Straining Forward


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 the 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

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.