His Life

Vinh Ngoc Le counts his blessings.

This time, God had help. After giving his clinic to the Communists, Le had begun treating many high-ranking officials and their wives. These patients now interceded on Le's behalf, and he was allowed to return to his family and work.

But by June 1982, Le had another escape plan going. He arranged to be transferred to Saigon, where he would be out from under the watchful eyes of Da Nang officials. Then, forging false travel papers, he went to North Vietnam and hid in the home of Christian friends for a month while he waited for his wife to join him.

She never arrived. Finally, a friend from Da Nang tracked Le down and gave him a letter from his wife. The Communists had intercepted his telegram asking her to join him; now the police would not allow her to leave the house. Le could not return to Da Nang without facing arrest. She urged him to go on without her and find their other children.

"On July 10th, 1982, the boat was ready to sail," Le recalled in My Life. "I was deeply sad as my wife and my two children could not join me. How great was my anguish then, but I could not give up the trip and turn back home any more."

Thirty-nine adults and children had paid $500 each to escape on a Chinese junk, an old ship that was barely seaworthy. Before the boat had even reached the open ocean, some of the refugees talked about turning back.

"It was Sunday," Le remembered. "Oh, what a beautiful day it was! We took a deep free breath. Tung [a Christian friend] and I sang gospel songs, then shared with the people our faith in God. Some listened to us but some seemed to deride us, saying, 'How can you guys sing in a situation like this?'"

A mile offshore that night, the boat struck a rock and water began pouring in. The refugees cried out in terror, and "everybody prayed to their own gods."

Sure that the boat was sinking, Tung jumped in the water, prepared to swim for it. Suddenly he began to laugh, and when the others looked over, they laughed as well. The water was only up to his chest. Le climbed over the side and urged the other men to join him so that they could push the boat to shore.

They landed on a Chinese beach where residents of a nearby village, as well as Chinese police, helped pull the boat to shore. The villagers wondered how they had made it that far in the decrepit vessel.

Later that night, a fierce storm hit and the boat was smashed to pieces. The refugees had no doubt that had they still been at sea, they would have drowned. Remembered Le: "Every deed God had done for us was quite marvelous."

The refugees were given work in a local fish-drying factory to earn their keep. The manager of the factory was particularly friendly. "He prepared room for all of us, helping us to have all our needs met. People from our group said to each other, 'Who is this man? Why is he so nice to us?'"

One night Le got the chance to talk to the manager and thank him on behalf of the refugees. The Vietnamese doctor mentioned to the Chinese factory manager that he was a Christian. Le was delighted and surprised when the manager said that he was, too.

Because the manager worked for the Communist government, he could not openly practice his faith. But there were 300 Christian families in the village, the manager told Le. He and the few other Christian refugees could attend services that Sunday if they got permission from the police.

Permission was granted. "I saw some very ancient Chinese Bibles that the owners had had to bury underground during the darkest times of the Communist revolution," Le wrote.

The refugees had been in the village twenty days when two more boats that had escaped Vietnam stopped to buy provisions. The boats were not full, and the Chinese police persuaded their crews to take on the other refugees. "We gave thanks to the police for their wholehearted help," Le recalled. "We also gave them all the watches and jewels we had."

From there, the trip to Hong Kong took twelve days. The refugees arrived on August 14, 1982. Within the week, Le and his fellow Christians had arranged a thanksgiving service that had officials shaking their heads. What did people with nothing but the clothes on their backs and the prospect of long months in a refugee camp have to be thankful for?

At the camp, Le busied himself organizing an evangelical mission. With the aid of the Salvation Army, he and fellow Christians ministered to the camp's 2,000 inmates, attending to their physical needs, organizing activities for children and offering English language lessons. For those seeking spiritual guidance, Le had a simple reply: God had brought them through war and danger; God would continue to look out for those who put their faith in Him.

It was a powerful message for those facing such an uncertain future. When Le arrived, there were eight Christians in the camp. When he left, there were more than 200.

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