Local Vocal: God bless the Montagnards


Yes, Your article dated 12/20 [‘“A Montagnard Christmas’”; by Amy Kingsley] rings true. For three years now, my wife and I have been parents and grandparents to Montagnard refugees here in Durham, NC. We have heard the stories. We have seen the tears. We have held the hands and embraced these wonderful people. They are regular visitors in our home and church as well as we in theirs.

Our ‘children’ are 22 and 23 years old with a 2 1/2 year old daughter, conceived and born here. They have made amazing adaptations to our economy, culture and society. They are as much our children as our own birth children. Over the course of three years, they have become like us in some ways ‘— each work full time, pay daily child care, hold a mortgage on a wonderful Durham home, drive two cars, etc. We are very proud of them, as they take their faith seriously, living it from day to day. New arrivals from the Central Highlands are greeted and assisted now by these two. All the awful paperwork (in English) that is so hard to deal with, they help. They drive people to and fro as needed.

As I pass their home in this season, I see the Christmas lights on the outside and inside and the Christmas tree shining through the living room window.

Oh, my phone still rings at least once a week for help with something new or too complex that our country has lowered upon them. But, the young man now regularly repeats what I have been saying, ‘“Show me once, then I do it.’” And he does. Power steering fluid? Radiator fluid? Electric breaker boxes? Getting oil for the home this winter? Buying an old van to transport people to and from their jobs? Oh, yes, we spend a lot of time together. His trust and eagerness and respect win my heart every time.

His wife deals with the home front in addition to her full time job. Now, two young men are sharing the home with its four bedrooms. This gives a greater sense of community ‘— the Village. There are ‘“uncles’” to help clean, to cook, to watch the baby, and these guys also need the togetherness of others to combat the fear for their wives in Viet Nam, loneliness here, financial issues…. And, they get me, too. Wow, how the Lord has blessed me.

I know how it is to live in someone else’s culture ‘— we lived a year in each of two countries in 1994 and in 1996. The phone, the mail, the newspaper, the TV ‘— ha, each fraught with challenges. And that’s one way we help.

Now, education is the key in the USA, and this is really important. But, for people working full time, classes and studies are really difficult. And then, there’s English….

But when I look into the Congregation at Duke University Chapel and see a row of beatific faces from the Central Highlands, my heart is both lifted and rent for them. A hug and a kind work is always in order. And sharing meals together speaks volumes about our love for each of them.

Steve Harper