God Is Here
My name is Hoàng, but you can call me Adam. This story is the story of a picture, the picture of how I came to believe in God.
This year I am 25 years old, which means that for almost a quarter century, I was without faith.
Things had become difficult for me and my family. We had landed in a place of darkness, and to the south, we saw the light.
“Go to Ho Chi Minh City,” my parents urged me. “Go there to the Giáo Điểm Tin Mừng church. Find Father Long, Father Dragon, and return with a healing for our family.”
My parents would tell me these things, but I would never believe them. I needed proof, to see a sign of this father’s magic.
On the Internet, I found it. Hundreds of YouTube videos revealed the miracles of this man, a supernatural father who cured even the diseases that modern medicines could not resolve.
When I saw this, I knew that the father had been blessed. I can tell when people are pretending. In the intonation of their voices I heard, and in the videos, I saw that, truly, they had been transformed.
When I realized this, I knew that I must travel to this church to pray for God’s mercy. The disease that had stricken me was also without any natural cure. Bad things had come to my house, and I didn’t know how to handle them, so I left for the south to pray. I left for the south to believe.
I admit that, in the beginning, I was doubtful still but curious enough to make the trip. With my girlfriend, I boarded an airplane, and we flew south towards the city.
At the service, we sang, and when we were not singing, we stayed quiet, quiet enough to pray, quiet enough to listen to the voice of God.
Father Dragon spoke.
“Treat others the way you wish to be treated,” he told us, “and pray for God’s mercy. Anything that you have right now – the job where you work, the money that you spend, the chair you sit upon – it will all go when you die. Pray to God to heal your soul.”
At the end, we ate our bread, shaped round like a cookie but with a supernatural power inside of it. It is a healing food. We ate, and it provided sustenance to our souls.
As a child, I had heard of God but not like this. A special sort of weirdness arose inside my heart. In front of the virgin’s statue, I cried. I just cried, and I couldn’t control it.
Then, I knew that I had changed. My mind had changed. My belief had changed. Suddenly, I felt God strongly.
The main service had ended, and already, I was new. Yet, I had fulfilled only half of my parents’ wish.
“Return with a healing for our family,” they had said. “And return with a sacred object.”
I stepped outside to the gift shop, and I bought many things, souvenirs: some necklaces, some crosses, some cross necklaces. However, my sacred object was none of these.
Father Dragon had told us that the most important thing to buy was the image, the image of Christ’s triumph over death, his defeat of his enemies, the image of the victory of God. This image is biblical, the father had explained, and it portrays God’s mercy.
It was cheap, only 100 thousand dong – less than five dollars. I purchased it, and I held it, but though the image was powerful, the object was not. Luckily, I had come to the church on a rare day. Soon, Father Dragon would be holding a second ceremony: a blessing of prayerful objects.
Back inside the church, the father stood with his eyes upturned and his palms to the sky. He prayed for God’s mercy and instructed us to stand upright. We stood.
“Have strong belief in these objects,” he demanded. “Believe that God will be here in them.”
In the spaces between the father’s resounding words, the room was quiet, cozy, magical, as if we were in the midst of a miracle.
“Raise them up,” the father bellowed in Vietnamese, and the hands of countless people extended to the sky, holding their pictures and crosses and books and necklaces up to the heavens. “Raise them up, and believe.”
I raised, and I believed.
We left the city, and I kept my picture covered in a plastic bag in my suitcase for safekeeping. I wanted to protect it perfectly until we landed back home in Hanoi.
For the first six months, I kept Him on a bookshelf inside my room, but things became too cluttered, so I moved Him to where He is now, on another shelf in another room in my apartment. He is on the highest rung, behind glass, away from dust and reaching children.
I need this space for Him to respect Him. I must treat Him as I would treat God if He were in my home because, in this object, there is God.
The background is dark, and from Jesus, there emit two lights. The first one is red: blood. The second is a whitish-blue: water. This means that Jesus Christ returned from the darkness.
It is hard to describe, but I can connect with God’s mercy in this picture. I become closer with God. I can see God because He is here with me, and He can protect me from the darkness.
Though the picture helps me imagine God, I don’t need to interact with it because He’s everywhere, so sometimes, I stand here in front of my picture to pray to Him, and sometimes, I don’t need to pray here.
Father Dragon said that anything we have will go when we die – our jobs, our money, even the chairs we sit upon, but this picture will not. It cannot be destroyed because He is here within it.
When I pass away, I will give the picture to my children or my niece or my grandson. When it’s done for you, it’s done for you, but this picture cannot be destroyed.