His Life

Vinh Ngoc Le counts his blessings.

While at the camp, Le learned that his wife and four children had made it back to Da Nang. He was also introduced to the camp's director who, it turned out, was the nephew of a pastor friend of Le's who had since fled overseas.

As they talked about mutual friends, the camp director mentioned that he was in serious need of antimalarial and antidysenteric medications. Le offered a deal: If he could go home for the weekend, he would stop by his clinic and pick up the medicine. The director was pleased to accept, and this became the first of several weekend passes Le used to visit his family.

Two months after they'd arrived at the camp, however, the men were transferred to another, and Le's visits home ended. One night, as he was returning from a prayer meeting, Le stepped in a hole and broke his foot. He could not get up and had to be carried to the camp clinic, where he was outfitted with a cast and crutches.

A few days later the prisoners were told to get ready to move again. "A wretched atmosphere covered the camp. All my roommates were sad." Most of his comrades used the time to write letters, but Le prayed. He didn't want to leave his family even further behind, and he feared what this next camp would be like.

The day before the move, a Communist official came to see Le and asked about his foot. "He looked at me a while, then spoke softly, 'Mr. Le, we have decided to allow you to go back home because of your broken foot and because our investigation shows that you do not have any bloody debt with the people.'" Le was told to stay in his room when the others moved out.

Le has always believed that God intervened that black night when he stepped in the hole. If he had not broken his foot, he would have been moved with the others to a camp far away, a camp where many of his friends died of starvation and disease.

Back in Da Nang, Le prayed over what he should do next. A doctor friend who'd owned a clinic had tried to keep it for himself when the Communists took over the city; the clinic had been seized and the doctor jailed. Le had paid a lot of money for his own clinic. But after praying, he knew what he had to do.

Le went down to the new public-health offices and offered his clinic to the Communist government. Officials were pleased with his cooperation and gave him a job at a Da Nang hospital; they even gave him permission to see patients at his old clinic. Le accepted the hospital post on two conditions: that he be allowed to attend church on Sunday and that he not have to perform abortions.

In other parts of Vietnam, churches had been closed, pastors imprisoned and Christians persecuted. But in part through the gentle efforts of men like Le, the Vietnamese Christians in Da Nang were allowed to continue worshiping as they had before. "Why did they spare us?" Le wrote in My Life. "We have only one answer: 'As God opens a door for His Church to proclaim His word, no earthly power could shut it.'"

Still, his children were ridiculed for their beliefs by peers and harassed by Communist teachers. And when Le's son, Van, graduated from high school, the family was told he could not attend college because his father had worked for the former government. Le knew he had to take action if his children were to have a future.

His prayers were again answered one day in July 1981 when a patient asked if he could speak with Le privately. The patient said he was organizing an escape; the cost was $1,500 per person.

Le wanted at least his four oldest children, plus one adopted boy, to get out of the country. He had only $4,500, but the man was willing to make a deal: five for $7,000. Le had no idea where he would raise the additional money, but then God provided: A friend offered another $2,500.

Early one morning, an escape organizer came for the children. There was hardly enough time for tears, a last hug, and the admonition to trust in God and be good--and then they were gone. "We also put in His hands our lives and our two remaining daughters," Le wrote. There was no telling what the Communist officials would do when they learned of the children's escape. It was likely that his house would be confiscated and that Le might end up in jail.

For a month the Le family worried as they waited for word. Then a telegram arrived. The children were safe in Hong Kong and living in a refugee camp. The news that followed was equally good: The children had been taken out of the camp by Christian missionaries who knew their father. On January 23, 1982, they arrived in Colorado.

But back in Vietnam, the situation was bleak. The Communists were angry over the escape and told Le they planned to put him in a concentration camp. If he wanted to avoid punishment, he had to make incriminating statements about evangelical chaplains he knew. But Le refused to label his fellow Christians as traitors. "I boldly told them that we true Christians are to bring love, peace and help to others only. After many threats that did not frighten me, they finally gave up."

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