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Autobiography of Khai Nguyen

 Khai Nguyen (center front, white T-shirt and mustache) at the refugee camp in Galang, Indonesia, with the refugees he set sail with for their 10-day perilous journey to Indonesia.

 The following are excerpts from the autobiography of Mr. Khai Nguyen, which includes his harrowing experiences during the fall of South Vietnam and his miraculous escape to the United States by boat.  God is the same miracle-working God - yesterday, today and forever.

 It was a warm, humid day on a fall September morning, when a child's new cry welcomed daybreak.  That was the start of what a normal day in North Vietnam would bring.  As I entered the world, my family would spread the news around town that Mr. & Mrs. Nguyen, already in their mid 40s, had just been blessed with the son they had long waited for!  His name would be Khai, meaning Happiness in the Vietnamese language.  

   A child growing up in Vietnam during the 1940s, experienced a fairly peaceful and happy childhood.  At around eight years old, I first discovered the meaning of fear - when gunfire broke out and the whole town started running for cover!  The French army began shooting at us, mistakenly thinking we were Viet Minh - or the enemy.  At that time, my father was a member of the "Vietnamese Patriotic Party," enemy of the Viet Minh.  My father decided the family would continue running to the next town, and as we did, we were forced to duck and cover as bullets riddled the ground all around us!  I was suddenly pulled to the ground, my father lying on top of me, while the bullets hit right and left, but never hit us.  [The Word of God says, "A thousand will fall at your side and ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you" Psalm 91:7.]  I believe this was the first time the word "miracle" had meaning to my life.  Soon after the bullets ceased, we continued towards the next town - hoping we would find safety.  With only a few of our personal belongings in hand, we settled in a town nearby.  

I attended school for the next two years, while my parents attempted to restart their business.  Eventually, we headed south and ended up in a city called Da-Nang.  I finally finished high school there and decided to attend the University of Dalat.  After finishing college, I was recruited into the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), working with the South Vietnamese and United States government in Saigon.  I spent the next five years working in this capacity.  As the Vietnam war was ending, my parents, sister and her family purchased a boat and decided to leave the country.  We were told the South was falling into the hands of the Viet Cong, and now was the time to leave if you wanted to escape.  I told my parents I would prepare my wife and children and that we would soon follow.  That never happened.  My sister and parents headed for China Beach and the Pacific Ocean, where they were later picked up by a United States fleet and taken to Camp Pendleton in San Diego County, U.S.A..  I closed my office and headed home to prepare my family to leave, but my wife did not agree to follow me.  I delayed my departure from Saigon and in the meantime, April 30, 1975 arrived, with the Viet Cong taking Saigon.

Shortly after the fall of Saigon, all high ranking officers who fought with the South Vietnamese government were required to report to the Long Thanh Concentration Camp.  I reported, thinking it would be indoctrination into the socialist way of living, believing after a while, I would be released; but as it was, I found out I might never get out.  The days wore on into months, and then years, and many died from hard labor and disease.  We were fed corn bits that were usually given to animals and this caused all of my back teeth to flatten out.  I developed gum disease and found myself starving to death, while searching the grounds for anything that moved.  Insects and lizards were a lucky catch, while snake was a delicacy!  During my fifth year in captivity, I was given the news that my father, who had relocated to a home in Los Angeles, California, U.S.A., with my mother and sister, had passed on.  My mother went into a great depression and I missed my family sorely.  

I was held a total of 10 years in the "reeducation camp."  The day I was called to line up with a few other men looked like my last - I thought we were going to be shot!  As it happened, we were told we would be released back into society.  I was very thin and weak and I looked forward to my family and a home-cooked meal.  The money the U.S. government gave to the Vietnamese government to feed us usually was taken for other purposes, such as luxuries for the Viet Cong officers.  I left the camp with rags on my back, a warn out pair of rubber sandals and a few of the sentimental objects I had brought in.  When I arrived at the town where my wife and two children lived, with no job, no hope and no money, no one seemed to recognize me - I had been forgotten.  My parents had been sending money to my family those 10 years to keep them going, but now I would have to find a way to get provisions.  

One day, my brother-in-law offered to let me run a vending business for him on the side of the road selling food items, and I accepted his offer.  In the meantime, a Viet Cong officer was checking in on me every day.  After a few weeks, my brother-in-law told me he had a boat and would be leaving the country to head for a refugee camp in Galang, Indonesia.  He asked me if I would accompany him.  I agreed!  Plans were made over the next several weeks.  I approached my wife with the plan, who was then eight months pregnant.  She started yelling, "No!"  She would not leave her mother and siblings.  I decided to go on.  I believed we could not survive in Vietnam the way things were.  So, on the day of the planned departure, I left in the middle of the night with just a few supplies.  I met my brother-in-law and a few other passengers at the boat.  We left with a few supplies and on a prayer.  

A few hours into our journey, we made a mistake and turned into a sand pit.  We were stuck.  We all got out and tried to move the boat, but it would not budge.  I turned around to scale the area and an older woman was standing nearby.  She told me how to manipulate the boat to get out of the sand.  We started the boat and pushed a certain direction and it worked!  I turned around to thank her and she had disappeared!  A miracle?  Could I have been talking to an angel?  [The scriptures tell us, "Do not forget to entertain strangers, because some have entertained angels without realizing it" Hebrews 13:2]  After that experience, I thought the worst was over, but it wasn't.  A few hours later, we were stopped by Viet Cong Coast Guards.  We were all low on food, water and oil, as it was.  So, I prayed and told God that if I was arrested and taken back to the camp, I would have to end my life - I had had enough!  Well, instead, they checked us over and the guard in charge told his men to give us the supplies we needed and let us continue!  This never ever happens!  Another miracle!  [The Bible says, "When a man's ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him" Proverbs 16:7]  I knew that God was on our side, as we were on our way once again!  

I jumped into the water to help guide the boat at one point, and suddenly several ca heo, a kind of dolphin fish, swam beside me!  We were headed to Galang, Indonesia, where we would hopefully be accepted into the refugee camp there.  Our third day on the waters brought more problems - our boat motor suddenly died!  After inspecting the motor, we found that we needed a part to repair it - a part we did not have, at least we thought we did not have.  After praying and troubleshooting, my brother-in-law, while searching the boat for something that might work temporarily, discovered a miracle.  In a small cubbyhole in the bottom of the boat was the very part needed to repair the engine!  [The Bible says, "My God will supply all of your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus" Philippians 4:19]  We repaired the boat, prayed, and tried to start the motor - it worked perfectly!!  [The Word of God says, "If we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we will have the petitions that we desired of Him"       1 John 5:15]  Again, God had come through for us!  

After 10 days on the water, we finally saw land!  We moved towards Galang and we were met by the fishermen and taken to the refugee camp.  We were accepted as refugees and settled in.  During our stay, we started a newspaper, attended English classes and started vocational classes.  We were fed and given necessities.  I would stay here for the next 13 months, until I was finally sponsored by my sister to leave for the United States.  I arrived at the Los Angeles Airport in California, U.S.A., in May of 1986.  It was a wonderful reunion, although I missed my father tremendously.  I settled into my sister's home and enrolled at a nearby college.  I found employment after three months and was able to send money to my family in Vietnam.  

One thing is certain, God has a plan for each of us.  The road is often rough and bumpy along the way, but if we put our complete faith and trust in the Creator of the universe, we will always make it, even in the worst circumstances!     ["...He has said, 'I will never leave you or forsake you'" Hebrews 13:5]

Mr. Nguyen is currently retired and living in the U.S.A., where his son and daughter now live.  He has great faith in God and is eagerly awaiting the return of Christ!

Have you received Jesus as your Savior? There is no other way to heaven, except through His saving grace. If not, please visit the How Can I Be Saved page of this website. Your eternal destiny depends on it. God bless you.     

Refugees at the refugee camp in Galang, Indonesia. 

 Refugees gathering for campmeeting at the refugee camp in Galang, Indonesia.  


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