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6-17-15 Cambodians Open Welcome Center in North Long Beach, Calif.
by Betty Cooney
|Pastor James Dok welcomes visitors to the ribbon cutting. (l. to r.) Buddhist monks, Pastors Larry L. Caviness, Cherise Gardner, Velino Salazar, Mitch Williams, and Gerard Kiemeney; Lieut. Kevin Coy and officers. Photo by Betty Cooney
After a month of hard work by Cambodian members, the center was painted and remodeled, furnished and ready to receive visitors. But two weeks before the opening date, one item still was missing. “We need a piano,” said Mrs. Nou Yon. “We have to have one!” So the pastor and members prayed for a piano. “Very soon, said Dok, “we received a phone call from someone asking if we would like a piano!”
Speakers noted the hard times Cambodian members had experienced before coming to this country. “As I look over this group,” said Larry L. Caviness, then president of Southern California Conference, “I see some brave people. Some leave their country because they want another chance. Sometimes people leave out of desperation.
“You have been welcomed and integrated into American society; you are part of the fabric of our society. The center is opened for the purpose of offering services to the Cambodian community and any other residents who may come. Some may ask, ‘Why are Adventists doing this? We are organized for service and our service is worldwide: hospitals, clinics and schools around the world, to help young people get an education. Thank you, Pastor Dok and staff, for bringing this center to reality.”
“Now the second part of the dream: We are organized to carry out a very important mission, to share the gospel of Jesus Christ who calls to us, saying, ‘Come unto Me and I will give you rest.’”
Gerard Kiemeney, L. A. Metro Region director, introduced the center’s pastor, James Dok. “There is a history of pain in his story, in the history of his people. During the ravages of war, Dok lost friends and family. He endured oppression and pain. He experienced what it was like to be in shackles.
“Through these experiences, Dok received a vision and that vision – expressed in one word – is, 'Welcome.' All are welcome. Welcome means a loving touch, education, encouragement. Your center has a mission and a purpose, in North Long Beach. You are going to make a difference that enhances anyone in this community, not only Cambodians. You will be offering legal advice, health advice and classes in English as a Second Language.
“This is why we lay hands on this group and their pastor. You understand the word ‘welcome.’ Through you, God will be welcoming your family and we will pray that His Spirit will empower you in this welcome.”
“’The journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step,’” quoted Dok. “We took this step today. Now we will take another step and another and another.”
More than 100 people filled the center, spilling out into the area outside. Two ordained Buddhist monks or venerables came from the neighborhood, expressing appreciation for the invitation. Lieutenant Kevin Coy came with a small retinue of police, to welcome the center and their staff to the neighborhood.
Following the service, a sumptuous Cambodian meal was served.