We talked a bit about troubled teens - She spoke of a friend who fosters children through the government system, and the way she spends her life loving and caring for these kids. She shared about Korean culture and what it looks and sounds and feels like to be a teenager without the support of birth parents... in a Korean school, Korean classroom, Korean society. It was very moving, and it brought me back to the days when I first became a teacher.
I was 21 years old. My first teaching position was in a very unique place… a private, Christian school in Baltimore City for middle and high school students with a wide variety of learning disabilities and differences. Some of the students were from stable homes, but they were a minority. Many of my students were born into impossible lives. Some of them didn’t know their parents, many came from broken homes... divorce, multiple half- and step- siblings, cases of abuse, drug and alcohol use in the home, inner-city living conditions... As a very young, very naive and inexperienced teacher, I remember looking in their eyes and hoping and praying that somehow, in some way, they would just feel loved. That they could catch a glimpse of their value. Wondering if anything I was saying or doing was making a difference. There was not a whole lot of glory in that work. And maybe not a lot of outward fruit. But there sure was a lot of love. A lot of laughter, and an equal (or maybe greater) amount of tears. I think about these kids nearly every day, although of course they are no longer kids. I taught them almost 2 decades ago.
Only Heaven will show what happened in those days, those years. Seeds of Love were planted and it had to have some effect. It had to.
I enjoyed my time with these ladies so much. They were open and kind and made us feel welcome with the warmth of their conversation.
While we were talking, I heard a kind of buzz downstairs... lots of voices and movement. I imagined it was the film crew, or something related.
Someone said excitedly that Pastor Lee’s wife was here. She is here for a visit!
We stood up from the table, and I walked from the small kitchen back into the other room, hoping to have the chance to say hello. The door opened, and in she walked. To say walk is an understatement. She actually kind of charged in... marched directly to me and embraced me, full on. There was strength, purpose, confidence. I was trying to take in what was going on... again that feeling of “does she think I’m someone else?” crept into my mind.
There was a flurry of Korean, and we were swept back into the kitchen, back to our seats at the table.
She sat with us. She looked at me with a warm smile. I ate a strawberry.
I introduced myself, and told her a little about Mike and our family and our ministry in the Chinese Church in Budapest. I had absolutely not prepared for this moment, but after my visit with Pastor Lee, I felt charged, filled, ready for anything. I asked her if it would be all right to ask her a few questions about being a pastor’s wife.
“I’m new at this, and I would love some advice if you don’t mind...”
Skewer an apple slice. Crunch.
She shared from her heart about loving and serving with her husband. She used the same phrase that he used when we spoke earlier- “God’s work”.
I asked her, “Aren’t you ever afraid?”
Through translation, she answered something like this:
A fluttering of giggles rose from all four of us.
She went on to explain (from what I remember) two reasons why she is not afraid, although the work is huge and at times seems impossible.
First of all, she doesn’t have time to be afraid. Her days and nights are full of giving and serving and doing God’s work... she doesn’t have time to be afraid.
Secondly, she has had many experiences with God’s faithfulness. She has seen the impossible happen, and she is settled. She knows that everything is in God’s capable hands. Because of her history, her years of walking with God and seeing Him work, she is not afraid.
Wow. I really, truly, don’t think I’ve ever met someone who said they weren’t afraid and believed them, until this moment. Usually when someone says they’re not afraid, it feels like a kid who’s been cornered by a bully. With tears streaming down his face, at all costs, he sputters out.... “I’m not afraid of you!”
I never imagined that it would really be possible to face hard things and not be afraid. But as I listened to her, watched her eyes, felt her heart... I knew that it is possible. It doesn’t come easily - there is a great price to pay. Her confidence wasn’t cheap - it had come from years of intentional, repeated, learned trust. It had become habitual in the best way.
“What do you want me to pray for?”
Oh, man. Um, I could give you a long list...
After a pause, “Wisdom.”
She held my hands and gently laughed.
“That’s good. We all need that.”
We took a few photos together, and she embraced me several more times before leaving.
On the day that I was there.
During the short time I was there.
In the kitchen, with the fruit and the toothpicks, and... it still seems unreal.
Wendy and I have said many times since then... we couldn’t have planned that if we tried. How did it all happen? I mean, really.
I certainly can’t figure it out, but I’m super thankful. The words we shared at that table continue to inspire my heart every time I think of them.
(Final chapter to come soon...)