Story of a City Boy Who Survived the Viet Nam War by Living for Jesus and Others


About Me

Reverend Peter Vu




Rev. Peter G. Vu has been a Catholic priest of the Diocese of Grand Rapids, Michigan for twenty years and also a chaplain at Grand Rapids Home for Veterans. He was born in Saigon City (currently Ho Chi Minh City), Viet Nam and was a young boy when the Viet Nam War ended. He witnessed the war with great horror and deep appreciation for peace. He grew up with the Communist government system and endured many hardships for more than a decade. What helped Rev. Vu and his countrymen tremendously during those dark days was their faith and prayers. His love for prayers and meditations blossomed. He also exchanged new ideas about prayers and mediations with his Buddhist friends. They got along quite well despite their different faith traditions. After high school, Rev. Vu escaped Viet Nam via boat and came to the United States to begin his seminary training. He attended one year of high school here in the US (Union High School in Grand Rapids, Michigan) to learn the language and new culture. He then attended Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan for two years while staying at Christopher House Seminary. Then, the Seminary sent him to attend his last two years of college at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. He graduated with a double major: Mathematics and Philosophy. I then attended graduate school at the University of St. Mary of the Lake and Mundelein Seminary in Chicago, Illinois for five years. He graduated and was ordained with the Master Degree of Divinity and the Sacred Theology Baccalaureate.

Rev. Vu has ministered the People of God at six different churches over the last twenty years. Most of them have schools. He has worked extensively with children, especially at School Masses. He has led children in prayer and has seen first-hand their desperate need for it. He was also trained in Clinical Pastoral Care in a hospital and nursing home setting and practiced it at a General Hospital in Oxnard, California. In addition, Rev. Vu has been a chaplain at Grand Rapids Home for Veterans for almost ten years.

"I love and enjoy my pastoral care work. Taking care of the sick, the dying, the broken, the lost, and our veterans is something I cherish and look forward to doing each day. My tools and supplies for that type of work are prayers. Without prayers and faith, our world would turn dark and become hopeless.."


Living for a Higher Purpose

Story of a City Boy Who Survived the Viet Nam War by Living for Jesus and Others


This book is partly a history book and also a personal diary. As these two parts weave together, one will see the divine presence and the secrets of life that have helped Viet survive throughout his life. He had to rely on the protection of his ancestors and the help of the Guardian Angels – the kind and generous people – that God would send him along the way. Most importantly, he has had to look up to his loving God and a higher purpose to stay alive and move forward each day. Hence, his Memoir has taken the title “Living for a Higher Purpose.” The book will guide its readers through many stories of Viet’s life and eventually help them figure out what that higher purpose is. It also discusses many popular, current issues such as war and its victims, refugees and their life challenges, life under a Communist regime, core curriculum, how the world views America, the relationship between Catholicism (Christianity) and Buddhism, and much more.



In Vu’s (Lord Jesus, I Want to See…, 2017) biography, a young man flees Communist Vietnam and finds solace in his Christian faith.

Viet grew up in a quiet, middle-class neighborhood, not far from bustling Saigon, which was initially untouched by the disturbances brought to the country by war. But then the bombing campaigns eventually arrived and food rationing became a necessity. Viet’s family, in dire straits, was forced to butcher their beloved dog for food, and to burn paper money for fuel with which to cook. But even after the war concluded, their troubles persisted as the tyrannical Communist regime exacted vengeance upon people who collaborated with the government in the south. When Viet was 5 years old, his father was sent to a labor camp, where he languished under woeful conditions for 12 years. By Viet’s sophomore year in high school, he realized that he would never get full access to educational opportunities, so his parents plotted his escape. Several times, he tried unsuccessfully to flee Vietnam, and once, he ended up in prison. Finally, he was able to find his way out by boat; he survived the threat of pirates and was almost reduced to cannibalism to survive. He was rescued by a South Korean tanker, however, and made his way to Singapore, and then to the United States. There, he was able not only to pursue a college education, but also devote himself to his spiritual life—he eventually became a Catholic priest. Vu’s prose is lucid and unadorned by literary embellishment. Viet’s story is a remarkable one, and it will be impossible for readers not to be gripped by his relentless perseverance. Even more impressively, his spirits rarely seem to sag, no matter what misfortune visits him, and the crux of the tale is not his travails, but the consolations that he finds in his religious faith. Although this is principally a personal remembrance, it also provides a historically fascinating peek into postwar Vietnam; even though the United States was able to eventually extricate itself from the war in 1975, Vietnam’s plight was only just beginning.

A powerful story of overcoming adversity and finding religion.


Reviewed By: Helen Vernier

Living For A Higher Purpose is an account of surviving the Vietnam War and living as a refugee after the war. The story chronicles Viet’s life under the watchful eye of the communist dictatorship in Vietnam, along with his harrowing escape to the US. Like many refugees’ stories, Viet’s story was touching, heart-breaking, and fascinating at the same time. Viet goes into detail about how miserable his life is under the communist government. While all of Vietnam’s citizens suffered at the hands of their own government, the Communist Party and its officials confiscated everyone’s possessions and used their power to control everyone’s beliefs and actions. Throughout his horrible living conditions and near death experiences, Viet felt his ancestors and God were helping him and watching over him. There were numerous times in Viet’s life that he witnessed so much greed, cruelty, and injustice that he almost lost his confidence in humanity and in God. Just when Viet almost gave up his faith, he felt God would send a message, a sign, or an angel his way to help him through the difficult times. One instance was when Viet and his family were starving and were running out of rice. Viet said that God showed him mercy when the next day, the communist government increased the rationing, and they were able to receive rice. Some of the difficult experiences in Viet’s life cemented his belief and faith in God, and he wanted to devote his life to God by attending seminary school to become a priest.

I highly recommend Viet’s story to anyone interested in learning about a refugee’s story of survival and those who enjoy books with religious components. While, at times, the book sounded preachy (the author is a reverend) due to the extensive quotes and references to the Bible, I found the section about the problems and hypocrisy of the Church to be honest and truthful.


Reviewed By: Maddy Christopher

We might be aware that the Vietnam War was officially fought between North and South Vietnam. We might know that it was a war between Communist and anti-Communist powers and that Vietnam suffered under the rule of an oppressive Communist state. Living For a Higher Purpose, however, teaches us what we do not know.

Reverend Peter G. Vu’s story teaches us the aspects of history that education misses but humanity necessitates. Living For a Higher Purpose: Story of a City Boy Who Survived the Viet Nam War by Living for Jesus and Others is an unusual story of human suffering and the consequential awakening of spiritual empowerment. It has a concise yet unforgettable history lesson told through a tumultuous narrative that follows the life of its author through his protagonist and alias, Viet, who grows up in Vietnam. This true story begins with the Vietnam War, progresses through the affliction of the resulting Communist control over Vietnam, and observes Reverend Vu’s deeply distressing (and not to mention prolonged) escape to a world that offered freedom where his home allowed none.

Although Rev. Vu’s story is notably a religious text, its narrative is simultaneously harrowing, historically factual, and auto-biographical in its relation to the author. As a result, it is applicable to any audience, whether their interest be historical, theological, political, humanistic, or ethical. It is the untold torture of the refugee and the subjugated and their immeasurable strength that we are enlightened by in this story.

However, it must be acknowledged that the subject of faith and spiritual awakenings can relate to all questions of human consciousness, and Rev. Vu’s moments of contemplation on faith and the soul raise questions that are asked by all people. His devotion to his faith, which at times presents a struggle in itself based on human malevolence, shows a strength of character and moral compass that is truly inspiring and stands as a message to empower his readers.

Rev. Vu depicts the story’s opening as an apocalyptic setting, a narrative feature that modern film and literature have familiarized us with today, so we feel connected to his story rather than the mass desensitization that we often experience when observing them through public news bulletins. The protagonist expresses himself in the vernacular and style of a young boy with an abundance of emotion, which is a narrative element that keeps the innocence and vulnerability from being overshadowed by unrelatable experience.

Ultimately, Living For a Higher Purpose is a historical narrative about human suffering and strength that you will remember more profoundly than any news broadcast or history lesson.


Reviewed By: Bradley Allen

There are plenty of Vietnam-era memoirs. People started writing them before the war was over in 1975 and continue writing them to this day. Most are written by the service men and women who were stationed there or about the response to the war in the U.S. or other countries involved. But rarely do you find one written by a Vietnamese native beginning after the Fall of Saigon. Living for a Higher Purpose is one of the latter.

Peter Vu lived on the outskirts of Saigon during the war, and his family suffered deprivation and punishments after Northern Vietnam bombed and then occupied Saigon and the South. From starvation to forced labor camps, Vu’s family struggled to get by and get Peter an education as he grew up. As educational opportunities were rare, the family plotted to get him out of the country and to the United States for safety and his future. It took Peter multiple attempts to get out of Vietnam, one of which landed him in prison, but, eventually, he ended up as one of the Boat People making the dangerous journey to anywhere that will take them, as long as it wasn’t but back to Vietnam.

Throughout his story, Vu maintains a persistent optimism, even in the face of extreme hardship and danger. It was his family and personal belief in Jesus and the Bible that kept them going and lead Vu to the Catholic priesthood. His faith is his story, and he tells it in a clear and concise way, making it both an easy-to-read book, but also brings the reader into his world. While this is a book of faith, it is also a memoir of a period of time that many Americans don’t know about, or probably even thought of. The scenes on TV of the last helicopters leaving Saigon may have been the end of the American’s involvement in the war, but there was a second act for those left behind. Read Living for a Higher Purpose for the inspirational story, learn from it the additional human costs after the “end” of the Vietnam War.


Reviewed by Erin Nicole Cochran

The Vietnam War left devastation in its wake. Not only did it pit Americans against one another but Vietnamese families in Viet Nam as well. Living for a Higher Purpose is the true harrowing journey of Viet. Having lived ten years under the Communist stranglehold, he escapes on his own after several failed attempts to find a better and freer life. During that voyage to freedom, he finds himself thrown into prisons that try to break him. After his release, when liberty is just at his fingertips on board a small boat, he is again faced with terrifying obstacles. Throughout his lifetime, Viet has been forced to make the hardest decisions anyone can make. One of those decisions was to leave part of his family in Viet Nam. His faith in the Lord kept him moving one foot after the other despite losses and setbacks until he reached his final destination of the United States, eventually discovering his life’s purpose. And although the life of a refugee had more downs than ups in the beginning, he prevailed.

Viet’s traumatic crossing into the land of opportunity is full of heart weary events and moments of bliss. However, Reverand Peter G. Vu’s style of narration, because of its at arms-length approach, doesn’t provide a fully connective experience for the reader. For it to become an immersive experience, the voice needs to dig deeper and be less detached so that the reader can be “one” with Viet and his life.

There were also points throughout the book that lent themselves to a language-barrier issue. In one section, the narrator described a fun memory in regard to a person having a stroke or heart attack. With the language barrier issue aside, Living for a Higher Purpose is a glimpse of one refugee’s life, and it is a perspective that doesn’t get written about often, which makes it a worthwhile read


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