I read of tiny flowers that grow in high mountain regions, defying all odds of their survival. These hearty little plants germinate in the shallowest of soils and thrive; despite low rainfalls, high winds and punishing sunlight. Hikers are stunned to find these tiny white flowers rooted in small crevices in boulders and rocks at extremely high altitudes. The flowers go unnoticed if not for an accidental or intentional crushing of a fully flowering plant under a heel, releasing that an unassuming yet delicious scent.
Discovering men and women of God who show the same characteristics as these flowers in my Christian walk has blessed me. One such treasure came as a Vietnamese refugee who was widowed shortly after her arrival in Canada during the “Boat People” crisis of the early 1980s.
Mrs Duong and her husband pastored a thriving evangelical church in a major Vietnamese city before the invasion of South Vietnam by the communists in 1975. After the fall, they reluctantly fled to a remote rural area, raising their eight children on very little income. Abandoning their comfortable church building, the Duong’s held church services in remote wooded areas, suffering through torrential rainy seasons and blisteringly hot summers.
The couple would go without food in order to ensure their children did not go hungry. Mr Duong’s health began to fail as he worked long hours in the rice fields during the day, and then spent countless hours each night visiting his congregation in their homes. He had little resources beyond his Bible as they had to leave all behind in their haste. Despite all this, their ministry flourished as many former city dwellers came to know the Lord through their ministry. Word eventually reached government officials of their work, and the suffering intensified. For the sake of their young children, the couple fled Vietnam. After the family endured two years in an overcrowded, filthy refugee camp, Canada granted them refuge. Mr Duong’s taste of freedom was short-lived on this earth as he passed away within months of their arrival in their new land. Years of suffering took their toll.
With little formal education and no English skills, Mrs Duong raised her children on a small government assistance cheque.
Mrs Duong’s faithfulness and trust in the Lord served as a quiet example in the Vietnamese Christian community. Scrupulous in tithing, she was also the first to donate sumptuous spring rolls and other goodies for fundraising events and church potlucks. Mrs Duong’s life was a sweet fragrance that drew many to her – and through her – to God. She sacrificed by staying home to raise her children so she could remain active in their lives, and her children stayed out of trouble as a result.
Two of her sons followed their father’s steps and became pastors themselves. Two of her daughter’s married pastors and her other children entered professional fields where they could be of help to others.
Mrs Duong’s unconditional love and wisdom drew many young people to her, and I was one of those who felt drawn to her side. I knew she daily prayed for me. When we would run across each other’s paths, she made it a point to find someone to translate for us so she could find out how I was doing. Although there was a language barrier, she had me on her radar and always seemed to know when I needed an encouraging word or a gentle kick in the pants. My life eventually led me along other paths, and I missed our times together; I sorely missed her mentorship.
Mrs Duong lived an abundant life, despite the circumstances that laid blow after crushing blow on her. She had learned the secret of flourishing during great suffering. She stayed close to the source of her nourishment and subsistence and she spent copious amounts of time alone with the Lord. Her thoughts were centered on blessing and serving others.
2 Corinthians 4:7-12 – “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.”
Reflect on those to whom you look up to in your Christian walk. How do your role models meet the challenges and difficulties that come their way? How have their choices moulded them as believers? How well do you deal with the sufferings and setbacks that cross your path?
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Until Next Week
©2018 Katherine Walden
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