Saturday, 8 September 2012

A Message

I don't even know her name, but I have been drawn to her since I first met her - was it the first day I went tiptoeing, nervous and late, into the little church I attend here? The services are all in Korean. I can't understand very much, except the readings and the songs and some of the prayers. I liked her because she was real, and gentle - I don't mean gentle as people usually mean it, soft and weak and meek; rather, she has a sort of humbled strength. I knew she wasn't judging me for coming late.
She always greets me with a hug - odd in Korea and for her age, so worth even more than hugs usually are - but I am not her charity project, nor a curiousity, though I can tell for most people it is strange and maybe even a little exotic to have a foreigner attending church alongside them. She travels from the city, and takes care of her sick parents-in-law, so there is no time for us to meet outside the worship hour on Sundays. We hardly know each other, and we know little of each other's lives. Yet we have an odd comfortableness between us - this middle-aged lady and me.
Today I went to greet her after the service, and she wrapped her arms around me in a way that is always a surprise in this land of physical reserve, and then spoke quietly and quickly. Her tone was urgent, as though there was time for neither preamble nor the usual hesitance - an acknowledgment that we are speaking a language I am still not very good at.
"I have been praying for you," she said in Korean, smiling and looking into my eyes. "Trust in the love of Jesus. He loves deeply and truly. Don't trust people. They will let you down."
I nodded and looked at her. She took my arm and steered me away from the people that stood near. She seemed unembarrassed to be speaking pointedly for no outward reason. She had a message to deliver, and she would deliver it.
"Jesus' love will never fail you. Look to him, not to people. They mean well, but they are flawed. Trust only him."
She went on, saying she wished we could meet, but she had to take care of her husband's parents. Her father-in-law has lung cancer. I could pray for him, she said. It was her "army time", she explained. Every man in Korea goes to the army for two years of conscripted service. It is a time of hardship and loneliness, as the rules are strict, and they are seldom given days off to visit friends and loved ones - but most come out better for their experience, and with a greater sense of responsibility. She was taking responsibility like a good soldier, despite the hardship. Yet she had time to pray for me and somehow understand what I needed.
It was time for me to go. She walked me to the door, then put on her shoes and walked with me to the elevator. I motioned for her to go back inside.
"No," she said. "I want to see you a little more. I lived abroad for four years, so I understand a little bit what it's like." She smiled broadly and with understanding. "Remember, I am praying for you."
The elevator came and I stepped in, grateful to her but nearly speechless.
How did she know?
Dear fellow-servant of the Living God. You gave me strength today.