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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Refugee says thanks

Amid holiday commercialism, the story of Rathna Reth's return to West Linn [Ore.] Lutheran Church is a dose of good cheer.

Twenty years ago, West Linn sponsored Reth and 12 family members from Cambodia by providing housing, jobs, food and household goods. The pastor at the time, Gary Olson, baptized the family, who became active members. Seventeen years ago they moved to California, where Reth, 34, now works in Silicon Valley.

This fall, Barry G. Rogge, pastor of West Linn, received a Saturday night call alerting him to special guests attending church the next morning — Reth and several family members. Although there has been little contact with the family since their move, Reth wanted to present the congregation a $10,000 check. Across the top he wrote: "In gratitude to God for everything."

"Considering the type of people they are, [the gift] wasn't that big of a surprise," Olson said. "They're thoughtful and thankful for what this congregation did and always let us know that. This was a special kind of thoughtfulness."

Parishioner Greg Lord was Reth's English as a second language counselor when he was in high school. Lord, in fact, noticed that Reth was one credit short and helped him get signed up for a physical education class so he could graduate on time.

When Reth stood before the congregation, Lord knew he looked familiar. "When he said 'Mr. Lord' to me, everything clicked. I knew who it was," Lord said. "All that we did ... paid off. You never know when you touch a life. But it's not about the money. It's the fact that he is successful, thankful and his spiritual life is in place — that's what's important."


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