My Life…Beyond My Dreams!
God’s Eyes on Me
Growing up in a culture where Buddhism and ancestor worship are common, I did not know there was one true God who deserved my worship. Until He saved me, I did not realize He had been writing His story in my life—long before I knew Him. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. …your eyes saw my unformed body….(Psalm 139:15-16).
Shortly after the war in Vietnam had ended, my parents—a very young couple—found out that I existed, a baby in my mother’s womb. Not knowing what the future held for them, they decided not to let me live. They didn’t want to bring a baby into such a dangerous world! Due to a lack of medical care available at that time, my mother turned to an herbal medicine to attempt an abortion. But when she took it, it didn’t work! God intervened, and I was born! As it turned out, my parents were happy to have a baby, and they loved me well.
No Bright Future
I was always a happy baby—but not this time! I had a high fever and was crying a lot, especially when someone touched my leg. In the ER, and after some tests, my parents received the grim diagnosis that I had polio. The doctor explained as best he could what that meant, and my parents got the message: Polio is synonymous with “no bright future.” I was fourteen months old. Had my parents waited a little longer before taking me to the hospital, polio would have affected my arms and my other leg. God had intervened!
My childhood years were occupied with appointments—with doctors, therapists, and acupuncturists—squeezed in between classes at school. My parents did everything they could, always hoping for a cure for my physical condition. I had to wear a metal brace attached to a heavy shoe. Every day, walking to class, standing on stage, or playing the hopping game, the brace was an inseparable part of my life. I dreamed of wearing a normal pair of shoes! Every morning I would ask my parents, “When will I no longer have to wear this brace?” And the answer was always the same, “One day, sweetheart, one day.”
But it seemed that day would never come. Many times at school I was laughed at—mocked—because of my physical condition. But every time I became the center of some cruel laughter, a “hero” showed up to give me a hand, to pick me up after I fell down, or to escort me to a certain destination. Sometimes it was a friend, a classmate, a boy from across the hall, or a teacher. These heroes encouraged me and helped me not to have a “poor me” attitude. In fact, sometimes, when my heroes showed up, other girls were a bit jealous of me! I felt lucky to have heroes. Later, I realized it was God again intervening in my life!
When I was in middle school, I had my first surgery on my leg, which successfully freed me from my brace. I was able to walk confidently on my own feet! My dream had come true! And from that time on, I dared to dream other dreams. I dreamed that one day I would see the big world that was out there, I would climb to a mountain top and savor the beauty from above, and I could become a person who would help others.
One thing I never dreamed, however, was that my dad would leave my life. As an adolescent, it was impossible for me to understand the economic and family pressure that led my parents to divorce. My greatest comfort was in knowing that I was loved by both my parents. Mom worked hard at two and sometimes three jobs to make the best life for the two of us. Still, I knew the stigma of divorce in my culture. And with the disadvantage of being a person with a disability—having people look down on me—I felt my life was worthless.
In the midst of my confusion and sadness, I accepted an invitation by a friend to attend a church service. The message that evening was on Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” It seemed to me that God was speaking directly to my heart! I understood the message—God is sovereign, and He is sovereign over my life! I was amazed that God would have plans for my life, that He would give me hope and a future! That night I invited God to be Lord of my life, and I welcomed Him to be my Heavenly Father—since my dad was no longer around.
A New Chapter
From this time forward, my life turned around significantly. Leaders in my church began to teach me and help me grow in faith, and I began to dream of being used by God in His work. After graduating from high school, I had a second surgery to further correct deformity in my leg—which took over a year to recover from. When I was finally able to enter college, I was invited to join a translation team that was translating Christian books from English to Vietnamese. I had always had an aptitude for the English language, but since I was young as a Christian, I was hesitant to accept the task of translating books about the Bible. But friends in my church encouraged me to accept, and I was reminded of God’s promise to give me a hope and a future. This job enabled me to work my way through college, as well as to grow spiritually. As I translated commentaries about God’s Word, I came to understand the God of the Bible better. It was a joy to see God use the books translated into my mother tongue to transform readers’ hearts and bring hope into their lives.
To my joy, the linguistics department of a college in Thailand offered me a scholarship to study for a Master’s degree. My dream of seeing the world was coming true! God was showing me that I could trust His goodness and depend on His faithfulness. During this time, I also had the opportunity to walk up to the top of a mountain and enjoy God’s magnificent creation. I meditated on the special verse God had given me, God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places (Habakkuk 3:19), and I praised my Heavenly Father, because He knows every dream of His children.
After finishing the Master’s program, I returned to Vietnam and continued to work as a translator for a number of years. By now, I was able to translate a wide variety of topics, and I began to be drawn to the topic of autism. God again opened a door for me to study abroad, and I began a new journey—studying at a secular university in the United States. This time, unlike my experience in Thailand, I was surrounded by non-believers, in a culture in which everyone does what is right according to his own opinion. But I learned again that God is a faithful, loving, and caring Father. He is the same God in the West as in the East. Christian brothers and sisters helped me learn how to navigate daily life in this new culture. And though graduate work was demanding, I found time to be involved in a campus ministry, an experience that showed me I still had much to learn. I learned to be a leader I must be a servant; I learned not to focus so much on myself but, instead, on others and their needs; and I learned that to be content and thankful with whatever God gave me each day.
After completing my degree in Behavior Analysis, I was hired by the university to work in a special program they had designed for children with autism. Day by day, God helped me see His beauty in each child. I could not depend on my own knowledge. I had to depend completely on Creator God who knew these children while they were in their mother’s womb. Day by day, I was reminded of how precious each of us is in God’s sight.
A Chapter That Never Ends
During my last year in the graduate program, I participated in a discipleship program for women in my church, and I had another dream: to be used by God in a ministry to women. My program director counseled me and we determined that this was indeed what God was calling me to do. It meant that I would need to pursue a degree in seminary, and, for that, finances would be a big problem. Again, God in His faithfulness intervened. In 2015 I was accepted at Dallas Theological Seminary with church friends providing most of the funding needed. The first months at DTS were challenging; there were spiritual battles; I thought of quitting almost every day; often there was nothing left in my account to pay my bills; and I was sometimes sick when I had assignments to do and papers to write. But I leaned deeply into God who provided all that was needed. And, praise God, in May 2017, I graduated from seminary with a degree in Christian Education. My gratitude for God’s grace and love abounds! Today, my life is an open book. I’m trusting God to fill in the pages in this next chapter of my life, and to use me in His Kingdom work.
Sometimes I wonder why God uses someone like me. Then, I know the answer: He has given me worth. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well (Psalm 136:14). And this is the message I am called to share with other women: God sees worth in you! He promises a hope and a future for you. And with Him as your Heavenly Father, you will live a life beyond your dreams.