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The Power of Hope

A story of hope by a Vietnamese refugee.
by Jason Huynh, LC | Source:

Ba Ria Bay, , July 1975: Waves crashed onto the fishing boats as the crowd frantically poured out onto the swaying docks.  Half-clothed children screamed and wailed as their mothers struggled to settle them aboard.  Some elderly persons slipped flailing into the cold water when an angry fisherman pulled away from shore shouting, “There’s no more room!”  The chaos continued for hours that afternoon, only once briefly interrupted as they heard one by one, in the distance, an echo of loud thumps.  The Viet Cong had reached Saigon City, raiding and bombing the last resisting force.  It was the end of the Vietnam War; yet peace was far from near. 





One woman recalls that dreadful evening in which she understood for the first time the full weight and horror of being a refugee, fleeing her own country toward a bleak and uncertain future.  She remembers pulling out to the open waters as the boats scattered in all directions.  The black sea tossed and turned, randomly claiming the lives of “those who could not hold on”. 





Observing the others in the boat, she only saw the clouded sky reflected in their eyes as the boat continued to rock and heave at the whim of the turbulent sea.  The outlook seemed hopeless for her and the thousands who shared her situation. 





Amidst the chaos and confusion, she continued to search for some meaning in the present turmoil.  At last she found it: it was within her.  She had hope, and that’s what made her unique.  Her Catholic faith was the answer, and she brightened up as she realized that the Holy Family had also been entitled refugee.





Clinging to the slenderest of hopes, she took a deep breath of salty air and knelt down to pray to the Holy Family, “Guide me in faith and hope as when you journeyed to a new land.  Accompany me and all of us here to reach our new land.” 





At first no answer came, but she continued firmly yet gently to ask for spiritual strength.  Then it came.  An answer surged in her heart warming her spirits, “Many rely on your hope.  Have courage.  I will be with you - always.”





Time had passed now when she finished her prayers, but her hope was now not a beacon to guide only her on the darkened sea, but also all of those with her in the boat: she found herself comforting the frantically wailing women and children around her.  As the clouds slowly drifted away, it left the afternoon sun evaporating the fog around them as it also softened the confused and sullen faces.  





Then a sudden shock rippled through those aboard as they observed an outlandish object in the horizon.  They finally made it out to be a large ship quickly approaching them.  On the prow, a blur of red, white, and blue waved in the breeze.  The leading fisherman roared, “Hooray!  We’re saved!”  A cry of exuberance exploded on the open blue sea as they all waved and shouted.  Only once did the shouting briefly recede when the leading fisherman jokingly hollered at them to settle down in their flimsy fishing boat or they’d all be swimming in the cold sea. 





         The woman was quickly placed in one of the American refugee programs sponsored by many generous families.  After living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for three years, she married a friend from her homeland.  She currently teaches at a private Catholic elementary school in Atlanta, .  She is the mother of two religious brothers studying for the priesthood, one of whom has written this article.

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