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In the early hours of January 31, 1968, New Year fireworks gave way to gunfire. Eleven-year-old Minh watched in horror as her father and two siblings were gunned down by the Vietcong in their backyard. Though she escaped the bullets that night, abuse, prison, and torture would follow. A dramatic escape by boat on the South China Sea eventually takes Minh out of communist Vietnam, but the tragedy of her childhood will haunt her as she moves to France to Australia to America before she finally submits to God’s purpose for her life.


Straining Forward is a riveting spiritual journey of hope and healing that reminds readers that we are all more than victims of circumstance and that even in the loneliest and most desolate moments, we are never truly alone.

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Mountains in Clouds
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MINH PHUONG TOWNER

Minh is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and an ordained chaplain with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). For 20 years prior, she worked as an oncology nurse specialist in Australia.

 

As a child of the Vietnam War and a teenage refugee, she is an advocate for social justice, particularly for those facing religious oppression around the world. Minh’s two adult children live in Australia; she lives in Virginia with her husband.

If I live, I live for the Lord; and if I die, I die for the Lord.

So whether I live or die, I belong to the Lord. 

Romans 14:8

 

Michelle Layer Rahal has the voice of a storyteller as she takes us on a journey from war-torn Vietnam, to France, Australia and eventually the United States through the eyes of Minh Phuong Towner as she searches for healing and her place in the world. Straining Forward is a beautiful memoir of survival, self-reflection, and faith.

Anna Whiston Donaldson

Author of New York Times bestseller Rare Bird

 


Minh's Phuong Towner’s book, like her life, is a triumph. Her story offers an eye-opening view of the incredible hardships suffered by so many in other parts of the world, but also of the unfathomable redemption and freedom found in Christ. Her account is edifying and encouraging for us all.

Retired Congressman Frank R. Wolf of Virginia Former co-chair of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus

Author of Prisoner of Conscience, One Man’s Crusade for Global Human and Religious Rights

 


In the tradition of Augustine’s Confessions, Minh Towner makes confession both of her turnings away from God and of her turnings back to God. In the face of evils perpetrated against her and despite her own moments of falling short, Minh testifies to God’s unending grace and providence. Here is an account of an ordinary yet extraordinary woman who finds her way home. Her invitation to you to accompany her is deeply moving.

John P. Burgess, Professor of Systematic Theology, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

Author of Holy Rus’: The Rebirth of Orthodoxy in the New Russia

 


Straining Forward is an engaging memoir that begins in Vietnam during “The American War” which destroys young Minh's life of privilege. Her family fractured, Minh makes a harrowing escape on a boat and ultimately crosses two continents. She thinks she is searching to better herself, but ultimately realizes she is searching for her salvation, which has been doggedly following her. This lively journey is told with a clear gospel purpose.

Ruth Everhart

Author of Ruined

 


This is an extremely powerful story and one that both grasps the frailties of the human person and celebrates the triumph of the human spirit over immense challenges. One cannot read Minh Phuong Towner's story and fail to be moved by the tragedy of her life, but also by her indomitable spirit and her determination to succeed, even in the face of overwhelming odds. This is a story that lingers long in the mind after reading and it is something I can truly recommend to anyone feeling down or depressed. "There, but for the grace of God, go I!"

Grant Leishman

Reader's Favorite