Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Quiet Girl in the Corner of the Room - Stories

Stories. The small stories in life reveal so much. Last year I told a few. I'm going to again:



When I spent a summer in China there was a girl in my small group who was so shy that for the first few days I thought she was my worst student and that she couldn't speak a word of English. By the end I knew that she was an artist, sweet and sensitive. My group talked of many things, family, romance, politics, ambition, and faith. They thought Jesus was an American.

It's been nearly three years since that summer. In those three years, the quiet girl who sat in the corner of the room became a believer, joined a house church, and was baptized. I stand amazed.  Sometimes faith in China still carries consequences. My friend was questioned by the leadership and was afraid, so she told them she wasn't a Christian. In the weeks following she was so convicted that she set up a meeting with the head of the college, professing clearly her faith in Jesus. Though she was in the top 10 students in the college, she was pulled off the list and denied approval to graduate. Thankfully someone fought for her and eventually her graduation was reinstated. I found out recently that she was granted a scholarship and just got to the US for an MA program here. She exudes joy and sweetness.

I am haunted by the mental picture of the quiet, pretty girl in the corner of my group years ago. I had no idea what was going on inside. Praise God that He sees those that are silent and that He claims souls as His own. It is too wonderful for me.

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I'd seen yelp reviews for Chinese pancakes made at my favorite Asian food court, and I stopped in just as they were closing. I was alone, waiting for my order to be finished when an older Asian couple walked up and were discussing the menu. I leaned in, curious as to why they seemed to be as unfamiliar with it all as I was, and realized they were speaking Indonesian. I jumped into the conversation and told them that I was also ordering these for the first time, and they were of course amazed to see an American face speaking Indonesian to them.

As it turns out, the man is a pastor, a church planter that's planted several Indonesian immigrant churches here in the US.

Months later we finally came to their Saturday night service, suprising everyone. It's a balm for my soul to sing the Indonesian songs, to worship in the style I grew up in. Afterward the small congregation gathered for Indonesian food, and I found myself at a table of young Indonesian women my age, telling jokes and laughing. In (mostly) Indonesian. To find that I can still navigate the language well and that I can fellowship in friendship, oh, it is a joy.

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I was at a conference with co-workers, and one of the older men that I barely know was at my table at a food court when we all scattered for lunch. A brief get-to-know-you conversation surprised us both as we discovered he grew up with my dad, same church, same high school, same social circles. The crazy thing to me is that they both speak with horror at the dysfunctionality of that church and my dad tells stories of the youth group having a seance while on a retreat. And yet, here are both of them, both gregarious and filled with a deep love for both God and people around the world. How did that happen, from a childhood in a church with no shepherding? I imagine an old woman, committed and praying despite the barrenness around her.

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A young delivery guy walked into our office  and was met by the founder of the organization.  John is a man I deeply admire that is filled with perhaps more love for God and more grace for those around him than just about anyone I've ever met. John wrapped his arm around the young man and gave him a little booklet he'd written about who this Jesus is that had changed John's life. To my surprise, the young man eagerly accepted the booklet and promised he'd read it and come back if he had any questions. A week later they walked into the office and the delivery guy said he realized he's been whole physically and psychologically but was empty spiritually. He walked out beaming, new born.

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10 years ago John set 10 year goals for the organization he'd started, goals that would guide the work, but the passion was always the same. "Pursue Jesus". In my six years here I saw all but one of those goals fulfilled. It was amazing because they were unlikely, audacious goals for a little organization. That last goal, no one knew if we'd hit it or not. Last week I realized as I added things together that these reports were through December, the end of those ten years. When I saw the total I teared up and found John, the one who prayed and wrote down that goal 10 years ago. John quietly responded, "Bless the Lord, oh my soul", and walked away singing quietly.

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