Sister Mai (Cynthia) Luong – The Foundress
Mai (Cynthia) Luong was one of the “boat people,” who immigrated to the U.S. from Vietnam in the early 1980’s at the age of 10. She grew up in Sacramento, California and attended Bishop Manogue, an all-girl Catholic High School. She earned a B.S. in Strategic Management at California State University Sacramento, had professional careers and owned her own businesses. At one point of her life, Cynthia owned and lived by herself in a five-bedroom house, full of material things, but on two different occasions, she heard God’s calling while meditating in front of the Tabernacle: “If you love me, leave everything and follow me.” By God’s Grace and His constant knocking on the door of her heart, she gradually left the sinful and worldly life to follow Him. Thinking that she must become a sister or a nun in a religious order, she discerned many different orders, and entered three different religious communities. But all along, those weren’t God’s plan for her. The last community she entered was with The Little Sisters of the Poor in Washington D.C. During her first year as a novice, Cynthia experienced reoccurring dreams that she was standing on a red clay road, at a corner of a wet market, in a very poor area of Asia. In her dreams, she had a strong sense that she belonged there. Pondering on the dreams, she continued to discern with the Little Sisters of the Poor daily, as Sr. Fatima of Jesus, a name selected for her when she became a first year novice.
In April 2019, after she found out that it wasn’t God’s plan for her to become a Little Sister of the Poor, she was devastated. Determined to continue to follow God’s call for her life, in May 2019, Cynthia self-backpacked a 60-day pilgrimage journey to 10 countries, visiting many churches and shrines, including the Holy Land, Medjugorie, Lourdes, and Fatima, to pray for spiritual direction. During her visit to Fatima, Cynthia witnessed a pouring rain during an outdoor Mass, and the miraculous fast-drying of the pavement during Consecration of the Eucharist, and a very “special” peace and joy flooded her soul.
When Cynthia got back to the U.S. from her pilgrimage, she had an interior push to buy a one way ticket to fly to North Vietnam, an unfamiliar location with no one that she knew. On September 11, 2019, Cynthia flew to Vietnam, and there, the vision in her dreams was realized. She saw the red-clay road, the wet market, and Asian people. She started her own missionary work to help the poor of Vietnam, especially with the poor Hmong people in the mountainous regions. She was later connected with the local diocesan catholic priests, and religious sisters of the Congregation of the Holy Cross Lovers of Hung Hoa, and began to serve the poor Hmong people in Lao Cai province.
She came back to the U.S. at the end of 2019 and founded Fatima Outreach Foundation (FOF – fatimaoutreach.org). Her plan was to go back to Vietnam to start a Fatima House of Hope and to server God through the poor of Yen Bai, one of the poorest and highest cases of human trafficking regions of Vietnam. During her planning to go back, her trip was canceled three times due to the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak.
Her love for God and her desire to be a missionary of the poor had pushed Cynthia to serve God among the poor in the United States. She became a missionary to the homeless in Washington D.C. and Northern Virginia. She also was an advocate for peace and pro-life. She often walked around the White House, the Capital, and the Supreme Court to pray for peace for our nation.
During her street mission in the D.C., she was shown the other side of human trafficking… the spiritual trafficking. This was the time that God put in her heart to pray for those victims. In late 2019 and early 2020, she founded Beggars of Christ (beggarsofchrist.org). The Holy Spirit inspired her to write down and share some of her meditations and prayers to help combat the spiritual traffickers. During her time in VA, she had an interior infusion to formulate ‘A Beggar’s Chaplet.’ She faced many spiritual attacks and was unable to put them together. Her struggle went on for months.
On July 24, 2020, she had an interior push to go to Tennessee. The very next day, she took with her a backpack and bought a one way ticket to Knoxville.
She did not know anyone in the whole state of Tennessee, but she trusted that God would show her the way. She checked into a motel invested with drug-addicts and prostitutes in Sweetwater, TN. There, she helped direct people to God and taught them how to make the Seven Holy Crosses of Christ on their faces and bodies. Two days later, a generous couple, Joe and Sharon Smidtz from Our Lady of Fatima parish, opened up their home to host her. Within one week staying in Joe and Sharon’s home, Cynthia finished putting The Beggar’s Chaplet together. During her time staying in Knoxville, she worked with the homeless under the bridge and also worked to combat the human trafficking problem through another organization.
On Oct. 25, 2020, Cynthia returned to Virginia to continue her street mission in Washington D.C. and Virginia. On Nov. 13 2020, God put in her heart to start a refuge center to help spiritual and physical human trafficking victims. With no money and no home of her own, how would this be possible?
As God always does best, He out did our expectations. A wonderful benefactor offered to pay for the property. New Year’s weekend of 2021, we drove down to several areas of TN for a few days to look for land and were inexpertly introduced to Lake Vonda property in Middleton, TN.
On January 15th, Cynthia went back to Middleton, and was hosted by Mr. and Mrs. Certain until FOF put a contract on what’s now Beggars of Christ Refuge. The transaction to purchase the property was finalized on April 14th, 2021!
FOF now has Beggars of Christ Refuge for BOC missionaries and the plan for fixing up the place to house victims of human trafficking. Her goal is to build a prayerful Catholic community, who can devote their lives and work together for the same mission in restoring the spirits of these victims with God’s agape love.