Myanmar Pastor and Family Find Haven in Michigan

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After living as refugees in Malaysia for five years, Rev. Obadiah Thang and his family have found refuge in Grandville, Mich., with the help of Ivanrest Christian Reformed Church.

Along with his wife, Fung, and two of his young siblings, Thang fled Myanmar six years ago after government troops seized the church where he worked as youth pastor.

“They came to the (senior) pastor’s house and arrested him,” Thang said. The church was targeted after its leaders refused to allow the military to use a portion of the church property.

The family, which now includes daughter Ellen, is calling West Michigan home.

Church members volunteered to take on various responsibilities to help the Thangs adjust to life in the U.S.—starting with finding the family a place to live and getting it furnished. “We got the apartment one morning and by the next night we had it furnished,” said Carole Pettijohn, who coordinated the volunteer response.

A large group of volunteers from Ivanrest have been driving family members to English language classes. Church members have even helped find a Ping-Pong table and guitars for the family.

“There’s a lot of kind, generous, and compassionate people in our church,” said Lisa Van Dyken, who helped the Thangs get settled into their apartment.

The Thangs have already become active in a local CRC church where Chin, their native dialect, is spoken. They are grateful for the support they’ve received from Ivanrest.

“As Christians, sometimes we feel God is not there, especially when [we] experience a bad situation,” Thang said. “After moving here, I feel God has blessed us and touched our hearts through Ivanrest.”

About the Author

Greg Chandler is a freelance news correspondent for The Banner. He lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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