A Valiant Veteran



He looked different one day when he came for a new supply of books, and I tried to figure out why. He wore the same glasses and the same shirt I had seen him wear many times.

When he greeted me, he spoke much more distinctly than usual, and I knew why he seemed different. He had a new set of false teeth. But there was something else different that day. He was refreshed.

Soon he began listing the books he wanted: Pilgrim’s Progress, the Catechism, The Life of Christ in Cambodian Verse; then suddenly he inserted, “If they put me in jail, it won’t be the first time,” ending the terse thought with his peculiar, fearless laugh of faith.

He continued, “Great Salvation, Gospel of Mark, The Heart of Man, and a complete set of tracts. The Lord has again laid a heavy woe upon my heart to get out the Word and has wonderfully released me from other responsibilities which held me down. Pray for me.”

I thought, Yes, Phi Phi, I will pray for you.

Hua Xuan, also known as Phi Phi, standing with his bicycle (Photo courtesy of the C&MA Archives)

Three days later we heard he had been jailed. The charge was insufficient license for selling and preaching. With quiet assurance he accepted his plight and witnessed to every official within hearing.

Four days later, without further complication, he was released with our mission chairman’s help. When I next saw him, I asked him about the incident. “The Lord just wanted to teach me something,” he said.

Phi Phi’s real name is Hua Xuan, his parentage Chinese and Vietnamese. By his teens, he was already the slave of tobacco, alcohol, and opium. The ugly fruits of such a life were overwhelmingly evident.

Hopeless, he had lived in that condition for several years. But the gospel changed his downward trek. He found complete deliverance in Jesus. Immediately he set out to serve his new Master as fervently as he had been led by his old.

As a colporteur, he moves energetically and commands three languages. He speaks boldly and fearlessly and with the persuasion of a salesman. He loves the people and molds his witnessing to their oriental thought pattern. He goes to them as their servant.

As is true so often in Cambodia, Phi Phi too has been caught in the throes of borrowing money at a fearful price to his spiritual life. On other occasions his actions have caused heartache to his fellow brethren. He has been a target of criticism, some well founded. But the one fact which outweighs them all is his sincere, complete love for the Lord and his willingness to repent and follow Him until death.

Now past 60 years of age, Phi Phi has sold more books, given out more tracts, and witnessed to more people than anyone else since Christian missions began in Cambodia.

—Clifford M. Westergren

Adapted from The Alliance Witness, December 14, 1960

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