A few years back a good friend got me involved in the Conversational English Program at our church. It's been a blessing to be apart of it, and I am constantly reminded that it's me who is learning as much as them.
Today was our Thanksgiving Lesson. We read about the Pilgrims coming over on the Mayflower and feasting together with the Native Americans that helped them survive that first year.
Once we finished reading the lesson, our students, Tammy and Tinh shared there own journey to America and thanksgiving stories. They told us every thanksgiving they share their stories with their children so they remember what they experienced to get here.
Tammy and Tinh are from Vietnam. After America pulled out of Vietnam, Tammy attempted to leave South Vietnam as a refugee on a small fishing boat. She was seven months pregnant and also had another daughter with her. During the voyage, the boat started taking on water. They were sitting in water up to their necks. They all thought the boat had sunk and that they were going to die. They also lost their compass and the engine broke down, they drifted for a month. As each person died they would throw their bodies into the ocean. At one point Tammy had gotten very ill and was unconscious. The other people wanted to throw her off the boat thinking she was dead. A woman with her convinced them not to.
During her unconscious state, they told her she woke up and told them, "We must stay together. God will protect us if we stay together." Finally, a Philippine fishing boat found them and saved them. Unfortunately for Tammy, by this time her baby had died (in the womb) and her daughter had also passed away.
Tinh stayed in South Vietnam after the US left and was sent to a concentration camp, or what were called "reeducation" camps. He was there for 11 years. He finally got to come over to America after the Reagan administration entered into an agreement with Vietnam to free political prisoners. Tinh was able to come to America in 1993, some prisoners were released as late as 2000. Many had been there since the fall of Saigon in 1975.
To listen to their stories was an honor. Despite our arguments about why we get into wars and conflicts or what our country's policy should be on this or that, listening to their love of America and what America means to them and how thankful they are to have lived through their struggles and found a safe place where they could live, speak, and worship freely - increased my love of our country.
So this month as we give thanks for our many blessings, I'm giving another thanks to this wonderful country we live in and the men and women who fight to protect it and protect those who no one else will.