Urgent!” was the subject of anh chị Lập-Phượng’s e-mail from
Allentown, Pennsylvania. Họp mặt Đồng Hành 2001 is like a family
reunion for all Đồng Hành members across America, Canada, and Europe.
By God’s grace, họp mặt will take place in the summer, and the
northeast region will be our host. Anh chị Lập-Phượng volunteered to
take care of registration, and this year, more people registered
earlier than in the years past...much more than we had anticipated.
When Ban Phục Vụ
of the Northeast Region met in April to plan for this event, Quang had
predicted that at least 120 members will register. I thought he was
idealistic; hence, I did not believe him. Now, just three weeks away,
registration is approaching 140. No problem, I thought. After all,
the more, the merrier. Then Hoàng sent me an email: he had
miscalculated; the retreat center’s maximum capacity is 120 people.
My Inbox kept flashing “new messages.” E-mails flew in from anh chị
Lập-Phượng, Quang, cha Long, Hường, Clara, Hoàng, anh chị An-Trâm
offering solutions to avoid closing the registration and turning
people away. How about opening homes of folks in Allentown to house
the overflow? What about meals? What about transportation? And so
on and so forth were our concerns. We decided to temporarily hold the
registration to regroup. The next day, anh chị Lập-Phượng announced
that there were four homes available, one with a large “finished
basement” that might hold a few dozen youths. Registration will
reopen, and with more “relief efforts,” we may be able to accommodate
about forty more people. Goodness, Đồng Hành gathering might actually
have 240 attendants. Yikes! I thought. That would really be awesome.
I sat at my desk
reading and sending e-mails, and contemplating on the passion that anh
chị Lập-Phượng and the folks in Allentown have for các anh chị em
across the land. It was just a beautiful thing, this love they carry
in their hearts.
They were ready
to open their hearts and homes to house complete strangers. What
initially seemed an impossible task has become possible because they
desire to be IN LOVE WITH GOD. That love was their foundation, their
core, and was the force that binds Đồng Hành together for over 24
years, spanning across cultures and continents and two generations,
going on its third.
I started to
think about Đồng Hành and how much it has done for me. I thought of
chú Nhuận in Virginia. He recently passed away this Easter Sunday
after battling cancer for seven years. I can never forget his hugging
me during mass at Họp Mặt vùng Đông Bắc twelve years ago. Then, I was
a stranger to him and to Đồng Hành, but his embrace was full of love.
That họp mặt changed my life significantly. I was awed to witness
such a wonderful community. There was something different about these
people, I told myself. Two days later when I left the retreat center
in Elverson, Pennsylvania, I firmly believed that heaven exists, and
that it is like this community called Đồng Hành. It was the LOVE that
people carry in their hearts.
As years went by,
by God’s will and grace, I got involved more with Đồng Hành. I
volunteered to work on Đồng Hành magazine, and I discovered that it
was a treasure. Báo is not a preaching ground of any religious orders
or groups of lay people. Báo is a medium for ordinary people in Đồng
Hành to share the grace they received, to be witnesses of Christ for
others so that their joy can be complete.
I also got
involved in organizing retreats for my groups, and I discovered that
Jesus still walks this earth. He still wears sandals and wanders in
airports to catch the red-eye flights to save a few dollars for people
who receive His Good News. He drives long distances in a tiny car and
lodges at a chain “motel” called Rest Area. He sleeps in different
beds each weekend and anticipates his next meal, wherever and whenever
that may be. He spends the few dollars He has to carry out His
mission without worrying about who will pay Him back. He listens to
the pain. He consoles all who cries for help. He shares the walks
and invites Himself to be a companion just like He did 2000 years ago
on the road to Emmaus. Yes! I see Jesus in cha Thành, cha Nhi, cha
Trí, cha Minh, cha Hùng, cha Long, cha Tuấn, cha Tước, cha Toàn, cha
Liêm, and many more “Jesus” out there whom I have not met. I know
they carry the LOVE in their hearts.
opportunities to work with các anh chị in EXCO (Executive Council),
and together we are a fun and loving bunch, though probably
disorganized, too, in a few pairs of critical eyes. But that does not
matter because Đồng Hành is not a business or an organization, but is
a community of ordinary Catholics who share a desire to be IN LOVE
WITH CHRIST. This is the same community of people who sing at the top
of their lungs and with conviction, “Lạy Chúa, xin hăy nhận lấy, tất
cả những ǵ con có và làm chủ. Take, Lord, and receive all I have and
call my own. Whatever I have or hold, you have given me. Give me
only your love and grace and I am rich enough and ask for nothing
more” (from the Prayer of St. Ignatius).
Last year, anh
Hào in Montreal asked me, “Why are you sticking with Đồng Hành?” And
I replied without hesitation, “For you, anh Hào. This is why.”
In my daily
life, I desire for all of us to walk the earth with Jesus and to pray
each day that we carry MORE of the LOVE in our hearts. I am blissful
that I found Đồng Hành. More accurately, I am blessed that Đồng Hành
found me. God, I desire to do as much as I can with Đồng Hành so that
others will discover the bliss of carrying the LOVE in our hearts.