In 1982, refugees Nao and Sounthane Vongpheth and their children enjoyed cake at Christ Lutheran Church, Roanoke, Va., to celebrate the one-year anniversary of their arrival in the U.S.
When the family came to Roanoke after losing a previous sponsor in Texas, Christ's members were surprised to find that a single man, Bounmy Insixiengmay, had accompanied the Vongpheths. But what's one more? By this time, the congregation had stopped counting the number of refugees they had sponsored from Laos, Cambodia and other countries in Southeast Asia.
Sounthane found work rebuilding electrical generators, and Nao got a job sewing graduation gowns and caps. Understandably, Sounthane wrote in Christ's Lenten devotional booklet that he found great meaning in 1 Peter 2:10: "Once you were no people, but now you are God's people."
Throughout the years, Lutherans have welcomed immigrants through partnerships with Baltimore-based Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, a ministry formed during World War II to resettle and provide care for Lutheran refugees in Germany and Europe. Today LIRS and its partner congregations serve all refugees, not just Lutherans.
© 2014 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers