Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Late Rev. Charles Long

Rev. Charles Long in Vietnam with a group of Montagnards from his church.
When I first met Rev. Charles and EG Long it was May 24, 2008, at their home in Raleigh, N.C., to interview them for Abandoned Allies and I was fraught with worries when I showed up.

Charles and EG were my first on-camera interviews for the film, and I felt likely to make tragic mistakes while I was there. My lack of knowledge about filmmaking and the subject matter felt as weighty as the humidity outside. The temperatures were up in the 90s--even in May--and the humidity made it worse.

But inside their home, the atmosphere was much different.

Charles, a tall and slender man, led me inside where he introduced me to his smiling wife, EG. It was cooler inside. Calmer. Full of grace, understanding, and forgiveness of my inexperience.

We chatted about the film, how they could help, and how to use the next few hours. They showed me areas in their home to use for the interview. They led me to a treasure trove of photographs and artifacts. Their home looked like that of proud parents with photos of their children (and their children's children) displayed throughout.

I set up my borrowed camera equipment, and the interview began. They shared their story of falling in love, getting to know God, becoming missionaries, and the decision to move to a country no one seemed to have heard about yet: Vietnam. It was a long flight to the other side of the world, but they would end up living there for nearly 15 years.

The interview made them smile as they shared memories from their first years of marriage. Their love for that country and its people radiated from them as they talked. By the time the interview ended, I felt as if we had been abroad without leaving Raleigh, N.C. Charlie and EG would host me a few more times as my research for the film continued.

It was during Memorial Day weekend last month that Rev. Charles Long passed away. Surry and I attended his visitation that Tuesday, and found the church packed with people paying their respects. The large, diverse crowd was spectacular.

Rev. Charles Long is a man respected and loved by many people. It is truly an honor to have learned his story. Spending time with Charlie and EG taught me so much about the Montagnard people of Vietnam. I am saddened by the loss of such a great man.

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