I recently traveled on a business trip for meetings at our regional office in Minneapolis, MN. I always try to use the time between my meetings to meet people who I interact with via the phone or email so I can make a personal connection. It is always easier to work with someone you know personally. Late one afternoon, I decided to go down and meet the facilities services coordinator. His name is Lee Vang. We had only spoken on the phone once or twice and exchanged a few emails. From the moment I met him, I liked him. He had a very welcoming and genuine personality. Lee has a slender build, black hair and is about 5’3” and he speaks with a strong accent. Over the course of our conversation, I found out that he was from South Vietnam. His father had worked for the American CIA as a mine sweeper. When he was just 7 years old, his mother was killed in a night time mortar attack by the Viet Cong. When he was 9, his father was killed by a mine. A few years later, when he was 11 years old, the United States made the decision to withdraw from Vietnam. Lee was on a helicopter ready to be airlifted out of Saigon when his Uncle asked him to give up his seat for some other younger children to be saved. When all the helicopters had gone and the North Vietnamese army came into the south, Lee soon realized that he had a decision to make. If he stayed in Saigon, being the son of someone who had worked for the CIA would most likely subject him to being sent to a reeducation camp in Hanoi. (Years later over half of the people sent to these re-education camps would never return.) Lee decided to flee into the jungle. After surviving for two years, he made his way to Cambodia where he lived in a refugee camp. While he was there, he got the news that a Mennonite family from the United States would sponsor him to come live with them in Nebraska. After being raised in their home and struggling to learn English, he would work several different jobs when the family sent him to Minnesota to get his college education. Upon graduation, he started working for our company in Minneapolis and has been with the company now for over 26 years. Lee and his wife have raised three boys. His life is truly an American success story.
When Lee escaped South Vietnam, I was in the third grade at Edgewood Elementary School on the south side of Indianapolis. My biggest worries were missing the school bus or forgetting my lunch money. Years later when I was at Harding University, I would hear Captain Charlie Plumb tell his story about his experience in Vietnam. Born in Indiana he would attend the Naval Academy and became a fighter pilot. He had flown 74 successful missions over Vietnam and had just five days left before he headed home, when on his 75th mission he was shot down. He would spend the next six years in various North Vietnamese prisoner camps. Suffering brutal torture and near certain death he would survive to make it back home. Some time later, Plumb would meet the man who packed his parachute that saved his life many years before. Today, when Captain Plumb engages the people he meets, he asks them "Who is packing your parachute?" Everyone has someone who provides what they need to make it through the day. Plumb states that he needed many kinds of parachutes when his plane was shot down over enemy territory - he needed his physical parachute, his mental parachute, his emotional parachute, and his spiritual parachute. He called on all these before reaching safety.
Who is blessing your life today? Are you blessing the lives of others around you? Many times in our day to day routines and as we face rough times, we miss out on what really is important. We may fail to say thank you or hello, or please, or congratulate someone on something wonderful that has happened to them, give a compliment, or just do something nice for no reason. As you go through today, this week, this month, this year, recognize people who pack your parachutes. Remember who is blessing you and share those blessings with others.
I John 4:7 - Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love, does not know God, for God is love.