May 14th, 2016 was a big day for InterChurch Health Ministries (ICHM) Canada.

We had both our Annual General Meeting (AGM) and Annual Education Event at Peoples Church in Toronto. Positive energy and high¬†spirits characterized both events and, with incoming and outgoing board members, the ‘winds of change’ were clearly felt.

AGM attendees.

AGM attendees.

Henry and Jean Fischer

ICHM board chair Henry Fischer and his wife Jean.

New ICHM board members Karen Scott, Joseph D’Souza and Clarence MacPherson (not present) were inducted. Certificates of appreciation were presented to Sharon Galway, Susan Goodwin, Pauline Maxwell and Heather Thompson, outgoing board members whose board terms had expired.

Left to right, standing, Karen Scott and Joseph D'Souza (incoming board members), Ethel Bull and Carol R-K, board members. Seated on far right, Heather Thompson, board member.

Left to right, standing, Karen Scott and Joseph D’Souza (incoming board members), Ethel Bull and Carol Rose-Kudelka, board members. Seated on far right, outgoing board member Heather Thompson.

Incoming board member Joseph D'Souza and retiring Office Administrator, Maryanne Atkins.

Incoming board member Joseph D’Souza and retiring Maryanne Atkins, Office Administrator.

After concluding the business of the day (stay tuned for our AGM 2016 report to be posted on this website), we had a delicatessen-like lunch with Quiche Lorraine, a variety of salads and pastries for dessert.

After lunch, attendees were treated to motivational speaker Thanh Campbell, author of Orphan 32. The first words out of his mouth were, ‘You are awesome and amazing!’ Thanh led us in an exercise in which we verbalized these words to each other. His message: Each of us has a unique story; there are no coincidences, only God’s providence; and God is with us during hardships from which we are strengthened and grow.

Thanh Campbell holds book

Thanh Campbell holding a paperback copy of his book, Orphan 32.

Front view of guest speaker's table display.

Display table set up by motivational speaker and author, Thanh Campbell.

Born in 1973 in Vietnam, Thanh was part of Operation Baby Lift when he and 56 other orphaned children between the ages of 3 months and 9 years were airlifted out of Saigon on a Hercules C-130 and flown to Canada. With a precious cargo of 57 babies in cardboard boxes secured to the floor of the plane’s massive cargo section with duct tape, lift-off was successful in spite of sprays of bullets and numerous missiles being fired by the Vietcong in an attempt to down the plane. Thanh explained,

It was almost as if ‘bubble wrap’ surrounded the plane making it impervious to attack. As if God’s providence was working for us to be saved.’

The trip took the children from Saigon to Vancouver to Calgary with the ultimate destination being Toronto. The orphans were cared for at 1 Surrey Place Centre (behind Women’s College Hospital). Malnourished and sick to varying degrees, some of the children didn’t make it to Toronto staying behind instead for treatment.

On April 18th, 1975, Thanh was adopted by the Campbell family with Scottish ancestry. The Campbell family loved Thanh and nourished him back to health.

Through the Internet and information sharing, 42 of the 57 orphans who’d been on the Hercules C-130 flight out of Saigon were able to meet and be reunited. And, in a strange twist of events, Thanh discovered that he wasn’t an orphan but, as evidenced by a 99.999% positive DNA test, had a living Vietnamese birth father! In 2009, Thanh flew to Vietnam and met his biological father. Through an interpreter, Thanh was able to communicate with his father and other biological family members. His father’s message to Thanh was, ‘We love you. We never gave up hope that we would find you.’

Thanh’s final message to us was, ‘Overcome the friction, gain traction and move forward.’

Note: A documentary film about Orphan 32 is in the making.

Text and photography credit: Luba Rascheff, ICHM Staff.