Today’s Illustration: The Boat People . . . . Island: Not A Tropical Paradise

On This Day:  April 30, 1975 — The Fall of Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam

In April of 1975, two million people fled Communist South Vietnam.  They were called “the boat people.”  Thousands of the refugees were transported to Galang & Kuku.

Most people, including myself, have never heard of Pulau Galang or Kuku Island.  It reveals how isolated we are in our daily lives — isolated from he tragic stories involving thousands upon thousands of other people who deal with terrible and horrific situations across this world.

Here are some of the facts surrounding that day in history and a story which revolves around the small island named Kuku which changed the lives of people who fled Saigon on thata day — changed their lives for decades — and in fact to this day.

Facts & Information:

When the United States left South Vietnam, South Vietnam was taken over by the Communist North Vietnamese.

The United States accepted 823,000 Vietnam refugees

Britain accepted 19,000; France accepted 96,000; Australia and Canada each accepted 137,000.

“No one knows exactly how many “boat people” perished on the way out of Vietnam by boat. The United Nations estimates that about 500,000 died at sea.”

Thousand of “boat people” – Vietnamese refugees – were relocated to Pulau Galang, the main camp.

Thousands of Vietnamese refugees were transported by boat to the remote Anambas Islands located in Indonesia. One of those islands was named “Kuku.”

 Little did the Kuku refugees know that had there were . . . .

  • no people
  • no water
  • no tools
  • no buildings
  • no shelters
  • no food

. . . . to sustain life.

Kuku was a deserted island.

 ” Before June 1979, Kuku Island was just one of 17,508 islands in Indonesia, and was probably only known to some Indonesians who live on islands nearby.”

Approximately 40,000 refugees ended up on the island of Kuku between 1979 and 1982.

 The UNHCR (UN High Commissioner For Refugees) attempted to oversee the relocation and refugee effort, with great failure.

 “The first 3 or 4 months was hard because we lived like Robinson Crusoe.”

 During these first years of the Vietnemese relocation to Kuku . . . .

  • churches were built
  • a “hospital” was established
  • hundreds of people died of starvation and disease
  • animals attacked
  • shallow graves were dug and people were buried with a rock as a headstone
  • soldiers raped young girls
  • gardens were planted
  • refugees were kidnapped
  • people committed suicide
  • pirates attacked
  • babies were born

 By Autumn of 1979 — “At the time, the hospital wasn’t built yet, this baby boy was delivered in a small hut made of bamboo poles and thatch, inside it had a bamboo table and a small oil lantern hung on the ceiling. While Dr Tan and I helped the woman deliver her baby, her husband went back and forth to his hut to boil water in a small kettle and filled up a bucket so that we can have warm water to wash baby and mom with.” –

 One of the main individuals who has brought attention to the story of Galang & Kuku is Carina Hoang.  Carina oprganizes trips back to Kuku to find the graves of the relatives who lost family members on Kuku.

Carina Hoang is getting ready for a trip. It’s to a place most people have never heard of: Kuku Island, located in the remote Anambas region, in Indonesia. She’s going to look for graves.

“Ordinarily you don’t find people who just decide to go back to jungles and looks for graves of people [they] don’t know,” she says. “But so far, anytime people ask, I can never say no — because I know the way and they don’t.”

People don’t know the way to Kuku because most have never heard of it; it’s not even labeled on most maps. –

Why is Carina interested?

But for Hoang, Kuku holds special meaning. It’s the place where she was stranded almost 40 years ago when she was just 16 years old. It’s the place where she had to learn how to survive.

(Carina Hoang’s) father, a former lieutenant colonel, was imprisoned, and her mother had to stay to look after the very youngest of her children. So the family found a way for Hoang, then 16; her 12-year-old brother, Saigon; and her 10-year-old sister, Mimi, to escape.

In 1979 Hoang stepped aboard a boat with her siblings to flee Vietnam.

Hoang remembers the boat — 80 feet long by 15 feet wide —  was packed with 373 passengers.

“We sat with knees to our chin,” she recalls. “There was no room to move around or stretch your legs.”

They sailed for one harrowing week.

Their boat landed in Malaysia, where Hoang says authorities robbed them and then pushed their boat back into the sea, refusing to allow the refugees entry. After that, the ship ran out of food and water. People began to die on board.

On the eighth day, the boat landed in a small fishing village in Indonesia. There, the captain sank the ship so no one could be pushed back to sea.

The refugees were allowed to stay in the country, but they were told they would be moved to a refugee camp on a different island. So Hoang and her siblings willingly climbed aboard one last boat.

“The boat trip was long,” she remembers. “It was hours until we get to this island. We saw this half-moon shaped island, with a nice sand beach and trees.”

When she and the others got off the boat and swam to shore, Hoang sensed something was amiss.

“We looked around,” she says. “It was a jungle. We didn’t see any shelters, any huts, or any camp. It was just an island with trees and bushes. And in front of us was the ocean. That’s not a refugee camp.”

The island was completely deserted. There were no buildings, no paths, no sign of human life at all. It was completely wild. After they disembarked, the boat sailed away.

Hoang and her siblings slept that night on the beach, in the pouring rain. Everyone sat on thebeach, waiting for the boat to return. One day passed. Then two.

“By the third day people started to realize that maybe this is where we’re going to be staying,”

You can read more of her story by clicking on this link —

or listen to it by clicking on this link —

Example Use #1:

At times, we as American Christians know and understand so little about life and living for many and perhaps most people in the world.  We see life through the eyes of American life and living.

However, much of the world lives life with injustice and exploitation as part of their everyday existence.  They live in fear of their lives and the lives of their family members.

One such example, which has been unveiled over the past 50 years is what happened after the fall of Saigon, South Vietnam.  It is the passage of time and the hearing of human stories that opens up some of the windows of such horrific events.  The words “Never Again” ring hollow when such events are unveiled, along with the realization that there are many more stories of the same nature that will be told about Rwanda, Somalia, Bosnia, Darfur, Isis, Boko Haram, and . . . and . . . . and . . . .

Is it possible that we don’t understand the imprecatory prayers, psalms, and the words of saints during the Tribulation as recorded in the book of Revelation because we see through American eyes?

Is it probably that we as American believers read Scripture through will tinted glasses which blocks out the inhumanity of man against men?

Do some mistakenly view it is “moralism” when a preacher points to the courage of David against Goliath because American Christians are not called upon to muster such courage as many other believers around the world?*

Read this passage (the passage of Scripture you are preaching from) as many believers from around the world would read it — though not as Americans might read it — but as believers who face desperate and frightening situations in life — every day!

Example Use #2:

There are times when I am convinced I have lost perspective on life — on the trials and troubles of life.

That usually happens when I read about real trials and troubles and suffering — reading about people who have and/or are facing real desperation — people who live with fear every day and day after day!

Kuku is one such example — it only reminds us how different our lives are in the United States from most of the world!  What is Kuku?  Where is it? . . . . . . . . . . Let me share one young girl’s words about Kuku . . . . . . .

Do you realize that God’s grace is not equally distributed?  And because of that, we as American believers have even greater responsibilities because of what we have been given — freedom — freedom from the distraction of pain and fear — money — the right to share the Gospel . . . . .

Key Illustrative Thoughts:

• injustice
• what does the Lord require of thee, but to
• God’s omniscience
• justice, equity, mercy
• mans inhumanity to me
• depravity
• living isolated lives
• persecution
• compassion
• perspective
• our brothers and sisters in Christ
• a parochial view of life
• suffering
• trials
• the tribulation
• God’s day of judgment
• God bless — has blessed America
• July 4th

Other Information & Links:

“The graves, hand-dug and hand-built by the boat people, lie interspersed with the graves of local villagers dotting a small green mountain.

These graves would have been lost if it weren’t for the efforts of a determined, young Vietnamese Australian woman, Carina Hoang.

Hoang was just 16 when she helped bury a 10-month-old baby in Letung. She was at camp with her younger brother and sister. Next to them were a young couple whose baby had diarrhea and fever.

“That night, I heard the wife wake her husband. And then I started hearing her cry, ‘Oh God, no, God, no.’ They held each other and cried, that’s when I knew the baby had died.”

Hoang helped bathe the dead child and change her clothes.

The father made a coffin from the baby’s bed. Hoang put clothes in and placed the baby on top.

Hoang’s brother and sister survived, but she lost a cousin in Letung in 1979. Nearly 20 years later, in 1998, Hoang came back looking for her cousin’s grave.” —


Links to examples which criticize moralism



If you would like to listen to the story here is a link to . . . .

Snap # 922 – Return To Kuku Island

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