A standing ovation erupted inside the Lake Avenue Church in Pasadena during Sunday morning service as Matt and Grace Huang were called before the congregation.
The Asian American couple, who were detained in Qatar for almost two years before recently being cleared in the death of their 8-year-old daughter, hugged their two young sons, as some parishioners’ eyes filled with tears. The couple’s captivity drew international headlines.
They thanked the crowd of more than 2,000 for their prayers and support.
Coming back and worshipping with fellow Christians is “just something that we longed for – for so long,” Matt Huang told the parishioners, gathered in a sanctuary aglow with holiday lights. He described the pair’s battle for freedom as having “taught us patience,” adding that they are discovering “amazing, hidden blessings” God bestowed on them “through this crisis.”
“To have you home is the greatest Christmas present that we could ever, ever have,” Senior Pastor Greg Waybright said. He compared the couple’s plight to false accusations faced by Jesus, urging his congregation to keep turning to God for refuge and strength.
The Huang saga began with their arrest in January 2013, when officials in Doha, the capital of Qatar, accused them of starving their adopted daughter to death, with the intent to sell her organs on the black market. Authorities refused to accept their explanation that Gloria died from an eating disorder complicated by the childhood hunger she suffered in her native Ghana.
The Huangs spent nearly a year in jail, as their adopted sons, now 7 and 12, bounced around in foster care until they were able to return to the U.S. to stay with their maternal grandmother. Meanwhile, authorities convicted their parents of child endangerment, despite a botched autopsy and without sharing any evidence with the defendants.
Being in legal limbo cost Matt Huang, an engineer sent to Qatar to help with building new infrastructure for the country’s 2025 World Cup, his job and mounting legal bills eventually forced the couple to sell their San Gabriel Valley home to pay off debts. From the start, their representatives at the Los Angeles-based David House Agency, an expert in managing international crisis, called their case “a tragic cultural misunderstanding” in a nation where Western-style adoptions and cross-cultural families are extremely rare.
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SOURCE: The Los Angeles Times