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 (Manna 52: Spiritual Renewal)
The Doors of Salvation Were Opened for Our Father
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The Doors of Salvation Were Opened for Our Father

Vuthy and Ha Nol-Mantia—San Jose, California, USA

On July 10th, 2005, at the age of 59, Frank Mantia would be born again, not of his mother’s womb, but of the redemptive blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Vuthy and his wife Nhatha (“Ha”) were blessed to witness their beloved father’s baptism just two months before he passed away. They write this testimony in loving memory of their dear father and brother in Christ.

They were an odd father and son pair plodding arm and shoulders hooked into the waves. Vuthy is a tall and slender young man of Cambodian descent, while his father, Frank, was a shorter, Sicilian man with a rounded, hefty figure. Frank’s wife, Joyce, nervously watched as he staggered into the water. It was a warm and sunny day in Boston, but the Atlantic Ocean was frigid all year round, and about the last thing doctors would advocate to a cancer patient in Frank’s condition, was to go for a dip.

But thank God, the baptism was performed without difficulty. Frank came up from the waters, gazing momentarily into the heavens with both hands lifted in praise to the Lord. Father and son walked leisurely back to the shoreline bearing gleaming smiles, while the chorus sang hymns in melodious harmony with the rolling ocean tides. We are so blessed to forever keep the memory of this day.

ITALIAN FATHER, CAMBODIAN SON

Frank Mantia was born in Parlemo, Sicily on March 22, 1946. Vuthy Nol was born 26 years later in Swhy Seasapon, Cambodia on March 6, 1972. They would both cross the oceans to the U.S. with their families at age 9, settling in the Boston area of Massachusetts.

One afternoon in November, 1983, Vuthy and his friend were playing hooky from school because they didn’t have the five dollars required to go on a class field-trip to the Museum of Science. The two boys came across a produce market where burly men were tossing piles of pumpkins into the dumpster. The idle boys asked if they could help. When they had finished the job, brash little Vuthy went inside to talk to “the Boss.” “Hey Mister, can I have a job?” The Boss looked at the skinny kid. “Yeah, you can come take out the trash and I’ll give you some money.” So that’s how Vuthy met Frank and landed his first job.

Frank and Joyce grew fond of Vuthy, and several months later, the Italian and Greek couple would bring this 11-year old Cambodian boy into their home and raise him as their own son. Vuthy would have opportunities and privileges that few Cambodian immigrant children were afforded. He was the only one of his five siblings to attend college and further receive an advanced degree in Social Work.

Vuthy would make both his biological and adoptive parents proud by becoming a community leader and counselor to other Cambodian immigrant families coping with depression and post-war trauma.

By God’s grace, Vuthy came to know our Lord Jesus Christ in October of 1999. It was a casual invitation by one of our members to a Bible study that resulted in a life-changing experience with God. No one in his family would have guessed that, five years later, Vuthy would dedicate himself to become a pastor.

God had bestowed on Vuthy blessings upon blessings, but what he wanted more than anything else was that his family could also come to church and experience the same joy in the Lord. His parents had given so much of themselves, and the greatest gift that Vuthy had to offer in return was the hope of salvation promised by our Lord.

We were blessed to witness this hope turn into reality for our dear father Frank near the end of his life. He had been battling cancer for over 7 years, and was brought in and out of the hospital countless times before finally surrendering his soul to the Lord.

THE STRUGGLE WITH DEATH

It was Saturday, January 8th, 2005, and Joyce, Vuthy, and I were all gathered by Frank’s bedside in the Massachusetts GeneralHospital. His bone marrow counts were a disheartening 90% cancer cells to only 10% normal cells. On top of that, the doctors discovered a new strain of bacteria in his blood that his weakened immune system could not possibly fight off.

Frank’s condition was so poor that the doctors made sure to recite him his “Death Rights”…if he wished to be kept on a breathing machine, if he wanted shock treatment should his heart fail, if he wanted to donate his organs, etc.

Hearing this grim reality left us in shock and silence. Another team of doctors came into the room to examine Frank, so Vuthy and I retreated to the visitor’s lounge area.

It had been a long and exhausting day beginning at twilight with a frantic 911 call and an ambulance rushing Frank to the emergency room. Frank had awakened from bed that morning gasping for air and yelled for help. He gave us quite a fright when we came into the room—his face was pale as a cadaver and he couldn’t utter any words, so we thought he might be having a heart attack. His condition finally stabilized at the emergency room, and he explained what had happened in his bedroom that morning.

He had a supernatural encounter with two spiritual beings. He discerned that one of them was God, but sensed that the second figure, whom he referred to as the “other guy,” was evil. He remembered questioning God why he still felt pain in his body if he was in God’s presence. God did not answer, but Frank soon realized that it was the “other guy” who possessed control over his pain.

The vision dispersed as Frank, suffocating and pale, called out for help and startled us out of bed. Frank understood that Satan had come for him that early morning, but God had mercy and prevented the Devil from taking his soul.

EXPERIENCING WHAT IS RECORDED IN THE BIBLE

Vuthy and I returned to Frank’s room shortly after the doctors had finished examining him and again sat in silence. Terribly saddened by the prospect of Frank dying before receiving Christ, all we could do was tearfully pray that God would once again have mercy on his soul. Frank broke the silence and said matter-of-factly, “Vuthy, you remember when we went to church that time, and you guys were chanting…I felt like wind and fire was going right through me.”

Vuthy jumped up off of his seat saying, “Why didn’t you tell us? You know how long we’ve been praying for you?” Frank was taken aback by Vuthy’s reaction. “I thought what I was feeling was strange, you know…so I didn’t say anything.”

Vuthy then grabbed the Bible and showed him the passage in Acts where the Holy Spirit came down on the Day of Pentecost and people felt a rushing wind and saw tongues of fire. Frank was amazed to see what he had felt in church several months ago being described exactly in the Bible.

Vuthy continued to explain the importance of receiving the Holy Spirit with regards to salvation and taught him how to pray for the Holy Spirit by saying “hallelujah”. We then all prayed together in the hospital room. After prayer, Vuthy continued to explain the biblical importance of receiving baptism in the name of Jesus Christ, and not the “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” like he had been baptized as a boy in the Catholic Church.

To our amazement, Frank was convinced and declared at that moment that he wanted to receive the true baptism once he got well. Even Joyce, who was born into the Greek Orthodox Church, was excited for him and agreed that he should get baptized once he recovered. Frank’s eyes moistened, as he understood how much God really loved him and was reaching out to him.

In the span of one hour, God had miraculously turned our hopeless tears of sorrow into hopeful tears of joy. Vuthy and I left the hospital with a peaceful heart and were truly grateful for God’s love and mercy, for God had this day spared our father’s life and given us a great glimpse of hope for his salvation.

Six months later, on July 10th, 2005, our wedding anniversary, our father Frank was baptized into the Lord Jesus. He continued to battle cancer, and had bad days and better days, but God gave him grace sufficient for each day. The last time Frank was well enough to attend church for Sabbath service, God blessed him with a beautiful vision—Frank saw the Lord Jesus in His glorious light walk right through the chapel door.

Frank will be fondly remembered for his storytelling, funny jokes, and warm bright smile. Although he is deeply missed, we can look forward to the day when this odd father and son pair will be walking together again, through the Gates of Heaven.

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Author: Vuthy and Ha Nol-Mantia
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