needed it the most.
Back in 1979, the Christian Reformed Church, plus other churches, organizations, and people from across the district, sponsored Vietnamese individuals and families who were fleeing the Communist regime in their home country.
During the late 1970s and early ’80s, literally hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese people boarded boats of all sizes and shapes and crossed open water to the safety of camps in Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, and Hong Kong.
The fortunate ones who survived the trip eventually were re-settled in countries around the world, including a few families and several individuals here in Rainy River District.
Although some of the Vietnamese people decided to stay in the district, others chose to move to other locations such as Winnipeg, Thunder Bay, and southern Ontario in order to be part of communities where there were more people from their homeland.
“We hadn’t heard from our family until about a year-and-a-half ago, when they wrote expressing the wish to return to the area to meet with our congregation,” noted Ted Kaemingh.
Finally in November, the Tan Huynh family arrived in Emo and was reunited with the people who had sponsored them as refugees so many years ago.
They visited with Archie and Eleanor Wiersema in Rainy River, Gill Stamler who taught them English, Rick Boersma in Stratton, and Ted and Ynske Kaemingh in Emo and other members of the Christian Reformed Church’s congregation.
On Sunday, they attended church, where the Huynh family made a substantial donation to the congregation.
“They were just so grateful and kept thanking us for our support,” Kaemingh enthused.
What was evident to everyone who met the family was how far they had come from the days when they first arrived in the district.
Hien Huynh was an expert seamstress and often worked late into the night while Tan worked at a variety of jobs. And through their hard work, the couple was able to give their three sons a solid education.
When they arrived in Canada, their twin boys were just 14 months old. Their third son was born while they lived in the area.
One of the twins is now a dentist in Simcoe, the other in Georgetown, while the youngest son is a pharmacist in London. All three are firmly established as professionals in their communities and have plans to enlarge their practices in the near future.
Congregation members who were part of the effort to bring the Huynh family to the district were pleased to see the family again.
It was, no doubt, rewarding to them to know that their church had somehow contributed to the success of Tan, Hien, and their three sons.
The success of this Vietnamese family, and others in the district, are a testament to the caring individuals in churches throughout the area and to the entire program that brought the “Vietnamese boat people” to Northwestern Ontario and other rural communities across Canada.
When this country was asked to come to the rescue of the “boat people,” Canada responded generously—true to its reputation for accepting and providing a “haven for the homeless.”
By 1980, Canada had surpassed its 50,000 quota for Vietnamese refugees. The Rainy River District and the sponsoring churches have benefitted greatly from the contributions of these new Canadians.
Now that the Christian Reformed Church has re-established contact with the Huynh family, congregation members are being encouraged to stay in touch with their new friends.
Knowing that the Huynh family is well, and that they are prospering in a democratic society, no doubt is a rewarding thought as the local Christian Reformed Church celebrates the joy of the Christmas season.