Calmness after the War (Part II)

Author: Ancy Lee
Translator: Pius Lee

Inadvertent Fire in a Gas Station

My parents ran a textile and clothes retail shop from our home. Under the new communist government after the Vietnamese civil war, every home was eager to sew the new national flag. Therefore, all of a sudden our home business was thriving beyond our wildest imaginations. Yan, my oldest brother, volunteered to run an errand for Dad to fill the gas-tank of Dad’s motorcycle. Yan went to our neighborhood gas station to fill gas. It was about one kilometer away. The station was abandoned as the owner had probably deserted it and escaped. People began looting and fighting to get free gasoline from the unmanned pumps. In the chaos, many of the looters and bystanders were sprayed by gasoline hoses. Suddenly, a fire broke out and a few people caught fire. Many panicked, yelled and jumped resulting in severe burns or even death.
When I heard the news about the gasoline station fire, I hurried over immediately but I saw that the black burn-marks had already been removed. Although I didn’t see any injured victims, I certainly recognized Dad’s motorcycle laying on the ground damaged by the fire. Right at that moment, a strange young man appeared and pushed Dad’s motorcycle away. I was not timid even though I was just 9 years old and thought to myself that I had no means to prove that it was ours. So I followed my gut feeling and trailed behind this man to find the location where he might take our motorcycle. I made a mental note of the location and reported to Mom and Dad about the situation. That evening, I led my parents to the place of the man and retrieved our family motorcycle.

Burn Injury

The mishap of the fire occurred in the morning and Yan was implicated with severe burn injury in both his legs from his thighs downwards. In retrospect, dad said if he had the chance to attend to Yan’s injury, it would have been a better first aid to submerge the burn injury in our home’s cool water cistern. Our family only found out about his injury many hours after the mishap when our neighbor informed us that Yan had been hospitalized. Yan was attended to in one of the cold-wards of the hospital for many weeks. The recovery seemed hopeless. As the nurses began to daily sterilize Yan’s injury, it brought excruciating agony. The injuries were extensive from the thighs to the ankles. Days turned into weeks, and his injuries became inflamed and began to stink an awful stench.

Mom and Dad dispatched me to help Yan in the hospital one afternoon. I quivered at the sight of his reddish wounds where bones and tenders seemed visible underneath the translucent nascent skin; and at the smell of rotten fresh stench. Yan’s cold ward was climatized to 30 degrees fahrenheit. Though I was inadequately clothed, I was obedient to dad’s advice not to leave Yan for a single moment. The dilemma added to my chill and quiver.

Healed with No Disabilities

One day our dear grandma visited Yan and observed the sterilization treatments. She urgently advised Mom and Dad to seek Yan’s dismissal. Grandma explained the way Yan’s injuries were sterilized daily deprived the nascent skin to grow back to maturity. With the skin shield, Yan might lose his legs. Upon dismissal, Yan recuperated at home and saw encouraging results. Obviously, the skin grew back steadily and recovery was evident. Yan was bed bound to a modified bed laid with coconut oil-soaked banana-leave-spread bed for several months. Eventually Yan was able to get up and walk. However, Yan never wore shorts as he was ashamed of his scar-ladened legs.

Creator — our Bodyguard Undercover

Thanks be to God to save and preserve Yan’s life. Thanks be to God for His wisdom bestowed on grandma for her wise diagnosis to avoid disabilities. Even when we were ignorant about our Creator God, God already knew us. “For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock.” (Psalm 27:5)

One year later, Yan was completely healed. He even ventured as an ice-cream-cart hawker and was able to haul a large wooden cart to the streets to flex his entrepreneurial muscles. He made good sales in the streets, near elementary and middle schools. I followed and assisted him during my summer holidays. Yan also sold small items such as miscellaneous souvenirs and matches in night open-air markets and I assisted him. My interest in becoming a business person was influenced by those childhood days with Yan.

Man Dreams, but God Determines

In my memory, I always wanted to be a businesswoman. As a child and a preteen, I sold pickled gooseberries in street markets, and sold biscuits by the ticket booths of movie theaters. Later I realized ticket scalping earned lucrative profits in just a few hours in the evening, earning as much as an adult’s daily salary. Another unexpected business venture concerned a gunpowder repackaging trick by recycling fire-cracker gunpowder into propelled dash-balls when wrapped in aluminum foils with a fuse. Once lit, the dash-ball darted around on the ground for a few seconds. The kids loved it and this business made me a de-facto gunpowder cartel. I even organized my younger brother and sister (12 and 9) to be my assistants for gunpowder and fire-cracker business sales during two Chinese New Years and earned us much pocket money.

My parents ran a cloth and textile retail business for 30 years. I was honing in on a career path to be one after them. However, God had an amazing purpose for each of our lives beyond our thoughts and desires. It is my prayer that we willingly surrender our lives to God, allowing Him to lead our future into fascinating lives. A Biblical author pointed out: “A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps” (Proverbs 16:9); and “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

Author: Mrs. Thuyen-Anh (Ancy) Lee was born in Vietnam. She immigrated and was educated in Sweden as a teenager. Her profession was social work until she married Pius in 1994. The couple responded to the calling to be ministers and relocated to NY in 2023.

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