Angel of Vietnam

There was a nagging in my heart. Somehow I knew a little girl far away was meant for us.

Posted in , Nov 17, 2010

Angel of Vietnam

In the late 1960s my husband and I were raising four sons. Television news was filled with devastating reports of the war in Vietnam. My heart especially reached out to the children in that faraway country.

My husband was a Korean War veteran, and we had always felt drawn to Asian culture. Now, with little possibility for another child of our own, I dared to hope that a Vietnamese child waited for us. The girl I'd always wanted!

I'd seen a story on the news about a humanitarian group that rescued children from Vietnam. One morning I phoned the group's office. The woman who answered refused to take my application. 

"You couldn't be considered as adoptive parents," she explained. "You have four children. An orphan saved from this war-torn country would go to a couple without any children."

Of course. Wasn't I being selfish, wanting another baby when I had been so blessed already? And yet there was a nagging in my heart. I called other agencies, but the response was the same. I hung up the phone after the last lead. God must be saying no. Perhaps he had another purpose.

The little girl I envisioned was only a product of my imagination. But just in case, I prayed, let an angel in Vietnam watch over her.

In 1972 I gave birth to a healthy baby daughter. I was overjoyed. My heart settled. God had given me the girl who'd been missing from our family. He'd had other plans, after all! We quickly adapted to life with our new brood of five. Meanwhile, the war in Vietnam raged on.

By April 1975 the Americans were pulling out of the country. Operation Babylift was under way: Military planes were scheduled to fly several thousand children to the United States.

I watched television each night as vast throngs, mostly women and children, flooded the highways in Saigon in an attempt to flee the conquering North Vietnamese. Buses, tanks and broken-down trucks carried hundreds of people, all hoping to reach a U.S. helicopter that would fly them to safety.

Thousands more fled on foot, without possessions, water or food, dodging bullets at the same time. Desperate mothers passed their babies over barbed wire to strangers at the American Embassy.

Others attempted to balance themselves on swaying gangplanks to reach the safety of a boat. Many more toppled into the water below. By month's end the fall of Saigon was complete. It seemed as if even the angels had left Vietnam.

I couldn't get those desperate pictures out of my mind, and that nagging feeling returned. If America had airlifted so many children here to the U.S., wouldn't they need homes? 

"Dear God," I asked one morning, "was my timing off all those years ago?" Was there a little girl out there somewhere who needed us now? Many agencies were handling the influx of needy children and churches volunteered to sponsor families. I started telephoning again.  

"Our first job is to find foster homes for these children while we try to locate their relatives," a social worker explained. "It's important to reunite as many families as we can. This may take years." Then she paused. I knew what was coming next.

"Anyway," she said, "your family is far too large to be considered for placement."

Her rejection stung. Was there ever a limit on love? Still, it was time to concentrate on the treasures I already had. It was time to give up the dream. "Good-bye, little girl," I said in my heart. "May your angel keep you safe."

Years passed, and the children grew up, left home and became independent. Our third son, who had learned martial arts at an early age, spent a year teaching in Japan, as well as visiting China and Korea. I was not surprised when he announced that he was bringing a special girl home to meet us.

"Anh grew up in Texas," he explained, "but she's Asian."

Anh was lovely, and our family liked her right away. But it wasn't until our second or third evening together that I had the chance to ask about her life.

"My father comes from Korea," she explained. "When he was on a business trip to Vietnam he met my mother. They eventually got married there, and my two older brothers and I were born there."

A funny tingling started at the back of my neck as I quickly calculated the years. "That must have been during the war," I said.

"Oh, yes," Anh said. "I was only 2 when we escaped. My father was stranded in another country and couldn't help us. It was during the fall of Saigon."

Shivers ran up my spine. Those television news reports from all those years ago—it was entirely possible that I had seen Anh's mother, one of those struggling to save her children. "How did you get out?" I asked.

"It was amazing," Anh explained. "My mother told me she saw a man in the shadows, watching as people tried to cross the narrow gangplank to board a boat. It was impossible for her to hold onto me and my two young brothers.

"She asked the man if he would take the boys and get them on. He took them by their hands and walked away. Mother prayed she had done the right thing."

"And then?"

"When we reached the deck of the boat my brothers were already there waiting for us."

"You found them so easily in all the confusion? But how?"

"We never knew," Anh said. "The man who helped us didn't wait around to explain."

But I knew. Tears stung my eyes. The angels had not left Vietnam. They worked their quiet miracles in the midst of devastation, just as they do in every disaster.

And there was at least one special angel—the angel I had asked for long ago to watch over a little girl. This girl. Her angel had been with her all her life. 

God had known how much better it would be for Anh to be raised with her reunited family in a welcoming community in Texas. It was there that she grew to be the confident and charming young woman who would be a wonderful wife to my son John.

My Vietnamese daughter wasn't a dream. God hadn't said no. It had simply taken 28 years for me to understand how he'd answered my prayer. I didn't mind. Some things are well worth waiting for.


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