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A Home Away From Home

The first time I met Dao Pham was after a Sabbath service at our church. We had a special program that day and there were many visitors from the neighborhood attending our service. She visited our church with her uncle. A church member who was their friend, introduced them to me. She seemed so little for a high school sophomore. She had just come to the U.S. from Vietnam to attend San Gabriel Academy. Her uncle said she did not have many friends in the U.S., and our church having quite a crowd of young people, would be good place for her to meet new friends.

They returned the following Sabbath. We introduced Dao to the young people in our church. Not long after that, she became part of the group and joined in on all activities that our young people had – winter camp, summer camp, karaoke nights, and many other events.

At summer camp meeting, it was the end of her sophomore year, Dao decided to be baptized. She recalled that it was a big moment of her life, and she felt that God had brought her to San Gabriel Academy and to the El Monte Viet church for a purpose.

Dao’s family is in Vietnam, her parents are Buddhists. In the US, Dao stays with her uncle and his family, who are Christians but not Seventh-day Adventists. Still, she happily attended our church. Some of the Saturdays her uncle had to work and could not give her a ride, Dao would walk 4 miles to get to church. She liked to come to church early to help with setting up the sound system for morning service. Gradually she even became a member of the sound team.

When she graduated from San Gabriel Academy, Dao had already been an active member and was one of our youth leaders. She has kept herself busy with many outreach programs. She joined our colporteur team to canvass the neighborhood. This team has various members who are fluent in different languages (Viet, English, Spanish). Dao is the group’s Viet language “expert!” Through this activity, Dao invites people she met to visit our church or to the evangelistic meeting and all the while selling spiritual literature and message books in all three languages.

Now in college, Dao is studying nursing. To save boarding expenses, she stays at home and attends East Los Angeles College (ELAC). In college, she continues to be busy with inviting Viet friends from her school to join the activities that the church has. Many of these young people are foreign students from Vietnam like Dao, and they like to help out with “cultural” programs that remind them of their homeland. Recently, Dao helped plan the church’s Mid-Autumn Festival pulling in help from various  students from ELAC’s Vietnamese Association club that are her friends. Through this activity, several of those friends have started to attend church regularly. Dao also has co-planned several church Karaoke nights, which is a very popular get-together activity to the young people in Vietnam. At each of these occasions, the majority of the invitees are friends of Dao. Every Sunday, Dao also volunteers as a staff teacher of our Sunday Viet Language school (a community outreach ministry).

As if those activities are not enough to keep her busy, Dao is an essential member of the internet ministry. Already experienced with the sound, she edits and uploads the Sabbath sermons to our church website. Every Sabbath, after potluck, she sits down in the sound room and gets the sermon uploaded for people who could not attend church. By the evening, the current Sabbath sermon is already available online. Dao does this with a dedication and with the love to spread the Gospel to as many people as possible.

Dao said that the experience of how she was a lonely foreign student and got to know our church and its people was a blessing. She loves her church family. She wants to bring that same opportunity to her other friends from Vietnam, who too, could feel alone and not knowing many friends in a foreign land.

Watching Dao eager and busy with all kind of activities at church, and with all the visions and dreams that she has, I thank God for bringing this “little girl” to our church. She is a beautiful blessing.

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About Rachel Tom

Rachel Tom

writes from Southern California.

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