“The Girl in the Picture,” is the title of a book written about the life of Kim Phúc, the badly burned girl fleeing napalm in that tragic and iconic photo from the Vietnam war.
I remember that photo well, her and I were close to the same age and the confusion of a country deeply divided by war was all around me. People often complain about Christians indoctrinating children, well, I grew up viewing pictures of Nazi concentration camps, preparing for nuclear winter, and looking into the eyes of Kim Phúc. I grew up knowing the horrors of the world intimately, but never it’s Hope. There’s a special kind of cruelty in that I have long since forgiven but will never forget.
Kim Phúc is a hero of mine, a girl caught in a literal war not just as spiritual one, a girl burned so badly she was not expected to survive, who spent years enduring painful burn treatments, wounds that still trouble her today. She did survive however, but she didn’t just survive, she thrived, she went on to overcome and to achieve victory. She now lives in Toronto with her husband and nearly grown children, and she should be just about finished with some new high-tech laser burn treatments that I pray bring her relief and full healing.
Kim Phúc defied the odds in so many ways. She wasn’t expected to survive and yet she did. She once said that when she got burned she thought, everything is changed now, I’m ugly, I’ll never get married. But she did, she went on to marry a rather handsome man and they are still married today. In 1997 she established the first Kim Phúc Foundation to help child victims of war.
Sometimes when reading stories about Kim Phúc, they all leave out the most important part of all. Wikipedia makes no mention of it either, but when she was 19 she found Jesus Christ, after reading the New Testament in a public library, and like He so often does, He changed everything. You can now hear Him in her words, you can see Him in her demeanor, you can feel it from the way people describe her as a woman, “who radiates peace and speaks with strength.”
These are the words of a woman who knows Christ, “Forgiveness made me free from hatred. I still have many scars on my body and severe pain most days but my heart is cleansed. Napalm is very powerful, but faith, forgiveness, and love are much more powerful….”
It’s interesting to me, we’ve never met and yet our lives are forever entwined. Our stories are so different and yet they are familiar. Kim Phúc is like an old childhood friend, a sister really, she and I now sharing the same Father, a Father who changed everything, who plucked us both out of the turbulence and chaos of our lives and handed us beauty for ashes.