The car, cruising down Monterey Boulevard, swerved suddenly onto the Highway 1 exit ramp and sped out of town into the night. The driver, Lee, a 40-year-old South Vietnamese soldier, turned to his lone female passenger, a 20-year-old foreign student from Beijing. "I have a gun," he said. "Do what I say or I'll kill you!"
Lee was a busboy in the Chinese restaurant where Jenny worked as a waitress. One of her co-workers always drove her home after work. But, Lee who had offered her a ride home tonight, had another plan. Jenny watched her abductor in terror as he turned to her, his face illuminated by the dashboard lights. His left eye gleamed crazily--his right eye was gone, a maimed slit of pink flesh, ruined in the war.
Lee spoke again, his voice harsh. "I'm going to rape you and dump you in a field. Obey me if you want to live."
Jenny had come to America seeking a new life. Now, on this dark night, it seemed the remainder of her life might be counted in minutes as Lee's car speed along the pitch-black highway.
"I don't want to die!" she murmured, her eyes filling with tears.
Desperately, Jenny searched for options, knowing she was no match for this experienced combat veteran. Looking down at her door, she considered leaping out of the car, but at this sped, the fall would surely kill her.
Seeing her gaze toward the door, Lee roared, "You can't open the door. It's automatic lock!"
Jenny had found these do-gooder words irritating--she would have preferred a generous tip. What was the use of mumbling superstitious words to some imaginary God? In China, the Party had taught her that religious people were weak and fearful-mental cripples believing in fairy tales. She believed, like Marx, that religion was the opiate of the masses.
Now, abducted by a dangerous madman in a speeding car on a dark highway, about to be raped and possibly murdered, the idea of praying to a powerful being who might help her in this terrifying situation seemed compelling and perhaps her only remaining option. "Deciding to give prayer my first and maybe last try, I closed my eyes and prayed desperately, 'Dear God, if you exist, please help me!' I aimed my prayer like an arrow straight to God. To my surprise, I began to feel a calm strength entering me."
As Jenny prayed, the car suddenly lurched and the tires squealed. She opened her eyes to find that Lee had inexplicably swerved off the highway onto an entry ramp heading back into town. He turned onto a main thoroughfare and they drove through the city under bright streetlights in evening traffic. Though baffled, she continued praying, eyes open, searching the road, her mind crystal clear: "Please God, give me strength!"
Jenny knew this was her moment of truth. If God had helped her to this point, she must now help herself. Filled with strength, still praying, she grabbed her book bag and pulled on the door handle, not knowing if it would open. It did. Lee reached out and grabbed her arm, but she pulled away with all her might and ran across four lanes toward the policewoman, feeling stronger than ever before.
When the light changed, Lee's car pulled away with squealing tires. The police caught him half an hour later.
"This experience shook my belief system like an earthquake," Jenny says today, 12 years later. "I grew up in China during the Cultural Revolution. I watched my family and country destroyed. I never saw God help anyone. My high school science curriculum included philosophical arguments for atheism: "The world is matter, and consciousness, only a by-product of matter, is extinguished at the moment of death. So-called miracles and supernatural powers are coincidences based on pseudo-science and superstition-peasant mentality.'
"But a divine power saved my life--I have no doubt of it. All my philosophical arguments blew away like dust in the wind. I began to understand that not everything can be scientifically explained and measured, reduced to atoms, chemical elements, and basic particles.
"This incident was a turning point in my life. Indirectly, it taught me that the most important things in life-kindness, love, faith, integrity--can't be found in a test tube. Yet, these qualities are real; they can move mountains or save lives. I wasn't surprised when my parents and friends called my experience luck and my belief in God an illusion. I only knew that I was about to die. And when I prayed, a power and a calmness came over me, my kidnapper turned off the highway, drove me back into town, and stopped in front of a police car.
"Now I know I'm watched over, that a divine power exists. And the more I align myself with this power by living with integrity and faith, the better my life becomes. It's almost.scientific."