Poun Luangrath with son, Sang
Poun Luangrath has always been a dedicated father and husband. In 1986, he came to the United States with just his wife and five children after making the brave decision to escape from his home country, Laos. Poun recalls communists rising to power within the Laos government, and attempting to cleanse any form of government that was established before. “Many people were sent to concentration camps or even killed,” Poun recalled. That’s when he made the courageous decision to leave everything he knew and loved, including family and friends, to provide a better life for his family.
Escaping from a country that was becoming increasingly dangerous was no easy task. The price for a better life cost Poun not only significant money, but nearly his family’s lives. Poun recalls escaping Laos with his family by crossing the Mekong River, which was heavily patrolled by Laos communists. “Many people got shot or drowned trying the cross the river, which was nearly 3 times the size of the Connecticut River,” Poun said.
The fee for freedom cost Poun ฿6,000 baht, plus additional costs for security and transportation. Poun recalls having 9 people aboard the small canoe and water seeping in due to the fact that the canoe was unable to fully support everyone. Despite life threatening obstacles, Poun and his family made it to the border of Thailand, spending nearly 2 years at refugee camps before coming to the United States. “My sister’s wife lived in Hartford. That’s why we decided to come to the United States,” said Poun.
After arriving to the United States, Poun dedicated his time making a better life for his family. “In the mornings I would study English and at night I would go to electrical school.” Poun and many other Laos families looked to organizations and churches such as The Salvation Army and at the Mennonite Church to help settle into their new lives in America. “The church helped you with everything: cloths, food, money, learning English, etc.”
Inspired by The Salvation Army’s mission of serving those in need, Poun became an Envoy and dedicated his life to Jesus. “Jesus said ‘the only way to my father is through me.’ So that’s why my family and I decided to accept Jesus. The best thing about coming to the United States is that we know Christ.” After accepting Jesus into his life, Poun devoted himself to becoming a Pastor and helping Laos families adjust to life in the United States. In turn, Poun’s son Sang followed in his father’s footsteps, devoting his life to God and helping Laos refugees find comfort in the new place they call home.
Poun and his family continues doing great work for the community in God’s name. The Salvation Army’s mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination. As a result, The Salvation Army is able to touch the lives of refugees like Poun and his family. In turn, many refugees dedicate their lives to helping others in their home communities and beyond. In Poun’s words, “Everyone should be embraced. In the end, we are all human.”