MoM 100: Southeast Asian refugee migration remembered

July 26, 2023
John Longhurst | Special to Canadian Mennonite

Derek Froese (left) and Jason Ho. (Photo by John Longhurst)

Derek Froese (left) and Jason Ho. (Photo by John Longhurst)

For Jason Ho, the “Memories of Migration” tour is a way to combine two stories of immigrant flight—that of his grandmother a century ago, and his father’s escape from Vietnam in the 1980s.

“I grew up with stories of my father’s migration story,” said Ho, adding his life was shaped by those stories about the sacrifices his father made and the hardships he endured.

In his early 20s, Ho’s father fled Vietnam during that country’s war with Cambodia. He spent three years in a Thai refugee camp before coming to Canada in 1985, landing in Vancouver. It was there he met his wife-to-be, a member of a Mennonite family.

They moved to Abbotsford, where Ho grew up with a mix of western and Asian cultures. “We celebrated Christian holidays, but also the Lunar New Year,” he said.

While he knew about his father’s migration story, he didn’t know as much about his grandfather, who came to Canada from the Soviet Union in 1926. Participating in the tour is a way to learn more about that experience.

As he recalled both migration stories, Ho—now a professor of physics at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa—thought about how refugees from around the world have shaped the Mennonite church in Canada.

Noting that 2029 is the 50th anniversary of when Mennonite Central Committee Canada signed a master agreement with the Canadian government to bring Vietnamese boat people to this country, he wondered if that year might be a good time for another migration commemoration.

This time it would be to remember and celebrate the many refugees from other countries who Canadian Mennonites have helped find new homes in Canada, he said.

“Those are new streams that have contributed to life in Canada and to the church,” said Ho.

Ho was on the tour with his longtime friend, Derek Froese of Abbotsford, B.C.

After reporting on the first leg of the tour (from Quebec City to Kitchener-Waterloo, Ont.), Winnipeg freelance writer John Longhurst is blogging about the third and final leg (from Saskatoon, Sask. to Abbotsford, B.C.).

Read John's previous posts about the tour:
MoM 100: B.C. concert explores ‘Music Along the Journey’
MoM 100: Grandfather and grandson bond on tour
MoM 100: Remembering a mother reluctant to talk about those times
MoM 100: Pregnant tour participant has new appreciation for great-grandmother’s journey
MoM 100: Sängerfest ‘extraordinary’ for conductor


Derek Froese (left) and Jason Ho. (Photo by John Longhurst)

Author Name: 
John Longhurst
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Special to Canadian Mennonite
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