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October 5, 2013

Because a Story Was Shared in a Far Off Land

Thank you to all who are responding to the question we, along with the International Storytelling Center, are asking at their upcoming festival, October 4-6, 2013, in Jonesborough, Tennessee. Early responses are already coming in for our question:

How might the art and power of storytelling contribute to global peace and collaboration in a troubled world?

Shortly before my Pop died, I was working on a play with a Christmas theme. I’d had him over for dinner and just offhandedly asked, “Well, Pop, you got any Vietnam Christmas stories?” not expecting an answer, because he rarely talked about his three tours in Vietnam.

What happened next in the story he shared allowed me to understand the true, life-saving power of story, and how because of story, I did not become an orphan during the TET offensive, when I was born and his life was saved— all because someone knew his story.

It was November of ’67 and Pop was in Quin Hon, Vietnam. A Refrigerated ship pulled into port– the kind that holds lots of food. My dad and his buddy Bobby Noble had the task of “inspecting” the ship. They loved that job, because infractions on refrigerator ships were quickly and magically fixed with a supply of turkeys and steaks. My dad and Bobby found enough infractions to provide a feast. They didn’t bring the food back to the other guys at the base. But– it’s not as bad as you think. My dad was Catholic, and there was a Vietnamese priest there- they called him Father Paul because his real name was hard to pronounce. He spoke English, and Dad would go see him sometimes. They’d share stories about their lives, what it was like for each of them growing up. Dad showed him pictures of my mom, my sister, and talked about the upcoming birth of their new baby, which would happen pretty soon. Father Paul ran the orphanage, and my dad would often bring candy bars and other things there, and sometimes play with the kids. On this day, Pop and Bobby took the food to Father Paul at the orphanage, so the kids, who usually get nothing but rice every day, could have Christmas dinner. In fact, it was enough food for several weeks.

Dad remembers going up the hill that day, carrying the load. He would always call out to let Father Paul know not to worry, but he forgot to this day and he heard father Paul call out. “Ai do! Day la nhung gi? Who’s there? What’s this?”

Pop just shouted up to him, “Xin Chao Cha! Hi Father! It’s Magic Turkey. Give me a hand.” And Father Paul and a few of the older children began taking the boxes into the gates of the orphanage.

Father Paul of course asked, “How is your wife, and the new baby?”

“No baby yet. It’s due in a couple of weeks. Maybe it’ll be a boy this time.”

Of course, they were talking about me.

Father Paul tells him, “When you hear, you come tell me. We’ll celebrate with a steak dinner. I save this one for you.”

Pop replied, “Will do. Gotta get back to my unit. Merry Christmas.”

The orphans and Father Paul had a real feast that Christmas. A few weeks later, there was a huge Offensive by the Viet Cong. The TET Offensive. Dad’s unit was getting hit from all sides. The Viet Cong surrounded the village, even came to the orphanage gates. Father Paul held them off with nothing but a 38 caliber pistol. The Viet Cong soldiers saw him defend the children and left the orphanage alone. My dad survived the offensive. He went up the hill to check on Father Paul once fighting had let up.

Pop called up as usual, maybe not as loudly. “Xin Chao Cha?” and Father Paul appeared. “It’s good to see you safe, father. I heard you had visitors.”

Father Paul met him and said, “I held them off with pistol.”

“That rusty old thirty-eight?”

Father Paul stood firm and explained, “They will not come onto property without a fight from me. Come, I show you why.”

“I know Father, the children. I told you before, I can’t bring any of them home. I just had another baby, two weeks ago. The Red Cross couldn’t find me. Just found out today. What a world to bring a kid into, huh? So you don’t need to show me…”

Then Father Paul cut him short—“Look down hill!”

Pop said he stood speechless for a minute when he realized what he was looking at. “That’s…my unit.”

The Viet Cong thought, and dad thought, that Father Paul held off the soldiers to save the children. Father Paul knew the Viet Cong wouldn’t hurt the orphans. But he also knew that the orphanage sat on a hill with a clear view to dad’s location. The Viet Cong could have completely wiped out the platoon. My dad had been kind to the orphans. He also knew Pop had a child at home and another on the way. Father Paul wanted to return the kindness, so Pop’s children would not be orphans, too. For every small gesture of peace, a miracle happens. For every small story shared, understanding and possibility is created in this world. Because a story was shared in a far off land, in a different culture, during a time of war, I got to grow up with a mom and a dad, and two more brothers and another sister, who then gave me 20 nieces and nephews, and 3 great-nephews. I owe my family, and my father owes his life, to a story.

July 7, 2013

Our Film to Create Awareness about Fracking in South Africa

My name is Francis Hweshe, Im a freelance journalist and indie filmmaker based in Cape Town. I understand that the Archbishop Desmond Tutu has spoken against fracking and I thought our initial trailer on fracking featuring South African Goldman Prize Winner and anti-fracking activist Jonathan Deal would be interesting. The links to the trailer are below.



June 16, 2013

Bring Back Social Clubs

We need to bring back social clubs with activities such as dancing, drama, and sports. There should also be local, provincial, and national competitions among social clubs across the country in each of these activities. These clubs really made a huge difference for people growing up in the 80’s.

We need to make it compulsory for pupils to participate in at least 2-3 sports activities which would be available through the social clubs. This kind of involvement would definitely assist in combating drug abuse and pupils just wandering around the streets. It could also help to reduce teenage pregnancy.

We need to involve governmental departments such Arts & Culture, Education, Sports and Finance in an effort to bring back the social clubs. These departments need to work together to offer young people activities that will motivate them to create hopeful futures for themselves.

Richmond Seleka

South Africa


June 4, 2013

Living Ubuntu

A number of years ago, I was introduced to the book “God Has A Dream”. The concept of Ubuntu resonated with me. Ubuntu embodied the essence of a Divine or “Christ’ spirit; an all-loving, all-acknowledging; all-accepting intention of the magnificence of God. The effect has been profound and instrumental in my life since then — truly understanding that our humanity is affirmed by acknowledging the humanity of others.


December 20, 2012

We Pray for Peace

This video is about our responsibility to pray for peace in all our endeavors. It is unfortunate to note that until we experience war that leaves children and women homeless and dreams shattered, we can rarely appreciate the value of peace. Must war take place before we appreciate and treasure peace?

Encourage others to pray for peace.  Please share this video with the world at large.

We Pray for Peace – Jozeph King

Blessings now and always.

Jozeph King

October 23, 2012

Peace for Africa

In the past we used to have village elders meet and resolve issues regarding brotherly differences to attain peace. And, by doing that, achieved peace. However, these days we have elders who are not interested in achieving this peace, but instead have turned the village square meeting into a gathering of evil men. I have seen injustice being perpetrated. When our people discovered that we would not achieve peace through this means, young people resorted to using violence and aggression to settle their difference. Africa – where is peace? Who shall give us peace.

May God bless Bishop Desmond  Tutu, a legend of our time, the lion of our generation.You will live long. Africa will always remember your footprints. God bless Africa.