In September of 2010, our family moved to Charlotte, NC to volunteer with an inner city youth ministry called One7. It was founded in 2008 and now has kids from Africa, Vietnam, Burma, Mexico, El Salvador and the United States. The One7 vision: To reach and transform inner city communities and families by intentionally forming cross cultural youth ministry teams while focusing on holistic change and spiritual growth. We are a part of something so much bigger than ourselves, and we have never regretted the decision to move. One thing we have come to understand is that everyone has a story. All it takes is some time and active participation in someone’s life to develop a personal relationship. Just because a person is smiling on the outside, does not mean they are not ripped apart inside.
I want you to meet Bria. She was born in Vietnam and grew up in a Christian home. After seeing the many ways God protected her family, she surrendered her life to Christ at the age of eleven. She told me a story once about a time when she was eight years old, and the Vietnam police were trying to find them so they could kill her entire family. It was four in the morning, and they had been searching for them all night. Bria’s family left their home earlier to sleep at a cousin’s house. Her father woke them up and told them all to hide under the beds. Bria said her dad hid under one across the room from her and the other children, but she could see one of his legs sticking out where it would be visible to anyone who entered.
Terrified, she prayed that somehow God would blind the eyes of the men looking for them if they were to enter the room. The soldiers came in to search, but they never noticed her father’s leg, nor did they discover anyone hiding under the beds. In a different house, her brother cowered under a bed as well. Bria said the soldiers would take large knives and thrust them under beds in case anyone tried to hide. Miraculously, they never hurt or even discovered, her brother. She thanks God for His protection.
At the age of nine, Bria and her family were forced to flee Vietnam because they were not given freedom of religion inside their own country. Anyone who professed to be a Christian would be killed immediately. She said many pastors they knew were either murdered or placed into prison. Bria’s family travelled to Cambodia, which proved to be a harrowing experience in itself. As they fled for their lives, Bria saw many people along the road who had been killed in a variety of ways. There was a giant river they had to cross in order to make it to safety. It was full of crocodiles, and many of the people were unable to swim. A lot of people lost their lives while trying to help others reach the opposite shore. They spent almost a year in a refugee camp before people from America showed up and helped them get out of the country.
Once safely in the US, Bria told me that she struggled in high school and returned home crying every day. It was hard for her to learn English and make friends. She quit attending school after the first week, but returned and will now be graduating this year. She thought life would be so much easier when they left Vietnam, but that has not been the case. Although her parents profess to be Christians and believe in God, they constantly belittle her and say things like they wish she had never been born. Life is a constant struggle, but one that she is making her way through with the love and support of everyone at One7.
We’ve become extremely close to Bria and consider her one of our own daughters. If you pray, please remember her, and all the other inner city kids we work with, at night before you close your eyes and fall asleep. Everyone has a story. All we have to do is take a moment to listen.
Please check out www.one7.org
Next week: Do You Judge a Book by its Cover?
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Have a blessed day,