Interesting read – Drifting Toward Hope: A Vietnamese Refugee on What it Means to Be An American

In the summer of 1979 my family and I lay half-dead in a derelict fishing boat lost in the South China Sea. There were 83 other refugees aboard, all of us fleeing Vietnam, and after five days without food and water, some of the mothers began to consider the unthinkable: binding their babies’ arms with strips of cloth and slipping them into the sea.

I was born in the Mekong ­Delta of South Vietnam, eight months after the country fell to the com­munists. My family had owned a rice milling empire worth millions, but the Viet Cong took almost ­everything. We eked out a meager existence on a tiny tract of land for four years, until my parents de­cided that leaving was the only hope for a better future, and worth the ­many risks we would face as “boat people.”

Then, on our sixth day at sea, a miracle happened: We were spotted by a World Vision aid ship. The crew brought us to a refugee camp in Singapore, and a few months later, a Lutheran church in Fort Smith, Ark., sponsored my family’s move to the United States.

We arrived with nothing, unable to speak a word of English. My father went to work in a fiberglass factory, earning $90 a week to support a family of 10. The children in our neighborhood were friendly, but we weren’t ­allowed to play with them. My parents were terrified that if one of us got into a fight, we’d all be sent back to Vietnam. That fear defines the life of a refugee: Don’t stand out. Don’t take risks. And whatever you do, don’t fail.

My time was divided between school, work, and church. Work gave me discipline and kept me out of trouble; church gave me community and a strong faith. My siblings and I walked a path two inches wide and 18 years long, but it turned out to be a good one. Together, we hold six doctorates and five master’s ­degrees, from schools such as ­Harvard, Yale, Georgetown, the University of Pennsylvania, and NYU.

When I was a student in ­medi­cal school in 2002, I returned to Vietnam for the first time, to visit my relatives who are still there. I was shocked by the poverty. Their houses were shacks, the walls plastered over with newspapers; bare light bulbs hung from the ceiling on electrical cords. My cousins slept on the floor. Visiting them was like walking into a parallel universe—the life that would have been mine had the wind blown our boat in a different ­direction.

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus said, “When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required” (12:48 NLT). I used to wonder who Jesus meant, because I sure didn’t think it was my family. The way I saw it, we had been given nothing, entrusted with nothing. I hoped that rich and powerful people would read Jesus’s words and take them to heart.

But when I went to Vietnam, I finally understood: He meant me. I was the one plucked from the South China Sea. I was the one granted asylum in a nation where education is available to everyone, and prosperity is attainable for anyone. I worked hard to get to where I am today, but the humbling truth is that my hard work was possible because of a blessing I did nothing to deserve. And that blessing is something I must pass on, in any way I can.

My story is true for all of us, whether you arrived in this country by boat or by birth: Much has been given to us—and much is required. That, I believe, is what it means to be an American.

Vinh Chung serves on World Vision’s Board of Directors, and his new memoir is called Where the Wind Leads. In the video below, he describes his family’s journey to the U.S.

From Published August 10, 2014

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Alpha course coming

A bit about Alpha. . . . What is alpha? Alpha is a worldwide phenomenon. It’s found in over 169 countries. It’s run in tens of thousands of schools, prisons, homes and churches of all denominations. It’s given more than 19.6 million people the opportunity to explore the meaning of life. Perhaps it’s just what your community – and your church – needs.

Our version will feature a dinner at 5:30 PM followed by an Alpha presentation and small group discussion concluding at 7:30 PM. Nursery is provided free of charge as is the dinner. We will meet on Monday evenings beginning September 8 and continue for 11 weeks.

Information covered: The Alpha course covers the basics of Christianity. It answers questions like: Who is Jesus?, and Why did he die? The Alpha course usually lasts 10 weeks, with a day or weekend getaway in the middle. Each week, guests gather for about two hours. They share an informal meal, sing a few songs, listen to a talk on how Christianity approaches the question at hand, then gather into small groups for discussion. The talks each week act as a springboard for small group discussions.

Please call the church office for more information, 287-2440. The course is free and open to all!

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September is National Hunger Action Month

National Hunger Action Month
Nearly 50 million people in the United States today are hungry or food insecure. Yet in this country, we will throw away over 133 billion pounds of good food this year. As people of faith, it is time for us to take action – to say that this situation is unacceptable and to do something about it.
September is National Hunger Action Month. Plan now to make September 2014 a time for your congregation to stand together against hunger, joining with the Society of St. Andrew to see that each person in this country has healthy, nourishing food to eat.
See more at:

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Wish Bishop Webb a Happy 50th Birthday

Friday, August 15 Bishop Mark will turn 50 years old. You may wish to send greetings to the Upper New York Conference Office, 324 University Avenue, 3rd Floor, Syracuse, NY 13210. Or, use Facebook to send a greeting to Mark Webb.

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Shopping and helping First UMC

While preparing for purchasing school supplies…or for the change in the seasons…doing some home remodeling…or planning late summer or fall travel…doing some early holiday shopping…or you just love to shop online… There is a way to shop online for your needs and benefit your local church or other UM organization. Shop

When you use to shop, a percentage of your purchase (donated by the retailer) – combined with the purchases of other members of your congregation – are donated back to your church. You can select your local United Methodist Church as the recipient of your donation, or you can select from a long list of other United Methodist related organizations like the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCor), The Advance, JustPeace, MARCHA, among many, many others.

Not a current user? Go to and Log in. It takes just a couple of minutes. Each time you shop online, first log into, search for the retailer you want to shop online with, click their logo and start shopping. When you visit the retail site through the portal, your total spending is accumulated for your church and when the total donations reach $100+ your church will get a check.

Now, what about the donation? The donations are processed by the support staff at Once your total donations (generated from a percent of purchases) equal or surpass $100, your church or other organization you designate will receive a check. And then, as you make more purchases throughout the year, the process is repeated. Everyone benefits – you conveniently shop online as you have always done and the church or other UM organization you want to help receives monies for ministries to do the things throughout the connection that make us United Methodists.

Be sure to share with family and friends. The more shopping that is done through this portal, the more assistance is given throughout the United Methodist connection to support the global ministries of the connectional United Methodist Church.

Note: Este comunicado de prensa está disponible en español.

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Supply list for the Back to School drive

All back to school items accepted, those specifically requested are:
#2 pencils (yellow preferred)
pencil boxes
pink erasers and cap erasers
pens: black, blue, red ink
pocket folders in solid colors
composition notebooks
wide lined paper
scissors for kids
glue sticks
crayons: 16 or 24 box
colored pencils
dry erase markers

The target group is elementary age children (Kindergarten through 6th grade).

Also collecting underwear and socks for the same age group.

Please bring the items to church on Sunday or during office hours (9 AM – 1 PM) Monday through Friday.

Hairdressers – we could use your assistance on Sunday, August 24, 1 PM – 2:30 PM to give haircuts to children. Please call the church office, 287-2440, for more information.

Thank for your assistance with this important community ministry!

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Aldersgate Fall Volunteer Work Day

Help be part of tidying up Aldersgate after a summer of life changing ministry by volunteering at Aldersgate’s Fall Volunteer Work Day! We’ll be cleaning, disassembling, painting, and preparing Aldersgate for the fall and winter seasons.

Bring your family, friends, and a servant’s heart ready to work! Lunch will be provided for all volunteers.

Overnight accommodations can be arranged for those travelling longer distances for a small fee. For further information on staying overnight, or any additional questions, please call the Aldersgate Office at 315-348-8833.

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“Like” us on Facebook

Search for First UMC Gouverneur and “like” us on Facebook. Here you will find information about upcoming worship services and activities.

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Special Session of Annual Conference

Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb has announced that a special session of the Annual Conference will be held in three locations over two days on Sept. 6 and Sept. 7, 2014 to make a recommendation to the Conference Trustees about the potential purchase of a property located at 7481 Henry Clay Blvd. in Liverpool to serve as the Conference Center for the Upper New York Conference.
A task force has recommended this building at 7481 Henry Clay Blvd. in Liverpool as the site of a new Conference Center. A special Session of the Annual Conference will take place Sept. 6-7, 2014 to consider the matter. See more photos. Photo by Steve Hustedt.

The building would be the long-term home for the Episcopal and Conference offices, which have been in temporary offices since the Conference came together in 2010.

The Liverpool property was identified by a task force responsible for determining a long-term plan for a Conference Center, and was selected over many other potential properties in the Syracuse area.

“Special thanks goes to University UMC, Cicero UMC and Baldwinsville UMC for providing temporary office space for our Conference staff and the Episcopal Office,” said Bishop Webb. “Their hospitality and generosity has been greatly appreciated, but the task force that is responsible for the long-term plan to house our Conference’s resources and offices believes the time has come to pursue a long-term solution.”

The task force is making the recommendation to the Conference Board of Trustees at this time because they feel that the building they have identified meets all the needs, will allow for new mission opportunities, and is available for a very good price.

To make it as easy as possible for voting members of the Annual Conference to participate in the special session, the Conference will gather over two days at three different sites.

The locations and times are:

10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Sept. 6, at Rush UMC
3-5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 6, at Liverpool UMC
3-5 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 7, at Saratoga Springs UMC

“We know that this will be a busy time of year, but this is an important step in our future together as the Upper New York Conference, so we are bringing this special session of Annual Conference to as many of our members as possible instead of asking everyone to come to Syracuse,” Bishop Webb said. “Our hope is that the format we’ve chosen for the special session will allow as many people as possible to participate.”

The special session is being called in accordance with Paragraph 603.5 of The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, and will consider only the matter of the recommendation on the property.

“Our new Conference has successfully liquidated most of the building assets of the predecessor conferences and is now in a strong position to situate itself in a new, permanent, accessible location designed to serve its mission in UNY and beyond,” said the Rev. Dr. Wendy Deichmann, Conference Trustee and chair of the task force.

“As we are still beginning new life as an Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church, it is essential that we position ourselves to maximize effective ministry and mission opportunities,” said Dr. Deichmann. “The Upper New York Conference Center must be a place that belongs to – and is accessible to – all our congregations and members, and provides appropriate resources for our bishop, Cabinet, staff, and volunteers to perform their respective missions. Its focus upon ministry and mission must be clear and facilitated by its setting and built environment.”

The recommendation results from two years of study and research. The full report from the task force will be available the week of Aug. 18 as part of the pre-conference materials. Registration for the special session will open the week of Aug. 4. Notification will be sent out through Conference communications channels when each is available.

“The fact that we have come to this place as a Conference should be celebrated,” said Bishop Webb. “I am thankful for the many gifted individuals who have invested much time and energy to assist us in arriving at this moment. I encourage you to be in prayer as we prepare to act on this important recommendation.”

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Your giving impacts – where?

Visit the UMC Giving website ( to find out. Share with your fellow church members when you read something that resonates with you!

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