40 years ago, shortly after the Vietnam War ended, the Holdeman Mennonite Church near Wakarusa, grappled with the issue of body odor. The issue of body odor came up when the congregation resettled a family of refugees from Southeast Asia. The Vietnam War, badly managed by the United States, had created hundreds of thousands of refugees from Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, many of whom wanted to leave Southeast Asia and begin a new life in the U.S. The Holdeman congregation decided to help by resettling one Southeast Asian family in Wakarusa. They housed the family in the parsonage, donated money and furniture, started English lessons, and helped the father and mother find jobs in local businesses.
Soon the issue of body odor surfaced. People began whispering in private that the refugee family smelled different. The smell was unlike the smell of anyone else in the congregation. Finally after weeks of furtive whispers, someone figured out the source of the smell: it was garlic and fish sauce. Coming from Southeast Asia with its lovely, fragrant cuisines, the family used lots of garlic and fish sauce in their cooking. The garlic and fish sauce permeated the family’s house, saturated their clothing, and emanated from the pores of their skin.
- 2 Corinthians 2:14 - 16