The “Napalm Girl” from a famous Vietnam War photo tells her story of coming to faith.
You have seen my picture a thousand times. It’s a picture that made the world gasp—a picture that defined my life. I am nine years old, running along a puddled roadway in front of an expressionless soldier, arms outstretched, naked, shrieking in pain and fear, the dark contour of a napalm cloud billowing in the distance.
My own people, the South Vietnamese, had been bombing trade routes used by the Viet Cong rebels. I had not been targeted, of course. I had simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Those bombs have brought me immeasurable pain. Even now, some 40 years later, I am still receiving treatment for burns that cover my arms, back, and neck. The emotional and spiritual pain was even harder to endure.
And yet, looking back at the past five decades, I realize that those same bombs that brought so much suffering also brought great healing. Those bombs led me to Christ.
Mountain of Rage
As a child, I was raised in the religion of Cao Dai (pronounced cow-die). My grandparents were important leaders within the religion, and they enjoyed respect from our entire community. Following in their footsteps, my parents, who had grown up knowing no religion except Cao Dai, also devoted themselves to its beliefs, as did all of my siblings.
Cao Dai is universalist in nature. According to a description on CaoDai.org, it recognizes all religions as having “one same divine origin, which is God, or Allah, or the Tao, or the Nothingness,” or pretty much any other deity you could imagine. “You are god, and god is you”—we had this mantra ingrained in us. We were equal-opportunity worshipers, giving every god a shot.
Looking back, I see my family’s religion as something of a charm bracelet …