I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. ~ Philippians 4:13, NKJV

“I will give you a ride.” Those words changed the course of my life. They came from a dental hygienist from Loma Linda University who was working at Saigon Adventist Hospital and was helping evacuate the hospital as the Vietnam War culminated in April 1975. I ran home and hastily packed a few belongings in a pillow case–my Bible, my church hymnal, two Vietnamese-English dictionaries, and an ao dai.* Soon, our group of 10 nursing students boarded one of the few planes remaining at the airfield.

As the plane lifted off, filled with passengers huddled on the floor, I thought of my family, whom I might never see again. I had no idea what would happen next, but I trusted in the Lord to guide me as He always did.

I came upon God and the Seventh-day Adventist church early, despite growing up in a Buddhist family. As a sixth grader, I was on my way to register for a new academic term at the local school. God nudged me to turn into the Seventh-day Adventist academy instead. The Adventist church and church family have been central of my life ever since. I eventually graduated from the academy and enrolled in their nursing school. As a nursing student, I had just started training at Saigon Adventist Hospital when God sent that messenger who helped me board the plane to a new future.

The plane stopped in the Philippines before arriving in Guam. We stayed at the refugee camp for a few days. Then Loma Linda University arranged for our group from Saigon Adventist Hospital to be taken to Loma Linda to live with sponsor families. I will forever appreciate the kindness of the families who took us in. They were our families away from home and helped us acclimate to a new culture. Through God’s grace and with support from my church family, I continued my studies in California and eventually graduated as a registered nurse (RN).

After working as an RN for 17 years, I felt God’s calling to become a physician. With God’s guidance and my supportive husband who stayed in the U.S. to work, I attended medical school at Autonomous University in Guadalajara, Mexico. Once again, I embarked on a journey in a foreign country; but this time, I was not alone. I had my two little girls with me. It was challenging to balance my family and a medical career. Nevertheless, I ultimately fulfilled my dream of becoming a physician.

I now have a thriving clinic in East Los Angeles, where the majority of my patients are low-income immigrants. Given my experience in Mexico, I am able to build strong relationships with Spanish-speaking patients. In retrospect, I see God’s steadfast presence in my life, from the time I attended Saigon Seventh-day Adventist Academy, to my arrival in Loma Linda, to my time in Guadalajara, and now, to my daily interactions with patients. The Lord placed guardian angels in my life and shaped the opportunities for me to become a physician who has a passion for working in undeserved communities. I know that no matter what circumstances I encounter, God already has a plan.

* a traditional Vietnamese dress

Mai-Linh Tran, LLUSM class of 2015, is from Cerritos, California. She graduated from University of California, Los Angeles with a BS degree in physiological sciences. This story was written and submitted on behalf of her mother, Ngoc-Mai Tran, MD, whose life highlights God’s steadfast presence. They are most appreciate of the families that kindly opened their homes to refugees.