Here in the United States, we all know what it means when the weather gets cooler, the trees turn orange and the smell of pumpkin spice fills the air. It’s the time where we intentionally stop and think about all the things we are thankful for- our homes, families, finances, good health, and our freedom.
We recently enjoyed a visit from Moses Phung, director of Center of Hope, one of our partner children’s homes in Vietnam. Over dinner, he talked about the home, the children and shared an incredible story of his own that left us all in tears and with a different perspective on gratitude.
On March 3rd, 1967, while Moses’ father went to fight alongside the US Marines on the front lines of the Vietnam War, the communists launched a major rocket attack on Da Nang. Moses, who was twelve at the time watched in horror before feeling a blast hit the roof above him. He woke to find his home burned beyond recognition. His mother, grandparents, and siblings all perished that night, leaving Moses as the lone survivor.
Later, Moses and his father stayed at a camp with American GI’s and other local displaced families. One day out on the front lines, Moses’ father picked up a radio frequency from the Far East Broadcasting Company. It was an evangelistic program airing from the Philippines sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. They both decided that they would give their lives to Jesus, and believe there was eternal hope and a better way of life through Christ.
Amidst the growing death tolls, costs, and political pressure in the US, America withdrew. Moses’ father went out on one last mission and was never seen again. Moses was orphaned, and alone as he watched his country fall to communism. Overnight, the faith that had sustained him through these years was outlawed.
Meeting in secret, he and a few followers would pray, fast, worship, and minister to their neighbors whenever possible. One day in 1980, he unknowingly shared his faith with a police officer and was arrested and imprisoned. During his years in jail, he shared his heart with other prisoners and many accepted Christ.
Following his release from prison for the third time in 1993, Moses began Center of Hope when he found 26 orphaned children from the Hmong tribe, wondering in the jungle alone. Sadly, many of their parents had been trafficked, were missing or killed. Today, Center of Hope is home to over 107 children, who now have access to nutritious meals, warm clothes, shelter, healthcare and education. Moses also has a team of pastors who continue to share the good news, feed the poor and assist the disabled.
As Moses shared his story with us, we were not only moved by his experiences, and how he has turned the most undesirable circumstances into the most flourishing ministry. We were impressed by the humility and genuine gratitude he embodied- for life, for salvation, for our supporters and prayer warriors. It reminded us of another manwho had learned the meaning of true thanksgiving, even in the midst of great adversity and persecution. While the apostle Paul was in prison, he wrote “Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:19-20, NIV).
For Moses, thankfulness was a choice, and one that had to be made on a daily basis. He showed us that if we live in this attitude, we can truly have joy in every situation.