Hongbo and Esther and their three kids are making a home in Fort Collins while longing for a better country.
Last fall, the reality of suffering for Christ became a little more real to many of us when we welcomed Hongbo and Esther Du into our church family.
Esther spent two years in prison for “illegal business operations” after allegedly using a religious curriculum while serving as the principal of a small school for kindergartners in China. You can read the whole story here. Upon her release just over a year ago, Esther and her husband, Hongbo, realized that they would most likely continue to face persecution for their faith and made the difficult decision to leave their home and country to settle in America. Due to relational connections that had been formed over the last several years, they landed here in Fort Collins at Summitview last August. In the eight months since arriving in Fort Collins, the Dus have been warmly welcomed and supported by the Summitview family, and I wanted to thank you and update you on how they’re doing.
First, the family news. The Dus moved here with two young boys and a third on the way. Yinou (or Enoch) was born on December 29 and is a happy, healthy baby. Samuel (7) and Yilin (4) are both attending school and have quickly picked up English. That’s the advantage of being young—you can learn an entirely new language in six months! The kids are integrating into our church community, as well, attending our Catalyst classes and becoming well-loved by many of you that have helped care for them. The Dus were able to find an apartment in an ideal location halfway between campus and the church building. Until they receive their work permits, which will likely happen in May, they will be unable to work. We have been helping them with rent, utilities and some basic living expenses through our Benevolence fund.
One of our main goals has been to help Hongbo learn English. Although Esther had become reasonably fluent in English through her schooling in China, Hongbo had never studied English. You can imagine what it has been like for him. He has moved to a new country he had not previously even visited. He has been forced to navigate through an unfamiliar culture with strange customs and without a basic ability to communicate with the locals. And all that with an underlying longing for a home he will likely never see again.
Our hope, therefore, has been to help him gain basic language skills as quickly as possible to help him assimilate into this community and eventually find work. We invited you last fall to help send Hongbo to school and your response was tremendous. We quickly raised over $9,000, which exceeded our goal, and has allowed us to initiate English training for Hongbo through several different means. Starting in January, Hongbo began to attend Heritage Christian School—sitting in on the fifth grade class! Heritage heard about Hongbo’s situation and offered to enroll him as a student for a very reduced price so that he could be immersed in an English-speaking learning environment. We are also arranging for a personal tutor to give him more personalized attention. Lastly, we are intending to help enroll Hongbo in CSU’s intensive English program in May. By the end of the summer, our hope is that Hongbo will be much better equipped to communicate in our community. Thank you, Summitview, for helping him get there.
Besides language acquisition, the Dus are trying to find their way in this very new and unfamiliar community. They abruptly left the only home, culture and family they had ever known, and moved to a completely unfamiliar culture without full ability to communicate. And on top of all of that, they have a brand new baby! The stress and trauma that this family has gone through is astounding. Although their apartment has been a huge blessing and has been fully furnished through your generosity, it’s still not easy living in a small apartment with three very active boys. Not only so, but they are still learning to be a family again. Esther was taken from them for a full two years. While she was gone, the boys were cared for in large part by relatives as Hongbo tried to provide for them and seek justice for Esther.
Nevertheless, they are an incredible example of faith and joy in the midst of trial. Their smiles radiate. They have become an important fixture in our international student ministry. They are giving and ministering to many of the Chinese students at CSU. And Hongbo has consistently blessed us with his delicious Chinese cooking! It is a joy to have them in our church family. Thank you again for welcoming them.