An Immigration Story - Word&Way

An Immigration Story

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Much of today’s news is about immigration. Perhaps we should focus on the immigrants rather than rules and regulations. I must admit I am biased, since two of our four children came from Korea. They have been a genuine delight, a blessing to our family.

Wade Paris

Wade Paris

During the 1980s, our church brought three Cambodian families to Kansas City. The U.S. was no longer at war with Vietnam, but Vietnam and Cambodia were at war. Pol Pot, Cambodia’s despot leader, was arresting and murdering hundreds of Cambodian citizens. At first, not everyone in our church approved, but soon everyone was on board, albeit some reluctantly. We arranged housing near the church. Once the families arrived, many who were reluctant at first became enthusiastic supporters.

We first met our families at the Kansas City airport. With a Cambodian translator and wearing large name tags, we anxiously watched them disembark. There was a brief scare. We had agreed to sponsor nine people; but more than twenty got off the plane. We soon learned there were other church groups there to pick up their charges as well.

Once our group was assembled, our translator introduced us. When I was introduced as the pastor, the Cambodians spoke to each other and laughed. I asked our translator what was funny. With some delight, she told me, “They said you are the big cheese.” It was a great icebreaker.

School teachers in our church helped the children get enrolled. We had arrangements with English as a Second Language instructors. The younger ones learned English quickly. They were sharp. These new residents were hard workers and very thrifty. At first, the only work they could find was low entry-level jobs. They took those jobs quickly, excelled at them and were able to save money, despite the low wages. We employed a mature seminary student to oversee this ministry. Eventually, they joined with other Cambodians in Kansas City and organized into a Cambodian church.

Fast forward 30 years, we learned the leader of that group, Montha Kuy, had passed away. He was in his mid-sixties. My wife and I attended the funeral. As we entered the funeral home, the children, now grown with children of their own, ran and threw their arms around us. I was blessed. I like to believe God was saying, “Well done.”


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Wade Paris writes a weekly syndicated column, “The Shepherd Calls.”