This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon:  “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce.  Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease.  Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” – Jer. 29:4-7

The Jewish exiles stuck in Babylon were eager to leave this foreign land and return home to Jerusalem.  Their desire to go home was stoked by false prophets who misled them by predicting a very short captivity.

Jeremiah demolished those lies with an unwelcome and inconvenient truth:  the captivity would be lengthy.  Pining for Jerusalem would do no good.  The people were to get on with the business of life, and make the best of it in their new home.  They were to be good citizens by seeking the peace and prosperity of the place they were living.

This situation has some parallels with the modern saga of the Hmong.

The Hmong are an Asian ethnic group from the mountainous regions of China, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand.  For centuries they have moved around due to political unrest and to find more available land.  In recent years they have suffered greatly for fighting with the U.S. during the Vietnam War, facing brutal reprisals and persecution when the Americans pulled out of the region.  Particularly in Laos, the Hmong faced terrible retaliation for their alliance with the C.I.A. and fled the country in great numbers.

Many Hmong refugees resettled in the U.S. in the aftermath of Vietnam.  The upper Midwest and California became the location for the largest Hmong-American communities.  But these tough, resourceful people have also made an impact on the small community of Magazine, Arkansas.

Of the 270 students at Magazine High School, some 7% are Hmong.  Their families moved to the area to buy land to become chicken and turkey farmers.  Several Hmong students have played key roles in the Magazine football team going undefeated and winning the 2010 2A state championship.  The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette ran a story on this remarkable story whose title said it all:  “A Winning Mix.”  It is difficult not to smile at the photo of Magazine lineman Skyler McElroy who stands 6’5”, 270 lbs. standing next to the RB he blocks for, 4’11”, 125 lbs. Long Yang.

It is difficult not to be inspired by McElroy’s attitude that people are just people, regardless of their differences:  “We have great parents, and they taught us to get along with everybody.  No matter what race you are, you’re still God’s child.”

Amen, son.


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