Pastor Mark Zeiler talked about RAVI ZACHARIAS's account:
Of all the stories I’ve told after thirty years of traveling, this one is nearest to my heart, probably the most moving to me. In 1971, I preached in Vietnam. I was in my mid twenties; my interpreter was seventeen years old. His name was Hien Pham. We covered the length and breadth of the country. The American troops carried us around or we went by motorbike. How our lives were rescued, I don’t know. But we came back safely. A revival broke out in the country through the preaching of these two young men.
Hien was my interpreter. In the city Natrang, I held him close, embraced him, and said, “Goodbye, Hien. I’ll probably never see you again.” I flew to Saigon and on back where I was living at that time in Toronto.
Seventeen years later, my phone rang. I was in Vancouver speaking and the phone rang at 11:00 p.m. The man said, “Brother Ravi.” There’s only one person who called me with that intonation that way. I said, “Hien, is that you?” he said, “Yes.” I said, “Oh my word! Where are you?” He said, “California.” I said, “What are you doing here?” He said, “Have you got a few minutes?” I said, “Yes.”
He said, “After Vietnam fell, I was imprisoned by the Viet Cong because I’d worked with the Americans, worked with people like you. They put me behind bars, they took away all English from me, took away my Bible from me, tried to knock faith out of me. I was only allowed to read Marx and Engels in French and Vietnamese. After about a year in there, so worn out, I said, ‘Maybe you don’t exist, God. I’m giving up all hope. I don’t believe in you. Tomorrow when I wake up, I’m not going to pray.’”
That morning, he was assigned to clean the latrines. He said, “Brother Ravi, it’s the dirtiest place on earth you’d want to be. I bound a handkerchief around my mouth cleaning the wet floor, and I saw a little bin with dirty pieces of paper, with human excrement in it. But something told me as I looked there, there was one paper, a piece of paper with English.” He said, “I hadn’t read English for so long. I washed it off, put it in my hip pocket, waited for everybody to go to bed, to sleep. Lights were out.
I took out my flashlight under my mosquito net. I flashed it. On the right hand corner it said, Romans chapter 8.” He said, “I started reading and cried. ‘Oh, my dear Lord, you didn’t leave me one day without you.’ ‘For all things work together for good to them that love God; to those that are called according to his purpose. For who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Neither things present, nor things to come, nor life nor death.’”
Hien said, “Next morning I went back to the commanding officer. I said, ‘Do you mind if I clean the latrines again today?’” He went there every day. He found another page from the New Testament. The commanding officer had been given a Bible a long time ago. He was tearing out a page every day using it as toilet paper. Hien was washing it and using it for his devotions every day.
I said, “Where are you now?” He said, “I’m at Berkeley doing my business degree.” I said, “I can’t believe this, Hien.” He said, “I’m in America.”
I said, “How did that happen?” He said, “I was released and I built a boat with 52 others. Four days before my release, before our escape, four Viet Cong came armed to the teeth and grabbed me and said, ‘Are you trying to escape?’ I lied and said, ‘No.’ They said, ‘Are you telling us the truth?’” He said, “Yes.”
They let him go. He got on his knees, and said, “God, I lied. I’m running my own life. I lied. If you really want me to tell them the truth, let them come back again.” He said, “I sincerely hoped that prayer would never be answered. Hours before we left, the four of them came with their machine guns, grabbed me by the collar, rammed me against the wall. ‘You’re lying, aren’t you?’”
Hien said, “Yes, I’m escaping with 52 others. Are you going to imprison me again?” They said, “No. we want to go with you.’”
“Brother Ravi, if it weren’t for them we would never have made it. They knew how to navigate the ocean on that boat, get us safely to Thailand. I was then listed as a United Nations refugee. I’m here in America now doing my business degree.”
He runs a financial planning company now in California. He came and visited us, wanted me to officiate at his wedding, and he looked at my kids and said, “Don’t ever think God is far away from you. That intimate relationship is the greatest thrill of anyone’s life, for He seeks such to have fellowship with Him.”