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The Star of the Story

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope, and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

I’ve written a book. Now I’m about to write a blog. With around a million books being published each year and two million blog posts every day, the chances that my literary endeavors will be read are slim. Or are they?

I did not choose to write a book. It chose me.

It started the day I first encountered Minh Phuong Towner, the subject of the book Straining Forward. She stood before a church congregation of more than 1000 and gave her testimony in broken English with an Australian accent. Despite the strange dialect, I heard her say things like, “I was shot in the head,” and “My brother and sister died instantly,” and “I am thankful for God’s graciousness and mercy.”

WHAT? Thankful? You’ve got to be kidding!

I sought her out after the service, unsure of what I would say but feeling I had to say something. The words that came out of my mouth were, “I want to write your story.” I think I was as surprised as she was. We simply looked at each other, and then Minh laughed. (She has a great sense of humor!)

I had never written a book before—plenty of articles and reports, but never a book. I can’t say I felt qualified for the task, but I clearly felt called to it.

In 2013, Minh finally gave her consent. Now, just so we’re clear here—I did not bug or beg her during that seven-year period. In fact, I think I raised the issue only three more times. The final time, Minh’s yes was immediate. Then she explained that though several people had expressed interest in writing her story, God had informed her that I was the person He had chosen to author it.

WOW! God had chosen ME!

Writing Straining Forward was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Not because I found the process overwhelming, but because I found Minh’s story disturbing and heartbreaking—especially the parts about her father. Just days before he was killed, Minh told him that she was excited about the upcoming new year celebration because she would make a lot of money from friends and relatives who gifted children with cash in bright red envelopes. He responded tenderly by telling her to keep her eyes on the stars, which were more important than money.

It was painful for Minh to relive many moments of her life, and I felt cruel asking her to do so. We prayed together, cried together, and together we pressed on with God as our guide. After all, this was His story. This was His book.

As the book launch approaches, I’ve been feeling like I’m riding a powerful wave, being moved forward by forces out of my control. Things are falling into place that I did not plan, and plans I made are falling away. For example, the pastor that embraced Minh and directed her to a vocation in ministry can’t attend the book launch due to family commitments. The same goes for members of my beloved music team and several close friends. I questioned whether we should change the date, but Minh and I could not agree upon another.

So I prayed.

I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Psalm 34:4

God’s message was loud and clear. He told me not to worry and to remain focused on Him. “I am the star of the book,” He said.

And so we keep our eyes focused heavenward and press on with the book launch as scheduled: June 3rd, 2018 at Vienna Presbyterian Church, 124 Park Street, NE in Vienna, VA.The time is yet to be determined, but all are invited. All are welcome. I hope you can join us. God is leading this show, so anything could happen!


Lyrics: “Don’t be afraid to step ‘cause even if you fail to fly, He’ll catch you by surprise!”

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