Jesus loves us before we know Him
I was a Refugee
A woman’s journey to freedom
By Blia Xiong as told to Terri Saelee
Sky, help me!” I cried desperately from the middle of the Mekong River between the shores of Laos and Thailand as the wild current dragged me downstream to what I believed would be certain death.
I was used to fleeing; I had known nothing else. Troops had been in our jungles since before I was born, and when I was just 7 months old my father and “younger mother” (my father’s second wife) took our family and fled the gunfire. So I was used to living in the jungle, foraging for food and cooking only at night to avoid becoming targets.
But battling the current of the Mekong at flood stage during monsoon season was beyond my skill level, and I knew it. So did the family I was with, who were helping me because my parents had died. They had tied me and three other children (one of them a 4-year-old) with a rope to a cousin of mine who was a strong swimmer.
When the moon came out, we started across. Using bamboo as life jackets, we had been swimming most of the night. Then we heard a rooster crow. It would be light soon.
“I’m going to cut the rope,” my cousin told me, fearing a beating if seen helping us flee. But how would I get the children across the river to Thailand on my own?
As he cut the rope the current suddenly spun us around and pulled us back toward Laos. That’s when I cried out for help to the highest power I knew. The elders called him the “Owner of the Sky,” or “Sky” for short. They said He was the one who had created everything and given us life.
My people, Hmong, were animists and worshipped the spirits. Yet sometimes they cried out to Sky for help. I had experienced His power myself. He had saved me as a child from drowning and later from being killed by a cobra.
Now as I fought the raging current to reach Thailand and safety, my heart clung to the desperate hope that this “Owner of the Sky” might possibly save my life again. “Sky, please help us!
After that, we were somehow able to turn back toward Thailand. Struggling together, we made it to the riverbank and were able to grasp some vines and pull ourselves up onto the shore.
Sky had saved my life again!
Living as Refugees
With help from others we eventually made it to the Ban Vinai Refugee Camp with some 50,000 other Hmong refugees. A family there let me stay with them, but they did not treat me well and eventually forced me to marry.
My husband and I had three children, but I became very sick and weak and my husband eventually divorced me. I cried to Sky for help. Again He heard me. Gradually I gained strength and was able to care for my children again.
A New Beginning
The United States conducted interviews for resettlement, and my children and I were accepted. We ended up in Madison, Wisconsin. I continued to have severe health problems, but people from the local Seventh-day Adventist church helped me and prayed for me. In time God restored me to health, and I began to study the Bible. I discovered that the Owner of the Sky, who saved my life before I even knew His name, is actually the God of the Bible and my heavenly Father.
In 2006 my two older children and I were baptized. Since then I have not been able to keep silent about the love and healing power of God. I may be a refugee, but I am no longer an orphan. I am filled with gratitude for God’s unchanging love.
Blia Xiong and her children continue to live in Madison, Wisconsin. Terri Saelee is coordinator of Adventist Refugee and Immigrant Ministries for the North American Division.