My first experience of direct combat with the Viet Cong came soon enough. Drafted into the South Vietnam army in 1972 while a senior at Saigon University, I had nine months of boot camp. Then I was put in command of a platoon as a second lieutenant and ordered to search the jungles 43 miles from Saigon for Viet Cong guerrillas.
One day while I was leading a group of soldiers through a dry stream bed, I heard an explosion behind me. The air was filled with smoke and debris. Then came the scream of soldiers crying, “Oh, God! Oh, God!” Two of them fell wounded by a bomb set off by watching Viet Cong.
That night when my soldiers and I were on night duty, my military radio communicator came to me and asked, “Do you have a brother by the name of S. N. Ch’en?”
“Yes,” I replied, wondering why he asked.
“I am sorry to tell you that I got the news on the radio today for you that he died a few days ago during heavy fighting on the front lines.”
My younger brother dead? I found it hard to believe. But as the news finally filtered into my mind, I started to sob like a baby. Then I checked myself. I could not afford to make any noise the guerrillas could hear. My younger brother dead!
Gradually comfort stole into my heart with the thought that he was with Christ in heaven. Both of us had received Jesus Christ as Savior while we were boys in Sunday school in the Chinese church in Saigon’s Cholon quarter. I thought of my godly father and mother and how they would be grieving and also praying for my safety. My father, who was principal of a Chinese high school, had come to Saigon from mainland China in 1949. He had seen to it that his 10 children all had opportunities to hear the gospel.
As a student, I had felt the urge to prepare to preach that ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 65+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more