After a 14-month hospital stay and 16 surgeries to deal with her severe burns, Phan left the hospital and faced a new reality: a war-torn home and constant physical pain. She tried finding solace in the Cao Dai religion, whose adherents worship the gods of every religion, and she was determined to one day become a doctor to help others. But after the war ended, Vietnamese officials decided to use “the girl in the picture” as a propaganda tool to demonize Americans and prop up the new Communist government. With handlers constantly pulling Phan out of her college classes for staged press conferences, the school finally kicked out Phan due to low attendance.
Phan was angry. The government had taken away her one dream in life, and no matter how much she prayed, the gods didn’t seem to hear her. She contemplated jumping out in front of traffic. “Why was I was still suffering?” Phan recalled wondering. “I didn’t have any peace or joy, I still struggled. My heart was so empty.” She concluded there must be no god.
She became curious about Christianity after picking up a Bible at her local library and reading about the God who was willing to die for His people. Later her brother-in-law’s cousin, an associate pastor, came to visit, and Phan peppered him with questions about the faith. He patiently answered her questions and pointed her to church, where she professed Christ.