Post Title: Reaching for God in the Hard Places, Part 4
A Scheduled House Guest
Earlier in the year, a student I taught while working with the US Department of Defense in Taiwan contacted me via Facebook. He planned to visit the northeast part of the United States and asked if he could meet up with me. The plan had been for Mike and “Frank” and me to do some local sightseeing. Mike, or course, would drive.
Frank, his wife and I had kept in sporadic touch for years after that teaching gig. I had seen their kids when they were small and knew about them as they grew into adults and chose their careers. I hated to miss this opportunity.
Nancy phoned and reminded me I was in no position to host a house guest. “Tell him you have a critically ill brother and no transportation to show him around”, she urged. “Does he know you’re now legally blind?”
“I can’t remember if I told him or not,” I mumbled. I rubbed my forehead as I tried to decide what to do.
Working Out the Details
Finally, I just came clean with my longtime acquaintance. “Frank, my brother is really sick. I go to see him at the hospital every day and I work, too.”
As we discussed my current situation, Frank talked back and forth in Chinese to the friend he was staying with. It didn’t take him long to say, “It’s okay. No problem. I just want to see you. No need go anywhere. I can help you with your brother.”
Was God sending someone else to help me?
“Can you get a ride from Ohio to where I live in Pennsylvania? I don’t have a way to pick you up.”
After another short conference with his companion, a new plan took shape. “Yes, my friend can take me to you. See you in two day, my teacher, “
Even in his choppy, heavily accented English, his glee came through.
That joy lit my soul, and I recalled the many times our Chinese students had tacked on “dear teacher” to whatever they said as if my place in their lives was a high honor. I loved that about the culture.
As promised, late morning two days later, a dark car pulled into my front driveway. Frank jumped out and ran to hug me. “My sweet teacher, Amy!” Twenty-five years we no see each other. Now we can meet again. You look same. Very good, teacher.”
He didn’t seem to see my frizzy hair, outgrown or and needing a cut. or the bags under my eyes.
“You, too, look the same.” I meant it. He had such energy! I remember him waving his hand in class, wanting to answer my question. In the years after his retirement, he taught physical education to large classes of the youth. I recalled the photos, and the tags of this island or that one. Yes, same energy and smile!
He introduced me to his friend, an American who spoke fluent Chinese.
I shook his hand. As we chatted, I learned he had married a co-worker of Frank’s from Taiwan, and this “long-haired dictionary” motivated him to learn. We exchanged smiles.
“He not only learned Chinese, he married the dictionary!” Frank poked his friend, good naturedly. As my Chinese student’s warm laughter dispersed in the air, I wondered what the next few days would bring.
“How long did it take you to get here?” I asked them.
Frank looked at his watch. “About four hour.” He said something in rapid-fire Chinese to his friend, then confirmed “Yes, four hour. Teacher Amy, where I put my suitcase?”
After I got him situated in the spare room, he and his friend said goodbye. “He need to return to his long-hair dictionary.” Frank winked.
Heading to the Hospital
We took the Lift, public transportation for the disabled, into the hospital. Frank marveled. “America very good to have this service.”
I had shown Frank my white cane earlier and explained about my sight loss. “I have a condition that takes away my eyesight over time. Like a picture tube on TV that gets more and more blurry.” I kept my words simple.
“But teacher, no operation? Or glasses?” He looked sad.
“Not right now. Perhaps later with technology. Maybe one day your teacher will have bionic eyes.”
The Connection of a Shared Faith
“My honey and I can pray for you,” he said, by ‘honey,’ he meant his wife.
I wondered then if prayer is what held us together these many years. In a country where most followed Shinto or Tao beliefs, Frank and his family steadfastly followed Christ. Later I would have to ask him to remind me of how he converted.
The ICU Hospital
At the hospital, I explained the strict rules. “You have to sign in, always wear a mask, No food for guests allowed and if you have to go to the rest room, you must go down to the first floor.”
Mike, heavy-lidded, barely acknowledged Frank. My brother looked so sick lying there under several blankets. His cheeks, still puffy from rapid water retention, due to needing dialysis, made him look especially vulnerable to me. He had had dialysis that morning.
“Do you mind if I sleep? I feel so tired,” Mike said, his voice gravelly.
“No, no, you can go to sleep,” I said softly. “Let us know if you need anything.” My spirits sank as reality set in once again. Would it always be this way? I ached for my brother.
Having Frank with me made me feel a little better. Throughout the afternoon, my student raised or lowered the bed, offered him sips of water when he woke up and sat with him while his nurse updated me on the latest tests and his condition. Just having someone there with me helped my morale.
Early that evening, a friend drove us home. On the way, we stopped for some carry out Mexican fast food It was way too much for us to eat. We talked for a while; I poured out all my grief about my brother’s grave condition. Although I knew I spoke too fast and used too many big words for Frank to really understand, he never interrupted to remind me of this fact. He simply listened. And that’s what I needed.
Two More Days of Encouragement
In the morning, I woke up to Chinese pancakes with smiley faces drawn in ketchup. Full of energy, Frank had made his bed and took out a traditional flute and began to play it.”My teacher , can you guess this song?”
I listened for a little bit. Even though the chords had an Eastern overtones, I recognized the melody. “Is that Amazing Grace?”
“Bingo! You got it!”
After our hospital visit, the elder from my mother’s church picked us up and took us to eat dinner with the deacon and his wife. Frank charmed everyone with his enthusiasm. He had brought his flute along and played several songs. He even brought Chinese tea as a gift, which we drank.
Then we went to Bible Study at church. When they asked for prayer requests, Frank’s hand shot up. “I am Frank from Taiwan. My dear teacher need your prayer for her eyes and her brother. He is sleeping in the hospital. Very sick.”
I felt so touched.
After Bible Study, everyone gravitated toward my student. He told the story over and over again about how i had taught him so long ago. Everyone marveled we had kept in touch.
God, you brought us together for such a time as this. If we are willing to be used–and it was clear Frank was–God indeed uses us.
“I felt like a celebrity,” Frank said on our half-hour drive home with the elder. “Like a big movie star. Famous.”
The Pied Piper Brings Tea
At night, he treated my neighbors to more Chinese tea. We visited with them and he pulled out his harmonica and his flute. He played some traditional music and , of course, Amazing Grace as well. He seemed like the Pied Piper to me, charming everyone with his good will. He promised to teach Bill, Susan’s husband, the guitar, “next year.” Susan pronounced his tea, the best she had ever had.
The Final Morning
The next morning–our last together–I had an idea. My niece homeschooled her children. They had studied Asian culture six month prior. I had spoken to them about it from my time in Japan, Taiwan, and Indonesia. But how much more valuable it would be to hear from a real Asian! “Frank , can you talk to her kids?”
“I do my best, teacher.”
And so he did! He had a real knack for it, I realized, as he shared his culture. From the fourteen-year-old to the four–year-old, they listened with rapt attention. He closed his talk with this: “You must study hard. All the time. Then you can get a good job and visit Frank in Taiwan.” He slapped his knee with delight.
After that wonderful visit, it was time for Frank to leave. Yet another friend passed by and drove him to our local airport. Frank planned one last see before returning to Taiwan.
We took him to the airport that afternoon. I felt buoyed by his enthusiasm and bereft at the same time. I wished Mike could have enjoyed him more.
As we briefly hugged goodbye, my tears flowed. Franks said, with concern, “It’s okay, Amy, cheer up. Your brother gets better and better. I can see him good the next time.”
In the car with my friend, my tears flowed again. Would my brother be all right? Would he see Frank again? What kind of life would Mike have with dialysis? So many unknowns…
But of one thing I felt certain: God would never leave Mike and me alone to cope in the dark (so to speak). There would be no painful goodbyes with Him.
As my friend steered me home, I saw more than how we serve as God’s hands and feet. I recalled all the people Frank had impacted with kind words and endless flow of energy and warmth . At last, I smiled through my tears.
God , thank you!
I had one more visitor coming in one week’s time–this one from Marcelina teaching colleague. She was attending a long-ago college roommate’s daughter’s wedding in Cleveland, Ohio and planned to send a day with me before flying home to the west coast again.
Think back to when you felt desperately alone in a tough situation. How did God encourage you? Was it though a person or another way?
You have just read “Reaching for God in the Hard Places, Part 4” by Amy L. Bovaird. © June 29, 2023. All rights reserved.