|Glik, Lap, and Jim Fie sing from a hymnal brought from Vietnam.|
| No longer praying in secret |
In Vietnam, Lap ran a secret church out of his house. He was learning to be a pastor. He quit his ministry to support the political movement to stop human rights abuses against his people in Vietnam. When his wife asked him why he quit, he told her, "because I love my people. I need to work." He wanted to come to the United States to support Kok Ksor in his cause.
"Sometimes we go to work and pray in the field," says Lap, describing what people in his village outside of Pleiku would go through to avoid being detected by the police. "Before we go out from village, we get dressed in clothes that are no good and we go out and meet. When we get there, we get dressed in new clothes and we pray, and we sing songs. When we finish, we change, put our clothes in the bag on back and go back home. The police didn't know. We just pray."
In Durham, he's started to run an early morning pre-church prayer service on Sundays at the apartment complex. Lap conducts the prayer service in Jarai, a widely spoken highland language that the Montagnards in Durham use. He reads from a copy of a Jarai New Testament--the only such Bible in the United States, he claims--and leads the other men in song. Lap says the other men in the apartment complex don't come to pray sometimes because they're too sad. They tell him they just need to sleep.
After prayer, Reconciliation United Methodist Church is one of the five churches that Lap, Glik, and Dar attend with their sponsors. It's temporarily located in an elementary school, bringing a small but strong pulse to the cavernous gymnasium. A colorful mural is painted on one cement wall and a basketball hoop hovers over the sparse congregation who sit in folding metal chairs.
Reconciliation's Sunday bulletin states that it "seeks to intentionally include all races and all cultural backgrounds." On the back of the weekly bulletin, the church asks its congregation to remember the Montagnard refugees in prayer this week.
During the two-hour service, Glik claps along while holding his bulletin. Lap keeps his eyes closed in prayer throughout most of it, and Dar sits quietly between them. It's a high-spirited service with an eight-member choir, three mikes, a keyboard, and drum machine. The sweaty conductor wipes his brow now and then as he leads song after song. The congregation calls out "Amen!"
After the service, the three men sit together at the back of the school cafeteria, where an International Potluck has been spread down a long cafeteria table under fluorescent school lighting. Next to crock pots of chili and box-mix brownies, Glik, Lap, and Dar load up on chicken and salad and eat together quietly. The reverend slaps a heavy hand down on Glik’s shoulders to give him a little shoulder rub. Glik laughs. The reverend booms in his big voice and asks how are they doing, and how is the food, and everybody laughs, happy to report that everything, right then, is just fine.
No longer praying in secret