On December 13, 2009, I woke in the morning with the firm conviction that I had to make it to church. We hadn't been there since October. After my little one's Chuseok/Korean Thanksgiving Day fever seizure and the looming threat of swine flu with its high fever (and the high fever from its vaccine as well), we had been counseled by our pediatrician to remove our little one from all activities that brought him into contact with the public and to remove his older brother as well.
We dutifully kept both children home, taking them out very rarely and always with close supervision. So it was very unusual for me to get to church. I talked it over with my husband, and we eventually decided to go for the afternoon service which is fairly poorly attended and therefore held less risk of infection.
I don't remember much of the service; it was what came after that I now believe was the reason I was so compelled to get to church. My husband had come with my children and spent some time talking with Cindy and her little son JC who was coming up on his first birthday.
After much delay and tears over leaving the toys in the nursery, we finally headed toward home when my husband slowed the car way down.
"Isn't that your friend?" he asked. Puzzled, I contorted in my seat and cast my eyes up and down the sidewalk. Sure enough, Cindy was walking down the sidewalk with JC wrapped in a blanket.
"It's too cold for that baby!" Ilsuk would keep children in protective bubbles for the first eighteen months if they would allow him. He pulled the car over and, after brief argument, persuaded Cindy to get in with JC.
Her husband, it turned out, was taking a test that Sunday afternoon, and she was heading to her in-laws' apartment, a few miles from my husband's family's home where we were headed.
During the car ride, my boys were both entertained by and entertaining little JC. They made faces, played peek-a-boo, touched his hands, and stuck out their tongues in the typical Korean 메롱. JC was transfixed as he worked his tongue around in his little mouth, trying to 메롱 back.
I was in love. JC was always a special baby before, but he showed so much personality that day, such a loving playful spirit, combined with a name like my own children's, I felt like he was one of my own.
While they played, Cindy witnessed to my husband about God's goodness in their life and their upcoming trip to America.
We dropped Cindy at her mother-in-law's and headed a block to the main road before realizing that she had left her wallet in our car. Over the next forty-five minutes, we finally obtained her cell phone number, reached her, and returned the wallet.
A day or two later, my friend called me and said, "We need to pray for JC. He has eye cancer."
"WHAT?! We JUST saw him! He was so healthy!"
That very Sunday, Cindy had shown a church friend a little bump by his eye. The friend advised her to get him to the doctor immediately. It was cancer.
One problem with living in another country, especially if you are marked as foreign by your language and your skin, is that you never feel you quite belong. This can be even more isolating when you spend most of your time working in your home or caring for small children. You are disconnected. And it rarely seems to bother anyone but you.
I had been feeling especially that way since my children had been confined to my home. I had canceled almost every meeting with friends and seldom saw anyone.
Through JC and others, God taught me about connection. It was no accident that Cindy and I were put into closer contact that day. Over and over again, we would be prompted to one another.
I hesitate to write about this. Am I crazy? Am I putting too much emphasis on something that is not there? Or am I called to testify to the love of the Lord? There is too much coincidence. This is my testimony.
Time and again, God would bring others into the picture to pray, to be there, in supernatural ways. Can I remember the first time? No. But I would just know and send a text or an email. I would have a strong feeling, and Cindy would call and say, "How did you know?" But of course I didn't know. God knew. And he knew we were each feeling alone, and he was connecting.
Sometimes, it would just seem too crazy, and I wouldn't say. Like the time I really wished I could send money to them, feeling like they really needed it, praying for providence. Then a note came from Cindy: "Thank you for the money." My friend, whom I had not spoken to in quite a while, had sent it to them in my name. What moved us if not for God?
There was the time that I had been given a message for them at church: Psalm 42. I had brought my English Bible, but I could only find my Korean one. As I struggled to read along with the pastor, I suddenly knew these verses were for Jimmy and Cindy and they needed my prayers. I was busy. I prayed, but I buried the feeling. I didn't want to admit this. It was too strong, too strange, too scary. JC felt like my own child. How could I deal with an illness like this? How could they? What words could I possibly have that were appropriate? It is one thing to pray. It is another to tell.
So I didn't tell. But as I was thinking about JC and praying with a friend, she suddenly began praying for "A child not yet named." I knew it was JC. I told her. We prayed together, and I finally emailed Cindy. A day or two later, I was meeting another friend preparing to pray. I was telling her about JC. Midsentence, Cindy called. She apologized and said she would let me go, but I said, "No, Cindy. My friend and I were getting ready to pray and I was telling her about you. If this isn't God, then what is?"
She told us what was happening--how God had alerted me of those verses as he had alerted Cindy to get up and take JC to the hospital. My other friend began to praise God for the privilege of being allowed to see his hand.
So many other things have happened. I have had so much hope for JC. Then, on Wednesday morning, I began to cry at the kitchen sink as I washed the dishes, thanking Jesus for Cindy's new baby. I didn't hear anything about JC. I was overwhelmed. I assumed JC was healed, whole.
Yesterday afternoon, I had a call from Cindy. She gave me her news, both hope, peace, and longing. There is new life within her, but JC was called home to the Lord on Wednesday.
I cannot fathom their mixed emotions, cannot grasp the hope and despair. Yet I thank God for their strength and their witness. I do not want to walk the road that they have walked, and yet Christ within them has lit that way with brilliant, blinding light.
I wonder where my God is. I wonder how I could have misheard so badly. I was so certain. And yet, God's hand is here. I can see him even though I don't know where he is going.
This is the word of my testimony. I have seen God's goodness in the land of the living. For twenty-seven months, we were blessed with JC's presence. For the last fifteen months, God has shown me that neither time nor distance can separate us from his love. He will never forget us nor forsake us, and he will work wonders so that we know he is there.
I told a friend what had happened minutes after I ended my call with Cindy. "Why did I feel such hope if this was the end?"
"Oh, no, Elizabeth," she said. "God is not done yet."