世上不配有的人(Unworthy to be born)
Author: Ancy Lee
Translator: Pius Lee
My name is Thuyen-Anh Huynh. My husband is Pius Chi-Shing Lee. Pius is the author of the current issue’s “Storm Buster” column.
I was born in the Cholon District, Saigon, Vietnam. I joined my family’s immigration to Sweden when I was sixteen years old. It was an abrupt complete-do-over starting from square one: learning Swedish starting from learning alphabets, and through much hard work and struggle I completed high school. I then worked in a senior home for a few years before going back to university majoring in Management and Administration studies for Senior Care. Upon graduation, with the corroboration of God, I married Chi-Shing in Sweden. In the beginning of our marriage we lived in Japan and Hong Kong. Finally we settled in the Eastern U.S. We lived in Virginia for more than 27 years. We raised three sons and one daughter.
I have chosen to name this column “Interesting adventures”. It is because I believe every person has adventures — some significant whereas some insignificant. Some of those bring about joy and jubilance whereas some sorrow and sadness. Some of those were nostalgic and captivating whereas some soul-etchingly adventurous. I believe that events unravel under the sun are permitted by God. They are the means a person grows up. Hence, I seek the liberty to share my past 40 years or so in a story-telling fashion. God permitted many twists and turns in my families’ lives to bring my family (now extended families) to know Him as the Creator of heaven and earth and life-giver of all man.
I love to tell stories. My four children have been spoiled by my story telling since they were toddlers. I invite you to accompany me to travel back in time to relive my many mishaps and upheavals of life that reflect the churnings and turnings of God’s hands guiding and protecting my families. I believe that God is still the navigator of my future.
My father is Thiem Tong Huynh. His hometown is Jie-Yang County, Teochew, Canton, China. Dad was from a poor peasant family with one older sister and one older brother. Dad’s siblings were much older than him and they were married when dad was a little boy. Huynh Ji-Fa, my Grandfather; and Tsu Hui-Xiang, my grandmother, both pledged to Buddha to be secular monk and nun refraining from all earthly pleasure of meat and indulgences when they were barely thirty years of age. That would also prohibit sex. Ironically grandma was pregnant with my father. Grandma was ashamed to have betrayed her pledge and tried time after time to abort my father by ingesting various herbs. My father’s fragile life was under grievous dangers. The unseen hands of God through which all lives were created protected my father from harm and delivered a healthy boy to grandpa and grandma. Little did they know at that time my father would become the sole provider of their livelihood for their elderly years. (A boy unworthy to be born became a savior).
Grandpa was a wheat farmer. Droughts were frequent in Teochew and life was tough, and it was impossible to feed the family. My father was responsible for caring for the family and planting the field when he was rather young. Dad would head to the field with his hoe to tend the field and maintain the irrigation trenches early in the morning and work until sunset. In the tough years with droughts, there would only be porridge — thin rice water, for meals to soothe his hunger. No Matter how hard my father tried, it was impossible to feed the family.
Under such circumstances, grandpa decided to leave Teochew to travel to Vietnam to make a living. Grandpa worked as a kitchen assistant in the “Da-Luo-Tian” Casino-Hotel in Saigon, Vietnam. Grandpa faithfully sent meager money to grandma in China to support the family. Grandpa lived alone in Vietnam for nearly two decades until he was diagnosed with lung cancer. He returned to Teochew in a much languished body to die in his hometown.
My father learned to burn incense and recite chanting to Buddha from his parents since he was a little boy. He learned many rituals of the superstitious practice. In a boy-privileged chauvinistic society my father was given the task to accumulate “karma”. Grandma would often command my father to nearby streams to collect infant corpses to bury them properly as an act for “karma” — those days people discard their infant-daughters as a daughter was thought to be a losing business to a family. My father was exceptionally obedient, and took every command to heart. Had the Heavenly God not intervened from his mother’s womb, he himself would end up as one of the floating corpses in one of these streams. Therefore, my father had a parrot saying clung to his mouth: “I am one unworthy to be born in this world.” Certainly if that were his fate, I would not be here to write these stories.
Dad was feeble and weak since his boyhood. The hunger and cold afflicted on him as he grew up resulted in him having a chronic stomach problem. Now, a dozen years had passed and the WWII had just finished, grandma saw no future for her youngest son to remain in the countryside. She commanded him to travel to Vietnam to look for his father so that the father-and-son team could make a better living. My father was twenty one. He headed to Vietnam leaving grandma alone to care for their family house.
The father-and-son team lived and worked happily and efficiently together in the “Da-Luo-Tian” Casino-Hotel. My father was also a kitchen assistant and a dishwasher as well as a security guard. He also served as a dealer in the pokers’ table. My grandpa was nicknamed “vegetarian old man” by his co-workers and fellow-country-folk as his godly conduct was well praised. Both father-and-son were admired for their righteous integrity for being not involved in any of the vices of: gambling, smoking, drinking, or womanizing. On one occasion my father accidentally picked up a bag of cash carelessly left by a guest totalling in the thousands realizing that he should not be greedy to own the money. Furthermore, the cash could have an immoral origin. My father turned the money back to the owner of the casino-hotel. The owner divided the money as a one-time bonus to all the employees. Because of this, dad’s country-folk sneered behind him as brainless and dump. On the other hand, dad was always confident and self-assured to be a righteous, unashamed and conscientious person. Dad’s self-righteousness became an impediment for him to admit his sinfulness in needing forgiveness when Christianity was first introduced to him.
I will explain the upbringing of my mother in the next article.
Author: Mrs. Thuyen-Anh (Ancy) Lee was born in Vietnam. She immigrated and was educated in Sweden as a teenager. Her profession was social work until she married Pius in 1994. The couple responded to the calling to be ministers and relocated to NY in 2023.