Sermon Illustrations

HEALING THE WOUNDS OF WAR: THE KIM PHUC STORY

Probably one of the most well-known pictures to come out of the Vietnam War was Nick Ut’s Pulitzer Prize-winning photo (show picture) of Phan Thi Kim Phuc (pronounced "fuke"). On June 8, 1972, a napalm bomb was dropped on her village, and Kim, who was just nine years old at the time, ran crying from her hiding place in the village temple in Vietnam. Phuc's arms are outstretched in terror and pain, and skin is flapping from her legs as she cries, "Nong qua! Nong qua!" ("Too hot! Too hot!")

Doctors said Kim would never survive, but after 14 months in the hospital – and 17 surgeries – she returned to her family. However, despite her physical recovery, Kim was seldom free from pain, nightmares and anger.

As Kim tells her story, she says, "The anger inside me was like a hatred high as a mountain, and my bitterness was black as old coffee. I hated my life. I hated all people who were normal, because I was not normal. I wanted to die many times. Doctors helped heal my wounds, but they couldn’t heal my heart."

Then Kim found a Bible while spending time in a library. It confused her, because it was different than her religion, but her brother-in-law had a friend who was a Christian. She arranged to see him with her list of questions, and after they talked, this friend invited Kim to visit his church for a Christmas service. The end of the service was a turning point in Kim's life after 10 years of pain.

"I could not wait to trust the Lord," Kim said. "[Jesus] helped me learn to forgive my enemies, and I finally had some peace in my heart."

[Source: Ruth Schenk, "Napalm Attack Begins 36-year Journey to Faith and Forgiveness," Southeast Outlook, September 11, 2008; www.PreachingToday.com]

In fact, 14 years later (show picture of her today), she met the man who was responsible for setting up the air strike on her village in Vietnam. His name was John Plummer, and he had approved the strike after he was twice assured there were no civilians in the area. In 1996, he was pastor of the Bethany United Methodist in Purcellville, Virginia, and had learned through a network news story that Kim was alive, living in Toronto, Canada, and about to speak at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C.

Plummer invited members of a Vietnam helicopter flight crew to attend the speech with him. And as Kim Phuc addressed the crowd, she said that if she ever met the pilot of the plane she would tell him she forgives him and that they cannot change the past but she hoped they could work together in the future.

Plummer was introduced to Kim Phuc that day and later wrote about their meeting in the Virginia Advocate (January 30, 1997). "She saw my grief, my pain, my sorrow," he wrote. "She held out her arms to me and embraced me. All I could say was, 'I'm...

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