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Thank God for Those Bombs

In an issue of CT magazine, Kim Phuc Phan Thi shares how a napalm attack in Vietnam scarred her body, but it also led her to Christ.

You have seen my picture a thousand times. I am nine years old, running along a puddled roadway, arms outstretched, naked, shrieking in pain and fear, the dark contour of a napalm cloud billowing in the distance. Those bombs have brought me immeasurable pain. The emotional and spiritual pain was even harder to endure.

As a child, she was raised in the religion of Cao Dai (pronounced cow-die). For years, she prayed to the gods of Cao Dai for healing and peace. But when her prayers went unanswered, it became clear that either they were nonexistent or did not care about her.

One day in 1982, in Saigon’s central library she opened the New Testament. As she read through the Gospels, at least two themes became abundantly clear. The first was that although Cao Dai said there were many gods, Jesus made a straightforward claim: “I am the way you get to God; there is no other way but me” (John 14:6). Second, Jesus had suffered in defense of his claim. He had been mocked, tortured, and killed. Why would he endure these things, she wondered, if he were not God?

I had never been exposed to this side of Jesus—the wounded one, the one who bore scars. I came to believe that he really was who he said he was. And most important to me, he really would do all that he had promised in his Word. Perhaps he could help me make sense of my pain and at last come to terms with my scars.

My salvation experience happened on Christmas Eve. It was 1982, and I was attending a special worship service at a small church in Saigon. How desperately I needed peace, love, and joy. I had so much hatred in my heart. I wanted this Jesus. So, I made my way to the front of the sanctuary to say yes to Jesus Christ. I experienced the kind of healing that can only come from God. I was finally at peace.

Nearly half a century has passed since I found myself running—frightened, naked, and in pain— down that road in Vietnam. I will never forget the horrors of that day. (But) my faith in Jesus has enabled me to forgive those who have hurt and scarred me. Today, I thank God for everything—even for that road. Especially for that road.

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