Tet Festival Series: America the Beautiful

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Vietnamese Tet Festival FamilyOver these past few weeks, I’ve felt so blessed by the generosity of the Vietnamese-American community. At the festivals, individuals have helped me set up my booth, including one man who delivered a table and chairs that he brought from his house. He said that he knew what the Lutherans had done for refugees and therefore wanted to help me out. Others have loaned me their ladders, their box-cutters, their rope, their drinking water, and various other forms of assistance. St. Paul’s Vietnamese Lutheran Church of Garden Grove sent nine people to volunteer at the LIRS booth.

Though I’ve been away from my home, I’ve had many moments of feeling at home. Lutheran Pastor Kinh Vu took me into his home for three nights. Actually, he took me into his family. I spent one evening with his extended family at a Tet celebration in their home. Vietnamese Tet Festival Boy Scout LeaderThere were about 50 people at the traditional dinner. I was not the only non-Vietnamese person. His daughter, who attends Concordia Irvine (a Lutheran University), brought about six of her friends from the dorms. They were very interested in the work of LIRS. They made me feel secure about the future of the Lutheran church in areas of social justice and ministry.

My time with Pastor Vu and his family drew to a close with a wonderful concert by The All American Boys Chorus, of which his youngest son is a member. It’s a group of young men, ages 8-15, who all live in the LA area. The choir was a reflection of the ethnic communities in the area; with Asian-Americans, African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, Caucasian-American, truly representing a diversity of cultures. They sang barbershop quartet, show tunes, and some hymns.

They also sang a number of patriotic songs, saluting and marching in place. On the last number, they brought in flags from each of the military branches of our armed forces, one by one. The director TetFestLaurenRymerasked for active duty and veteran military to stand as they saw the flag under which they served. With each flag, men and women stood proudly in the audience, saluted and smiled, many wiping back tears. Like the boy’s choir, they represented every ethic background. In that church I saw a group of proud Americans. Diverse, but all united by their love for this country. Among them were refugees, immigrants, native-born, and foreign-born. They are America.

Lauren Rymer has dedicated her career to serving immigrants and refugees on behalf of the church.  She began her career with Lutheran Social Services of Northeast Florida and has been with LIRS for the past 8 years.  She attends Breath of God Lutheran Church in Baltimore, MD.

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