the battle for a single soulSome of Phong’s earliest memories, dim and hazy in the back of his mind, are of a war-ravaged country. Communism was tearing the nation apart, and millions of Vietnamese were fleeing. And so, with only the things they could carry on their backs, Phong and his family set out on foot to cross the border out of Vietnam.

Phong was four years old when his family fled their homeland, and his baby brother was just two years old. “With death surrounding us, weary, hungry and always tired, we pushed on and treaded through vegetation, fields and jungles, dodging unsuspecting gunmen, snipers, bombs, land mines and all possible enemies, leaving all our families, friends, loved ones and our entire past behind,” Phong remembers.

When Phong’s family reached the border and stepped into Thailand, their relief was short-lived. Now deserters and trespassers, Phong’s family feared that a single bullet could shatter all their hopes and dreams. The family was placed in a refugee camp, and because Phong’s father had been in the military, he was extensively interrogated.

Eventually Phong’s family was cleared of suspicion and handed over to the United States Embassy. Yet again, what should have come as a relief became a hope deferred. Without a word of English and with no family or friends, Phong’s family was lonely, lost and confused in their new country.

Eventually Phong’s family began to adjust to their new life in the United States. His parents worked hard to provide for the family, and Phong remembers happy dinners around a full table of four. Phong’s parents were very traditional and taught him to worship Buddha, instilling in him a strong sense of honor and morality as well.

But Phong’s soul was in conflict, and he was searching for his identity. “Who was I?” he asks. “A young boy lost in the midst of leaving his home in Vietnam during a war, having to start his life in a country where we did not belong.”

Phong’s sense of otherness was reinforced by the bullying he experienced at school. Because of his looks and his accent, he was the target of harassment and eventually even physical attacks. Determined never to lose another fight, Phong hardened his heart and formed his own little army out of a handful of other Vietnamese students at his school. “In a battlefield that consisted of stereotypes and hatred, I depended on my friends for security,” he reflects.

Phong’s world was starting to resemble the one his family had so desperately fled. Fear and violence were part of his life once more. “I had somehow gone full circle,” he remembers. “Instead of communism, this time I was faced with race and segregation. I had become my own Vietnam.” The rage and bitterness that had been warring for Phong’s soul had won out for the time being.

Just on the cusp of adulthood, Phong landed in prison, facing serious charges and a very long sentence. For more than fifteen years, he continued in his pride and bitterness. Then one day the tides of the war for Phong’s soul turned. He realized that doing things his way wasn’t working. Looking for direction, Phong opened a Bible and read God’s Word for the first time. That same day, he acknowledged that God was the Creator of all things and surrendered his life to Jesus Christ.

Three years later, Phong’s spiritual journey again took a turn when he was transferred to a new facility with a larger chapel and fellowship services. It was there that Phong was baptized. “As I emerged from beneath the water, I felt a sense of peace rising up within me,” he remembers.

It was also during this time that he enrolled in Crossroad’s discipleship program. “I wanted to get to know Christ more intimately,” Phong says. “Therefore, I prayed and asked for wisdom and knowledge to understand His Word. With Crossroad Bible Institute, I found this assistance.”

For the first time in a long time, instead of being surrounded by enemies, Phong found himself surrounded by friends, his brothers and sisters in Christ. Phong’s CBI Instructors made him feel welcomed and loved, and they shared with him in his burdens and trials.

Phong’s soul was all but lost until God stepped in. Now, thanks to the Mighty Warrior who saves, Phong is more than a conqueror. “Now I call upon the Lord to do all my battles,” says Phong. “With tears of joy, my heart claps in victory because I know my fight has already been won.”

As God draws His children to Himself, Crossroad stands ready to equip them with the discipleship they need to become courageous followers of Christ. To partner with Crossroad, go to cbi.tv/get-involved or call 616-530-1300.