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John Mang

Obituary for John Mang

April 4, 1976 - June 13, 2020
Michigan | Age 44


John Mang, 44, passed away peacefully on June 13, 2020 following a short illness.

John's given name was Mang Suan Thang. He was born and raised in Hakha, Chin State, Burma. He graduated from high school, became an elementary school teacher and taught for a few years during a time of great political turmoil in his country. Burma (also known as Myanmar), once a British colony, was given its independence, developed a democracy which was later overthrown by a military dictator. During the early 2000's intense political oppression in Chin State led nearly 20% of its citizens to flee the country. John was one of them. Under cover of night he left his wife and 18 month old daughter and fled to Malaysia, expecting to be there only a year or two, anticipating the overthrow of the military dictator and a more peaceful environment in his home country.

The overthrow did not happen. John spent 5 years living displaced in Malaysia, trying to survive and avoid the police. Most of that time he hid in the jungle, surviving by tapping rubber trees on an abandoned rubber plantation, carrying bags of latex on his back, over the mountain and selling it in a nearby town. Finally, through an old Hakha friend, he was able to get an appointment with the U.N. office in Kuala Lumpur to apply for refugee status and seek asylum in the U.S. That process led him to Holland, Michigan, in May, 2009, where his sister, Ni Mang, also a refugee, had been resettled and welcomed into the Baggech family through the United Nations High Commission for refugees. John became family to the Baggech family and Jim and Kathy Hekman who walked with him on his journey.

John came to Holland with no money, little English, and only the clothes on his back. For the next three years and through many struggles, he managed to find work (Johnson Controls, now Adient LLC) and housing. He worked hard, saved money, got a driver's license, obtained a car, and applied for legal immigration for his wife, Hannah, and daughter, Sarah. In May, 2012 they flew into Grand Rapids and the family was reunited after 8 1/2 years of separation. A year later they bought their first house, a fixer-upper on 19th St. Two years later, in 2015, they welcomed a second daughter, Isla, into their family. John proudly became a U.S. citizen in 2016.

Family was important to him but he knew great loss. His brother was killed by the Burmese army in 2002. For many years he has been unable to see his mother Ni Thluai, separated by thousands of miles and it was a great joy to him when she was able to visit the U.S. in 2013 and see him and his family again. He has many relatives around the world but with extended family being so far away, his close family of Ni Mang, Sui Khen, Ngun Par, Mang Hliang, Cer Zi and Ti Ta, Hannah, his wife, and daughters, Sarah and Isla, meant everything to him. He worked lots of overtime to provide for them and took great pleasure in seeing his creative, intelligent, life-loving daughters grow up. He and Hannah welcomed visitors to their home, sharing meals of delicious Burmese food, telling stories, often of hunting and fishing exploits, and discussing social issues with a wisdom and understanding gained through hard experiences. John will be missed by many who will remember his generosity, his creativity, passion for helping people and his smile that always had a story behind it waiting to be told.

Visitation will be from 10 A.M to 12 Noon on Saturday, June 20, at Faith Christian Reformed Church, 85 W. 26th St. Holland, MI . A funeral service will begin at 12 Noon outdoors (due to COVID-19 only close family will be invited to enter the sanctuary), and a graveside service at Pilgrim Home Cemetery will follow the funeral service. A lunch will be served back at Faith Church following the burial where we invite you to gather and over a picnic, share stories and memories of John.

In lieu of flowers, we ask for donations to be made to Faith Church. Funds will be given to the church and an education fund for a Chin student dear to John's family.

Suggested Memorial Donations

  • Faith Christian Reformed Church
    85 W 26th St
    Holland, MI 49423

Arrangements By

Langeland-Sterenberg Funeral Home

315 E 16th St
Holland, MI 49423
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