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Angels unaware


March 10, 2004
-by Erwin Wiens and Dan Dyck


Erwin Wiens, daughter Leanne, and Madame Cuc examine Leanne’s adoption certificate.

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Chun Chon, South Korea— When Erwin and Marian Wiens agreed to a Mennonite Church Canada Witness assignment to work with the Jesus Village Church here in 2002, they never dreamed it might start a healing process for their 34 year-old daughter, Leanne.

Leanne joined the Wiens family in April of 1973, coming out of the turmoil of the Vietnam War. Self-identifying as African-Canadian (assuming her father was of African-American descent), Leanne denied her Vietnamese heritage. Behind her lively and enthusiastic personality, the pain of her original rejection periodically surfaced. As she moved into her thirties, vague but fearful memories of abuse and trauma surfaced more often, causing periodic depression and times of severe anxiety.

While Leanne’s family and church prayed for her healing, God was quietly opening doors and preparing angels. In January 2004, after much encouragement, Leanne finally agreed to join the Wiens’ for a trip to the country of her birth.

Leanne’s father Erwin, said, “In the biblical account, angels serve as messengers, protectors, and helpers. In biblical stories, angels often came in human form and surprised the people they ministered to. During our recent visit to Vietnam, we too were surprised and aided by several angels.”

Over breakfast in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) the family trio met their first angel, Madame Cuc. The lively Buddhist hotel owner took an immediate interest in Leanne's story. She explained the meaning of Leanne's Vietnamese name and the possible circumstances that lead to Leanne's abandonment.

On the day of their visit to the orphanage in Bien Hoa, where Leanne spent her early years, Madame Cuc appeared once again with her husband. Using Madame Cuc’s personal car, the couple became the Wiens family’s personal translator and driver.

Approaching the gate of St. Paul's Catholic Orphanage, Leanne began to recognize and remember the long forgotten place she had left at age of three-and-a-half. "There is the church and over here was a fountain. And the toilets, where we all lined up and squatted on low benches, have changed. And that school building is new but behind it the hospital still stands. And that wall – and this tree!!"

“Her body retched and sobs shook her whole being as memories of early terror overwhelmed her. We stood helplessly by, watching, praying and suffering in silence, catching a first glimpse of her traumatic early history,” said Erwin.

The sisters, one of whom was still there from the year Leanne left, also became angels to the Wiens’. With their white habits and gentle love they welcomed Leanne like a long-lost daughter. “They made it obvious that they were there as God's special messengers,” added Wiens.

“The stories of discovering angels could go on and on,” said Erwin. At their hotel Leanne met Bob, a disgruntled, retired Canadian aimlessly traveling through Asia without purpose. Leanne's story touched something deep within him. As their friendship grew, Bob insisted that meeting Leanne had restored his faith in God. He had finally discovered why he was traveling through Asia.

Their night in Can Tho, the city of Leanne’s birth, brought another angel visit. Leanne and her motorcycle driver were hopelessly lost in their late night tour of the city, when suddenly a mysterious stranger, speaking perfect English, pulled up beside them, enthusiastically welcomed Leanne to Vietnam, and guided them safely back to their hotel.

Chai, their guide during a visit to the historic Reunification Palace, took an instant liking to Leanne. After her duties at the palace were finished, Chai became Leanne's personal guide through the impenetrable night traffic of Saigon. Later in the week, Leanne received an invitation to spend time with Chai's family, where she was welcomed as a guest of honor.

Erwin reflects on the whole story. “It's not easy to re-shape one's identity at the age of 34. It's even more difficult to heal from a life-long sense of rejection and trauma of early childhood. But as Leanne begins the third chapter of her identity formation, we sit by and marvel at the messengers God sends into her life – and ours. And we remind Leanne that God will continue to ‘command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways."