Lectionary resources for worship, faith formation, and service
From the day Hieu Van Le was born until the day he left his country there was not a day without the sound of gunshots; nor was there a day when he did not see people killed, family and friends included. Hieu was born in the year Vietnam was divided.
Twenty years later South Vietnam fell and the whole country was under Communist control. Risking their lives, Hieu, his wife and 50 others climbed into a leaky boat and headed to the coast of Malaysia, looking for a new land and a safer life.
They were desperate and without hope by the time they arrived into Malaysia; supplies, water, and fuel gone and the boat in a very fragile state.
With the refugee camp in Malaysia overcrowded, conditions appalling, and no prospect of being settled in a new country, they decided to try again. They repaired their boat and set out on open seas toward Darwin, Australia.
After over a month on stormy seas, they motored into Darwin on November 21, 1977 and were met by a couple of blokes on the water fishing. Zinc on their noses and beer in hand they shouted to this over-crowded, fragile boat, “G’day. Welcome to Australia,” and continued on.
Under the cover of night Hieu and his wife were flown onto Adelaide, where they were confronted with racist graffiti, and a community that was not as welcoming.
Hieu said, “despite this, we felt excited about being in our new country, although naturally some felt homesickness.”
While Australians are divided over the issue of asylum seekers coming across the waters seeking sanctuary in a new land, they also struggle with another story of people coming across the waters.
On January 26, 1788, the first fleet to carry convicts sailed into Sydney Cove. Governor Phillip hoisted the Union Jack, symbolizing British occupation. The rights of the first custodians of the land were denied. One group calls this event “European settlement,” another “invasion.”
The focus passage for October 30 is a ritualized story of the people of Israel crossing water again into a new land and new life. After generations of tyranny in Egypt, a crossing through the sea, and 40 years of a perilous journey through the wilderness, the people of Israel stand on the border, on the banks of a new country. Reflection on the word on page 113 invites us to consider how one’s understanding of the story might change depending on whose point of view is considered. How might the priests bearing the ark tell the story; the people of Israel; the people already in the land?
In the Bible story on page 118, Joshua directs the 12 leaders to each pick up a stone from the middle of the river and to make a memorial when they get to the bank on the other side. The story goes on to say that every time the people passed that pile of stones they would remember and tell the amazing story of the day the people came into the new land.
This week’s story brings many questions, many wonderings. What might be the different “takes” on the story? Did some welcome? Were some unsettled by their presence? Did any contribute to racist graffiti? What were the attitudes, feelings, and emotions of those coming into the new land?\
Thirty-four years after the fishermen’s welcome cry in Darwin harbour, Hieu Van Lee is the Lieutenant-Governor of South Australia and chairman of the South Australian multicultural and ethnic affairs commission. He says: “In 30 years, our society has undergone dramatic change…What we see now is the integration of many cultural values into Australian society. We strive towards a community where all people can live and work together harmoniously, fully utilize their skills and talents for the benefit of the community, and still express their own cultural heritage.”