Church adopts Vietnamese family

February 24, 1997


Staff Writer

BOONSBORO - Mo Ha Mad A Ly and his family do not know a soul in the United States. But when they arrive in Boonsboro this spring, they will already have about 400 friends waiting for them.

Mt. Nebo United Methodist Church, located on South Main Street, has agreed to sponsor the Vietnamese family, which is fleeing tyranny in their homeland.

Mo is Vietnamese while his 24-year-old wife has an American father.

"There probably is some hostility and there definitely is some discrimination," said Bruce Smith, chairman of the church committee that is organizing the effort. "It's not very easy for an Amerasian to live in that society."


The church has been preparing for the family since last year - before the congregation even knew who was coming or where they were from.

Smith, 59, and his wife, Katie, 60, have been working with Church World Services to bring the family over.

The agreement calls for the church to be responsible for the family - five people representing three generations - for a month.

"We have a moral commitment longer than a month," Smith said.

Until they are able to speak English and earn a living, the family members will live on property next to the church. For the past few months, church members have been collecting money and furniture to set the unit up.

The Rev. John Zsittnik said the church has been renting the property since purchasing it in June 1995.

Zsittnik said the congregation quickly rallied around the idea of sponsoring a refugee family after a church member suggested it.

"Someone came up with the idea and no one objected," he said. "It just felt right. It felt like God was leading us in that direction."

Church World Services has placed thousands of refugee families in American communities across the country, including a Bosnian family in Smithsburg a few years ago. Smith said the experiences elsewhere have encouraged Mt. Nebo.

Still, he said church members are under no illusions about the obstacles they face. Among other things, none of the family members speak English and none of the congregation speak Vietnamese.

Smith said he knows very little of Vietnamese culture and cuisine. He said church members will seek out Vietnamese translators and immigrants to help with the transition.

Fund-raising will be a persistent challenge as well.

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