15 May, 2011

In the Storm

We met four years ago in English Class. He immediately engaged us with his quick smile and laugh. It's absolutely true that among the English tutors he was a "favorite". We met weekly for English class, often had lunch, he ate in our home and even helped us move furniture on several occasions. We attended his graduation ceremony as he received his first Masters degree. He was not a Christ-follower and we had many interesting conversations throughout the years. But even though he had not yet made a decision of faith, I knew this friend was surrounded by other Christians pouring into his life.

The tornado that hit Tuscaloosa on April 27 was devastating as has been reported. We are a mere 18 days into the clean up that will take several years to complete. I dare-say most every citizen in Tuscaloosa has been a part of some recovery effort. It's been quite amazing to experience the service offered by so many people. One after-effect of the tornado has been the scheduling at the University of Alabama. Classes were called off and the semester deemed completed just days after the storm hit. Students left to go home and summer began early in T-town.

One day last week I realized this dear student might have already left for China as his academic study had been completed! It felt as though a son was leaving home and I hadn't said goodbye! I frantically emailed him and got no response. Days passed and still no message. Then finally an email popped up and it told me he was indeed still here and was leaving soon - could we meet?

We met on Tuesday as he was leaving for China on Wednesday. I anticipated a teary good-bye as I knew in all probability I would never see him again. When he arrived and we sat to chat I noticed his hands were scarred up. In asking him about this he told me he had been working in the tornado cleanup all week. Every afternoon for the last five days he had been working hard labor to clean off people's property. He spoke of the difficulty of the work and the heat and the people he met. He talked of people approaching the workers with free food and water....he was astounded. He talked of homeowners and their utter thanksgiving that their lives had been spared even as they stood on only the foundations of their former homes. He spoke of their utter loss of everything yet they gave thanks and prayed to God. Now he was really astounded. We spoke of 'bad things that happen to good people', we spoke of God's power, we spoke of those who were saved.

After a while, I asked him if he had yet made a decision to trust God with his life? "No, not yet," he replied. Why not today?, I asked him. After all you've seen, do you think God is calling out to you? After all you've learned of the Bible...is it time? Why don't you pray today?

We had this loving type of conversation before and he had always said, "I'm not ready" but that day, he said, "will you help me pray for I don't know the words". I was stunned. But there we sat in a TCBY, holding hands....a young Chinese man and a 50 year old woman praying to the God of the storm, to the God of the universe. As our prayer ended, he continued on his own. He confessed his need, his brokenness, his great desire to walk with God.

The tornado destroyed so many homes, business and lives. But some of those people who stood and praised God amidst the storm touched a young man's life. And he will never be the same. We will meet up in the heavenlies. I can't wait for you to meet him, his name is Shaw.

that in the name of Jesus every knee may bow -- of heavenlies, and earthlies, and what are under the earth --

and every tongue may confess that Jesus Christ [is] Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:10-11