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Maymont Multicultural Magic: The Dinse Family

Family, Love, Personal

the blog:

Alright y’all… these guys are not only one of my favorite families for personal reasons (I lived with them for the six months leading up to getting married!), but WOW are they multicultural beauties!!! What happens when you blend a German-Italian man with a Laotian lady? This delightful trio:

As you all know, interracial families make my heart soar because I love hearing ways individuals from different cultures come together to form a new, special unit.

In a world where racial and ethnic differences often cause division, I hold tight to being reminded that we were designed to celebrate our distinctions while learning to dwell with each other for the purpose of glorifying (together but in our unique ways) the God who made all cultures.

When I asked the Dinses (Tony & Soyphet) about their families of origin, they both had fascinating details to share…

Soyphet: “My family is originally from Laos where I was born and then immigrated to the United States. My father was a prisoner of war in the Vietnam War for 10 years and we were sponsored to come to America through a local church in Yorktown, VA. During the war and times after the war, my family experienced a lot of suffering, many stories still unknown to me, which provided my parents with truly grateful hearts in whatever they received. We didn’t live on extravagant things, but life was centered around family meals which can be an all-day affair (prep to table). In general, growing up I knew life was different in the things we ate, the language we spoke (I took ESL during elementary school), the way other Laotians migrated towards each other, and the varying roles of youth, adult, elder, men and women within the Laotian community were expected to behave.”

Tony shared: “My family has resided in the United States for a few generations now, but came from Italy and Germany originally. Some of the differences I saw were of food, family meals, and focus on work ethic. We often would have large meals and invite others to join. It wasn’t atypical to have others over for a meal outside of special occasions. It was ingrained in us growing up that family was of critical importance and we should always seek to care for one another. While school was seen as important, work ethic and providing for one’s self and family were held in high regard.”

Tony & Soy’s worlds collided first in elementary school, both growing up in Yorktown, VA, but they didn’t truly meet and fall in love until 15+ years later in their early twenties. Soon after marriage came their delightful daughter, Mila.

Some of the growing pains of differences between their home cultures that they’ve noticed within their interracial family unit? Soyphet shared below:

“Arrival times and departure times for those in the Laotian culture is definitely held loosely compared to the American culture, and has caused some frustrations in not meeting expectations. And where foods can be aromatic for some, it can be pungent for others. There has certainly been challenges in both these areas in our house!”

Tony added, “For me, learning that cultural differences don’t equate to right or wrong has been a challenge for sure! Having family show up late and say they’re on Laotian time has been a learning experience for me. As Soy mentioned regarding the food…I have never seen so many different kinds of foods/spices used in preparing a dish that I would never have imagined using myself.”

And what beauty do they see as they come together to be one new unit?

“[Bringing together our different cultures] is a way to live out what the Bible says in Philippians 2:3, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves,” said Soyphet. “Instead of our own preferences or comforts, it gives us the opportunity to love others by stepping into their lives. It’s also a wonderful picture that we’re all image bearers [of God] and that no nation or tribe is better than the other – but each made beautifully unique complementing each other.”

Tony put it this way: “We tend to grow the most by being challenged by our preconceived notions or being forced outside of our comfort zones. By marrying a Laotian wife and being brought into her family, I have been given the gift of seeing another culture and all the beautiful differences that entails. Preferences, tastes, foods, customs… We sometimes like to categorize as right or wrong or good or bad, but God has called us all in Christ into one body. Not to erase all these differences, but to celebrate them. I believe it is a glimpse of our eternity future with our Lord and Savior and I am eager to spend the rest of this life and the next continuing to learn about all the differences we have been created with.”

I genuinely get teary-eyed reading both Soyphet & Tony’s encouragements of how to press into the differences of other cultures around us and see them as a picture of God’s glory expressed through His created beings. What a gift it is to celebrate instead of be scared of others’ unique ethnicities, and learn from one another how to view life through others’ lenses!

Also… can we just pause and talk for one quick second about how cute little Italian-German-Laotian Mila is???

Ohhh Maymont Garden, you never disappoint this Richmond Virginia photographer!

I loved my time photographing and learning from this multicultural family, and hope you did too! Whatever your culture of origin, I pray you’re able to celebrate yours and others’ uniqueness that makes our world such a beautifully diverse place to live!

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