Our WPC love comes full circle
By Cathy Clark
July 13, 2023
February 8, 1980 is a date that probably doesn’t stand out for most of us, but for Hoa Kien Truc (Chook), Diep Hoa Ngoc Khanh (Hing), and Diep Sung Quong (Kwong), February 8, 1980 is a date that will never, ever be forgotten. It was on this date that they arrived at Lester B. Pearson International Airport. This was the culmination of a perilous journey that had begun about three years earlier in the aftermath of the Vietnam War. Truc believes that he was not quite sixteen when he, his sister Khanh, and her husband Quong, left Dien Bien Phu in North Vietnam in an effort to escape to freedom, leaving behind both sets of parents and six younger siblings. In the immediate aftermath of the Vietnam War, times in this Communist country were perilous for ethnic Chinese. Escaping over land into China, the trio spent two years in a refugee camp in very challenging conditions before making their way to the coast to be transported to Hong Kong by boat. Vietnamese refugees arriving in Hong Kong were referred to as the “boat people” and the international community responded with compassion to assist with resettlement. While in Hong Kong, Truc, Khanh and Quong were selected by the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) to emigrate to Canada and were matched with our church family for sponsorship.
Our Westminster family rallied together strongly to show Truc, Khanh and Quong so much Christian love and support. Together, we rented a townhouse for them at #17 261 Rose Street. We furnished the home, stocked it with groceries, arranged for medical care, English classes, and transportation. Two men in the congregation (Bill Wright and Jim Best), helped both young men to get jobs in Barrie, while Khanh, an expert seamstress, had a sewing job in Angus. These early days must have been so disorienting and frightening. Our culture was so drastically different than what they had known in Vietnam – a new language, new customs, very different food, different weather, different plumbing, different furniture – the list is endless. We were blessed to have the absolutely vital assistance of Nelson Leung, now a pastor, but then a young student from Hong Kong studying at Georgian College and billeting with our dear Thelma Jacobs. Nelson freely gave countless hours as our translator.
In 1982, seeking better jobs and connections with the Vietnamese diaspora, Truc, Khanh and Quong moved to Toronto, then on to Edmonton and Calgary. They have been settled for many years in Surrey, BC. What is truly incredible, is that although they arrived with nothing, they were able to sponsor all four of their parents and all six of Truc and Khanh’s younger siblings to emigrate to Canada. This large family has thrived. Truc has two lovely daughters, Victoria and Alexandra. Khanh and Quong have three beautiful children, Catherine, Paul and Brian.
This week, Truc, Khanh, Catherine, Paul and Truc’s wife Elaine, came to Barrie to visit with me, and were joined by Pastor Nelson Leung and his wife, Joanna. At the very top of their list of things to do, was a visit to Westminster. For them, our church family literally represents life. Their gratitude cannot be easily captured in words – it is so immense. They have so many distinct memories – discovering cheese with a lot of encouragement from me, trying tomato soup (from a can!) with a gentle nudging from Mary Colvin at a lunch with her parents, Fern and Charlotte, lunch after church at the home of Rev. Paul and Julia Mills, dinner at the home of Val and Paul Hollingsworth, many lunches, dinners and outings with my Boswell family (special memories of my sister, Jenn Harris, the first person with blonde hair that they ever saw), and many happy trips to Springwater Park. So many of those who played key roles in this sponsorship are no longer with us, but each one has a firm and sacred place in the heart of not only Truc, Khanh and Quong, but in the hearts of every single member of their family. God is so good!
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