The gospel of eating fish safely

(system) #1

By Alexander Carpenter

On the way to work today I was listening to local NPR affiliate KQED's Forum radio show. It was on efforts to reduce the danger of contaminated fish in the San Francisco Bay. Being a vegetarian, I was a little bored, until they introduced the next expert: Seventh-day Adventist Sophat Sorn (pictured), a pastor in Stockton and founder of Cambodian Families Together.

Apparently he works as a health advocate in the larger Khmer community to educate them about the dangers of eating fish caught in the delta. Here's a recent article on him: Sorn, a small man with penetrating eyes, gets out of the car. He throws on a fishing cap and a pair of sunglasses. "This is a very popular spot," he says, snapping fish advisory pamphlets printed in Khmer to a clipboard. He then traces a hand along the rocky peninsula, extending down the opposite side of the channel. "On weekends, they fish from both banks."

The first group we run into is a Cambodian family, a husband and wife sitting with their two small girls on a blanket covered with fishing poles and crushed soda cans. Behind them is a rust-pocked minivan with the hood up and radiator cap removed. At the water's edge are four poles propped against buckets and small stands. The girls giggle and point into one of the buckets. A small catfish circles in the bottom. On the surface floats a dying sunfish. "I caught that one," says Santanya, poking at the sunfish and forcing a little blood from its gills.

[snip] Sorn is a Cambodian refugee, an ex-soldier who has become a Seventh-day Adventist minister and health advocate with a vision: to inform people about the dangers of eating contaminated fish caught in the waterways around Stockton. For three years he worked with the California Department of Health's Environmental Health Investigations Branch, to conduct outreach work among Cambodian fishers who depend on those fish as a key food source. Now his ministering takes more time, but he still slows down enough to speak with local fishers along the waterways and in his congregation to "spread the gospel of eating fish safely." That seems a lot like something Jesus would do.

Here's a brief personal history in which he says: “Yesterday is but a dream and tomorrow is only a vision. But, if we do good deeds today, every yesterday will become a dream of happiness and every tomorrow, a vision of hope. Be careful, therefore, how you use today.”

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at