20 July, 2010

A StarFish Story

"A young girl was walking along a beach upon which thousands of starfish had been washed up during a terrible storm. When she came to each starfish, she would pick it up, and throw it back into the ocean. People watched her with amusement.

She had been doing this for some time when a man approached her and said, “Little girl, why are you doing this? Look at this beach! You can’t save all these starfish. You can’t begin to make a difference!”

The girl seemed crushed, suddenly deflated. But after a few moments, she bent down, picked up another starfish, and hurled it as far as she could into the ocean. Then she looked up at the man and replied,

“Well, I made a difference to that one!”- adapted from the Star Thrower by Loren C. Eiseley

There are many nights that I fall into bed and begin reviewing my day. I play the day over in my head and think of what I accomplished, of how I spent the day. I try and think if there were any starfish that I helped throw back into the sea…just one?

Last week, some friends had English Corner in the student building at the University of Alabama. English Corner is a time Chinese students come to share a cup of coffee or tea and speak English with native American speakers. It’s always interesting and always well attended. Friday, we had a good group and enjoyed sharing life, laughing and visiting. Just as we were about to leave one of the students, Lan, told us that in two weeks she was transferring to another university to continue her studies. We were surprised. We had just met this young woman in May when she traveled with us to a retreat at the University of Memphis.

We planned the retreat hopeful that 6 to 8 Chinese women would travel with us to Memphis. We had 8 women agree to go and of that eight we only had previous relationship with two girls. We knew these women were God’s eight!

My friend Julie and I picked up these students on Friday and drove four hours to Memphis getting to know these brand new friends. We were with this group of women from 3:00 p.m. Friday until 3:00 p.m. on Sunday. During that time we visited several American homes, spent the night with American hosts, joined a University of Memphis Chinese dinner, visited Graceland (home to Elvis!), ate real Memphis BarB-Q, took a trolley car tour of downtown Memphis, had swimming lessons, cooking lessons, etiquette dining class, attended an American church service, witnessed baptism and heard personal testimony of Christ’s work in several women’s lives. For some of our students, this was their first ever introduction to the Person we call Jesus.

During the weekend, I had noticed the Lan was fully engaged and enjoying herself. She was especially attentive on Saturday night when we heard a very moving testimony from a woman who had suffered a great, great loss yet shared from her heart of Jesus’ grace and love. Lan was particularly disturbed by this testimony and asked many questions. She was angry at the losses incurred by this dear woman. She did not understand the cruelty of life and how a person could praise God for such a tragedy.

Several weeks later, I met the girls from our trip for lunch one day. We relived the trip, showed pictures, and had girl talk. There was nothing heavy or spiritual in the lunch time. We were just there, together, being friends. The only mention of spiritual matters was the comment that they still pondered the story of loss, tragedy and hope.

I long to tell you that there is a great ending to this story….a typical American, fairytale, happily-ever-after ending. The ending has yet to be revealed. I only know that God orchestrated Lan to go with us on the weekend to Memphis. He provided a way for her to hear of His great love and grace. When Lan and I said goodbye last week, I reminded her of our trip. I asked her to remember the stories, to remember the Word that was planted in her heart and mind that day. I asked her to continue pondering all she saw and the witnesses she heard. She assured me that she would. As we hugged, she said to me, “Kathy, I will never forget you”. And I will never forget her.

She is on her journey and I will probably never see her again this side of eternity. My heart aches for Lan to meet our Jesus. I pray she is one of the starfish we helped throw back….Will you throw some starfish today?

"...whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me" Matthew 25:40