Remember Nhu

What agape love looks like


“Remember Nhu,” God spoke quietly to my heart.

I was listening to C&MA missionary Rick Drummond at a missions conference in Thailand in November 2003. He spoke about a 12-year-old girl who accepted Jesus as her Savior, was baptized and started sharing her faith publicly. Her family would not feed her when she went to church, so her church family stepped in and cared for her. But when the Drummonds left for the United States on a medical furlough, this young lady’s family sold her to a brothel to be used as a sex slave.

As soon as Drummond told the group what had happened to this sister in Christ, God whispered to my heart what He wanted from my life. As His Spirit breathed “Remember Nhu,” I committed to do everything within my power and to use every talent and treasure God had given me to make sure that the use of children in the sex trade would stop.

Haven of Hope

Since that conference three years ago, my wife, Laurie, and I established the Remember Nhu Foundation to help children along the Mekong River in Cambodia. Like Nhu, most are Vietnamese refugees with few options in life. It is estimated that 70 percent of these children are sold into the sex trade. Learning how to help them has been a long process.

In 2006, I met with several people, including representatives from the C&MA, to develop plans for a training/learning/life-skills home—Haven of Hope—to help girls escape the sex trade. The Drummonds recommended that CoAi, a woman they know well, run the home and help set up businesses to give the children and their parents vocational training. The first home opened in January 2007, and we hope to open two more this year.

We returned to Cambodia later in 2006 to interview 22 girls whose parents told them they must quit school and earn money for the family. One of the few jobs open to these children is collecting trash to recycle for US$10–$20 per month. But without intervention most of the girls would be sold to brothels.

The girls’ stories are tragic: some have parents who are addicted to alcohol or gambling, and others’ parents are terminally ill, have abandoned them or are deceased. We were able to offer scholarships to all of the girls.

“When can I start?”

On one of our fact-finding trips, I called Trang, the woman who had led Nhu to Christ, and asked her to set up an early meeting with Nhu, who works in a hair and nail salon from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. The next day CoAi, Charles Harvey (a member of our advisory board) and I went to a diner at 7 a.m. to meet the namesake of the Remember Nhu Foundation. As we waited, it became 7:10 . . . then 7:15 . . . then 7:20. Nhu had forgotten about our meeting and was away when Trang went to get her. But just when I thought Nhu was not coming, I saw her at the front door.

I told Nhu about the home we planned to open to help prevent children from being sold into slavery and asked her how much she earned working seven days a week, 12 hours a day. Nhu said she made $70 per month in wages and $30 in tips. I asked Nhu to consider teaching personal hygiene, nails, hairdressing and life skills in the home and explained that she would receive medical care, two meals a day, her own bedroom if she wanted it and a salary of $100 per month. I told her she would learn English in the morning, be spiritually mentored by CoAi and would work only Monday through Friday.

During this conversation, Nhu had kept her head down and did not look at me, as is the custom in Cambodia. When she realized we were offering her a job, she swung her head up with a gleam in her eye and joy on her face.

“Well, what do you think? Will you work for us?” I asked.

“Can I ask one question?” she queried.


“When can I start?” Nhu said.

At that moment every bit of energy left me. I had begged and cried out to the Lord on behalf of Nhu more than for anything else in my 15 years of being a Christian. I am sure I have shed gallons of tears and prayed hundreds, if not thousands, of hours and asked others to do the same.

And here was the fi rst fruit of those cries to God: on September 19, 2006, at a diner in Cambodia, Nhu became the first official employee of Remember Nhu!

Christmas in Cambodia

Laurie and I had the opportunity to develop a relationship with Nhu during subsequent visits to Cambodia. We had been praying for her so intensely that we felt like she had become our adopted daughter. Since her mom and dad had abandoned her before she was a year old, we believe that the time we spent with Nhu was probably her fi rst experience of parental love.

In November 2006, Laurie and I asked Nhu to help us shop for gifts for “our daughter.” We spent four hours with Nhu as she picked out stylish clothes, shoes and jewelry. Nhu asked CoAi, “Why do they buy so much for their daughter? They must love her a lot.”

The next morning we explained to Nhu that each year we give our daughter one major gift at Christmas. Since we had missed Nhu’s fi rst 17 Christmases, we were going to celebrate them today, so she had 18 gifts to open!

I wish everyone who has prayed for Nhu could have seen her face when she opened the first gift, a pair of gray dress slacks. Her face lit up as she realized that when she had taken us shopping for “our daughter,” we meant her, our Vietnamese daughter! After opening all of her gifts, Nhu tearfully told CoAi that no one had ever done anything like that for her before.

Home of Darkness

Because Nhu would be taking these presents home with her, we thought we should go and meet her grandmother. After the Sunday evening service, CoAi, Nhu, C&MA missionary Debbie Vik, Laurie and I traveled to a village of shacks where Nhu has lived since she was one year old.

Nhu’s grandmother met us at the door and invited us in. The home consisted of wooden planks with many gaps, a roof of green tarp and a floor of dirt and a little vinyl. There were two rooms of about six feet by eight feet, with a total of about 100 square feet of living space for Nhu, her grandmother, two uncles, an aunt and nieces and nephews. They all slept in one of the tiny rooms.

A shrine to idols filled one wall of the living room. I was stunned by the spiritual darkness that permeated the home. In my moment of shock, Nhu’s grandmother asked if we were upset that she worshiped idols. Seeing where Nhu has spent the last 17 years gave me great respect for her courage in accepting Jesus as her Savior. Nhu had taken a stand against the demon worship that surrounded her and then had to survive the evil of the sex trade. We truly can do all things through Jesus.

Our Favorite Hug

During our trip Laurie and I were blessed with the opportunity to talk, eat, shop, brainstorm, laugh and cry with Nhu. Normally, one of my favorite moments in Cambodia is the feeling of the jet wheels lifting off the ground to take me home! But this time it was different: we all realized it was time to say good-bye to Nhu.

Nhu put her head on Laurie’s shoulder and gave her a long hug. Then it was time for me to say goodbye. After choking back tears, I said that we felt like we were leaving our hearts behind. I told Nhu that it hurt to leave because she truly felt like a daughter.

I told CoAi that in the United States, I give my daughter a “side hug,” which I demonstrated on Laurie. I asked CoAi to ask Nhu if I could give her this kind of good-bye hug. Nhu said, “Yes.” I stepped toward Nhu, and she plunged her head into my chest and wrapped both of her arms around me. I kissed the top of her head and asked CoAi to tell Nhu that Laurie and I loved her deeply and wanted her to always follow Jesus. Those hugs were worth more to Laurie and me than anything we have ever owned.

In His great love for us, the Lord uses our life experiences and even our weaknesses to show His strength and to bless His children. During the last three years, many people have cried out to Jesus and given and served and fought for our sister Nhu. I feel that He’s made it all worthwhile in a simple hug.

In that moment, I experienced what I think agape love feels like.

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