Monthly Archives: June 2012

The Rest of the Story: Part III

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This is the continuation of our story… to read how we met, read here.  For Part I of The Rest of the Story, read here, and Part II here

Normal life for these guys

Part III

Valentine’s Day.  I spent the day teaching small children and the school hours dragged on as if nothing important was going to happen when the bell rang.  I tried to calm the butterflies in my stomach and somehow resisted the urge to tell every soul I bumped into that some handsome hiker on the other side of the world was ‘having something delivered’ to me today.
Finally, my little red Honda Civic pointed back towards Metairie and upon pulling into the driveway of the house my roommate and I shared, I spotted a large box resting against the front door.  No one was home.  I got out of the car and tried to make myself walk calmly to the door.  It was a tall box and had “1-800-Flowers” printed on it in green letters.  I squealed and let myself in the door and carried the box to our small kitchen table.

Carefully opening the box I found a dozen red roses and a box of chocolates… and a note, which read: 

“I’m sure you have a lot of offers to pilfer through today, but… would you be my Valentine?

If I remember correctly, I literally jumped up and down in the kitchen.  

One of the many Special Deliveries that followed the First One

It took me a while to settle down and I went for a drive.  That evening I wrote him an email to let him know I had received the flowers and I thanked him, throwing in, “of course I’ll be your Valentine :)”

Within a day he wrote me back.  He was happy I had received my gift.  The first few paragraphs of the email didn’t contain any life-changing news or marriage proposals, or confessions of his undying love for me… just chit chat.  In fact, it seemed a bit generic and the tone of the email confused me at first, until I realized something… the first letter of every line of the email was capitalized – even when it was not the beginning of the sentence.  It was a code, and when read from top to bottom, it said, 

I giggled at his creativity and at once set out to match it.  I responded in like manner with a light little email, making sure to capitalize the last letter of every line.  My message retorted:


In his responding email he was happy I’d found his secret note.  He mentioned that he was about to travel again, and would be ‘out of pocket’ for a few days, but then once arriving in Malaysia, he would call me from his supervisor’s house.  

“Oh, and by the way, your Mom gave me the phone number to your house… I needed it when I ordered the flowers.”

One of the many photos we exchanged during our emailing.

Call me??  He’d been co-horting with my mother?

One evening about a week later, my roommate and were arriving home from eating at her parent’s house around the corner and the telephone was ringing…

{Yes, this was back in the day when people had phones inside – and confined to – their homes.  Most of the time they were ‘cordless’, but sometimes they were even attached to the wall.}

It must have rang several times before we came in the front door, because we soon heard a manly voice on the answering machine…

I sprinted to pick up the phone and caught him before he hung up. Boy, was I happy to hear that voice! I took the phone to my room and sat on the carpeted floor to talk with him.  We chatted for a few minutes about daily life and how his trip to Malaysia was going.  Then the conversation took a turn.

“Okay, I have a question for you,” he said.

“Alright,” I responded, trying to sound like an educated, laid back adult, rather than the giddy little girl I felt like inside.

“If I were there in the States, and asked you on a date, would you go out with me?”

A date?

I could have readily accepted a marriage proposal from this man – on the spot – and he was wondering if I would accompany him on a hypothetical date?  I mean, wasn’t that kind of implied in the “of course I’ll be your Valentine”?  

I wanted to joke with him and say, simmer down, now- you’re moving a bit too fast.  But I refrained, and I my silence must have been too lengthy, because he suddenly asked, “are you still there?”

“Yes!” I said, gathering myself.  

“Yes, of course I’d go on a date with you.”

I’d follow you around the world and back again.

{That last part was just in my head.  Thankfully.}

“Oh good,” he said.  “You were so quiet I thought maybe I had misread you.”  

We talked more and he told me he’d sure like to take me on that date, but alas – I was here and he was there… he told me what a remarkable and Godly woman he thought I was.  I pretty much melted into my lavender carpet.  We decided to try that new-fangled thing: instant messaging.  It wouldn’t always work, depending on where he was and what kind of computer and/or connection he could access, but we were both excited at the prospect of being able to communicate more often in ‘real time.’ 

Before I knew it, the minutes had raced past us, and it was time for the phone call to end.  Oh how I didn’t want to say goodbye to that voice….

My Room… Sending him a photo of my new glasses

From there it snow-balled.  Again.

Over the weeks and months that followed we continued to email back and forth, and chat online as much as possible, sometimes keeping me up late at night, only to have to drag myself out of bed to go teach my students early the next morning.  

More flowers came.  And presents.  A John Piper Book, or two… a Passion CD, or five… a pretty necklace… 

His photos were never boring
By March we had ‘defined the relationship’ as being a couple, and by May we were pretty serious.  All the while, I continued through the application process with the IMB to join the team for two years and be on the ground there in China by September… but I was in for a surprise
(To Be Continued)

The Rest of the Story: Part II

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Me ‘Back Then’: usually hanging out at home with my roomie at our rental house in New Orleans

Part II

One evening, after teaching all day, I arrived home – exhausted as usual.  Preschoolers can wear you out.  Preschoolers with autism (aka: bundles of unbridled energy) can seriously wear you out.  My roommate and I probably had the usual for dinner: either take-out of some variety or some version of mac & cheese and party sausages.  {This was years before I knew my way around the kitchen.}

Late in the evening I checked email on my laptop and found a message from an address I didn’t recognize at first.  I opened it to find a short and cheerful note that read something like:

“Hi there!  During my most recent hike Dad and I were talking about you (translation: I was praying for you), and I just wanted to encourage you as you prepare to come to the Big Country…”

I checked the email address and his last name twice to make sure it was definitely the Handsome Tour guide.  It was!  My stomach did a flip.  In the email he mentioned that of course he remembered me and B.  He asked about life in the Big Easy and what had I been up to lately?
What had I been up to lately?  Did he want to start a conversation?

Let me take a moment to remind my readers: this was back before texting was global.  Instant Messaging was just coming on the scene, but most folks communicated through good old-fashioned email.  😉

I sent him a message back, telling him that my days were filled with teaching, and that my roommate and good friends had just thrown me a surprise birthday party….

A few days later, another email: he wanted to know what I did for my birthday… I told him how we played a lazy game of b-ball in the backyard (one of my de-stressing activities in that season of my life), and then went to an indoor rock-climging gym and ended the evening with some cake and mint chocolate chip ice cream.

A few days later, there was another email: he couldn’t believe it – He loves basketball, rock-climbing, and mint chocolate chip ice cream!
From there, it snow-balled.

On any given week he might be near a computer for a few hours at a time, and then back in the middle of nowhere for days.  So conversations were sporadic, yet constant and persistent.  Over the next few months we learned about each other’s families, upbringing, likes, dislikes, walk with the Lord…
Jeff ‘Back Then’: usually hanging out with his ‘roommate’ and hiking partner in the middle of nowhere
We grew up 4 hours apart.  We were both involved in youth ministry for years… it’s quite possible we attended the same conferences or camps and never ran into each other.  

I went to a small Christian school where I worked through ACE Paces in high school, and my Mom was the class monitor.  
He went to a small Christian school where he worked through ACE Paces in high school and his Mom was the class monitor.

Every email was long.  Very long.  Often filled with encouragement, exhortation, lessons from the Word, and tales of their travels.  And questions.  Lots of questions.

With every email I felt my heart fall deeper in this thing – was this a good idea?  I still had no idea what this guy’s intentions were.  But at one point – when he mentioned I was probably beating off boys with a stick, I read it to my roommate and said, “is this guy flirting with me?!”

By December I was certain that I wanted to be with no one else.  But I still had no confirmation of his feelings for me. Just a hint here and there.
Like a good Baptist girl, I prayed for confirmation, and I ‘put out a fleece,’ so to speak.  I prayed for Jeffrey to make his intentions known… and I prayed for flowers.  

Flowers?  Why on earth did I ask for that?!  Gracious, the boy lives in China – how is he going to send me flowers?  I’m doomed.

Two months flew by and the sporadic yet constant emailing continued.  He, on the other side of the globe; me sitting at my laptop in my little New Orleans home.  He wrote while I slept, so checking for his letters was one of my morning routines (or happened late at night.)  One Wednesday evening {February 13th, to be exact} I was at my parents’ house, answering one of his emails on their computer because I’d driven there to attend church and eat dinner with them.  I mentioned in my email that I was at their house… several hours later, after driving back to New Orleans, I received a message from him just before bedtime…

He was disappointed to learn that I was at my parents’ house… because he had arranged for something to be delivered to me the following day

…. the following day, on Thursday…

… the following day, on Thursday, February 14th…

the following day, on Thursday, February 14th, Valentines Day!!!

I was reading this at midnight, but when I realized the implications of what he said, I had to tell someone! I went into my roommate’s room, sat on her bed, woke her up, and shared what I’d just read.

Yes, I feel kind of bad now for doing that, but not too bad, since there were several nights in college when she pulled the covers off me and dragged me from slumber to go hang out with friends or study at Pit Grill ’til 2 am.
She was excited for me, and went back to sleep.

And somehow I slept.  But the next day, school hours couldn’t go by fast enough, as I tried not to constantly wonder if and how and when would there really be something delivered from the Handsome Hiker from across the big sea…
(to be continued)

The Rest of the Story

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Jeff and I just celebrated 11 years since the day we met, and I wrote about it here on the blog… this is the continuation of that story, for those who are interested…

Part I
I was alone in my thoughts.  A road trip was always good for that.  The nose of my little red Honda Civic was pointed back towards New Orleans, and with my parents’ house in my rearview mirror, I would have a good hour to think.  New Orleans was home – for now.  No longer able to afford seminary classes, I was a full-time preschool teacher for autistic children, working as a behavioral therapist in my off-hours.  Most weekends I would hit the interstate back to Mom and Dad’s house for some down-time and good home-cooked meals in the house where I grew up.  It was a comforting refuge.

My Dad and me at my Parents’ Home

It has been weeks since B and I returned from our short trip to China.  I hadn’t thought much about Jeffrey, the handsome missionary tour guide.  I wasn’t likely I’d ever see him again, so what was the point?  I still struggled what was next in life, and how to balance patience with obedient leaps of faith.

As I drove the long stretch of highway I thought.  Prayed.  Listened to music. And a quiet knowing came upon me again.  A definite nudging.  A Word.  It’s time now.

For two years I had been longing to go back to China – and not for short-term trips.  But the Lord had definitely not opened any doors for me to move there.  But now, for the 2nd time in 2 weeks, I felt the Lord urging me to go… giving me the green light to begin my process with the IMB.

And now I felt torn.  I most definitely wanted to go… but I was terrified to do it alone.  And more than that, I didn’t feel called to do it alone.  Somehow I just knew I was made to be a partner, a wife, a mother, a helper.  I knew I was supposed to do this married, not single.  And yet, there was no one.  And yet, here He was calling me to go… was I missing something?  Was HE forgetting something?

It’s time now.

For the 2nd time in 2 weeks, I answered, I don’t think I can, Lord.

I know you can’t.  But I can.

Okay, Lord.  I’ll do it.


A few weeks later, I sat at my laptop, staring at the screen.  

For a few months I had been receiving Jeffrey’s newsletters from that little city I loved, nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas in Southwest China.  He had asked for mine and B’s email addresses so he could send us his newsletters and we could pray for him and his teammates and the work being done there.  Now, since I had begun the process for moving overseas to join his team, I wanted to ask if he would pray for me in the process, and give me any helpful advice.

I was quite sure he wouldn’t remember me, so I began the email with:

“Hi Jeffrey.  Not too long ago my friend B and I met you at the Mao Square, and you took us to see the glacier… I don’t know if you remember us… B was the funny one – and I’m the other girl. :)”

I kept my email short and light, just stating the facts and hoping he would indeed pray for me and send back any advice he had to offer.

It wasn’t long before I heard back…

11 Years Ago

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Eleven years ago today, I met my husband. Last year, I wrote about it here, on the blog, in a 4-part series.  I’m re-posting it today, for your reading pleasure (with a few pictures from that actual day), then tomorrow I will pick up where I left off last year and continue our story.

The Cobblestone of Old Town

June 22, 2001…
Part 1
It was summertime in China. I woke up to a drizzle outside. I would learn later that it was rainy season in this rugged and beautiful Chinese town. I loved this town. Parts were old, with winding cobblestone walkways and a meandering little creek, and parts were new, with modern buildings and busy streets. I loved the dark faces. I loved the older grandmas, wearing the traditional garb of the ancient people group. I loved the sounds of the Chinese folk music coming from shops. I loved the clean air and the mountain in the distance. It was nearing the end of my 2nd trip to this region.

My love of the ‘Big Country’ had started two years earlier on my first trip, after I graduated college in 1999. That trip lasted 6 weeks. I was hooked. The following summer I joined up with a group from seminary taking a 2 week trip to this beautiful region, and then again – during this particular summer, in 2001, here I was.

This time with no group. Just my friend B. (I won’t mention her name, so I can protect her innocence, or her guilt, whatever may be the case!) :) Actually, B now works full-time in a different area of SE Asia, so that’s why I won’t mention her real name.
Anyway, just me and B. What a ride it had been. Two young single seminary students traipsing halfway across the world. B was bold and energetic, and used to doing crazy things like preaching from the rooftops in Brazil, where she usually spent her summers. But for some reason, this summer God had laid it upon her heart to journey with me to the southwest region of China. As for me, I had known God wanted me back in that town that summer. So I was going, even if I was alone. But I wasn’t. I had B.
Even though I wasn’t alone, I felt pretty alone that trip. There was something heavy going on in my heart. I thought about this as B and I waited that morning, standing in the square in the middle of the new part of town. We’d had an adventurous few weeks, and some of our plans for helping the team living there had been squashed, since we both came down with the giardia parasite.

So on this next-to-last day in town, my friend K, the team leader, arranged for a guy on the team to show us around town, take us to the nearby glacier, and de-brief us. Just a fun day. When we talked to K the previous day, he told us to go to the square the following morning, where the big statue of Mao stood, and look for a tall guy named Jeff.
He’d be hard to miss, for sure. A tall white guy in a sea of shorter black-headed people.
So there we were, B and me. Standing in the drizzle at Mao Square, each of us lost in our own thoughts. The rain had made me more melancholy, but I hoped the day would distract me from my burden.
B spotted Jeff before I did. I turned to see a tall, good-looking guy, wearing the coolest hat I’d ever seen, heading straight for us.
It’s a shame I don’t remember the first words ever spoken between us. All I actually remember is thinking something akin to gracious, he’s good-looking… Just act normal and for goodness sakes, don’t stare at him!

I’m sure we must have introduced ourselves. Then we quickly made our way to a bus, and before I knew it we were seated and on our way to the outskirts of town. Jeff whipped a clear plastic bag out of his backpack and produced a half-dozen small bao zi (steamed buns with a seasoned mushroom mixture inside.) He was already speaking my love language. Mo gu bao zi are my favorite!
“I didn’t know if you’d had breakfast,” he said.
I tried not to take note of how thoughtful the gesture was.
Small talk ensued, as this guy made light work of getting to know our stories. I let B do most of the talking. Partly because I didn’t want to say anything to look dumb in front of our new tour guide, and partly because I was trying to settle my melancholy thoughts so I could enjoy the day. And partly because B is talkative and lively and a joy to be around. She can talk to anyone with ease, so it was just natural to let her take center stage – a place I rarely like to be.

Be and Me on the way to see the Glacier

Soon we stopped at a station where we were to rent jackets for the next part of the trip up to see the glacier. Jeff rambled off enough Mandarin to rent our jackets, and he had to sign his Chinese name. As I stood beside him at the counter, I leaned in closer, interested to see how well he could write Chinese characters.

I was surprised to see that I recognized the first character he wrote. I knew it because two years earlier I had learned to write my chinese name, Mu Lan, in characters. I most definitely recognized the character ‘Mu’ and was so surprised to see him write it, that I blurted out, “Mu”. He looked at me bewildered. 

“When I taught English to students in xing jiang, they gave me the name Mu Lan,” I explained. “They gave me a name that was easy to write.” 

He smiled.
I tried not to take note that we had the same Chinese surname.

Part 2

Once Jeff signed off for his two white-girl guests, we were off again, this time in a gondola, riding up to the base of the glacier.

I actually don’t remember much of the ride, except trying to pay more attention to what I was seeing outside the gondola, instead of sneaking peeks at someone inside the gondola.
At some point during the bus ride and the gondola ride, we learned that Jeff was a backpacker. His role on the team consisted of a lot of hiking on long trips, and searching things out. He learned that both us girls had a heart for missions, and that I particularly felt drawn to this town – this people group, whereas Latin America was more B’s style.
Once we were out of the gondola, at the base of the glacier, Jeff cautioned us to take it slowly. The air was thinner up here, and we still had a good way to travel by foot – uphill on wooden steps – to get a close, and breathtaking view.

B took off in a fury, as she is want to do most anything in life. She just tackles it. I took a bit more time. After all, our lungs were used to thick and muggy New Orleans air, below sea level. I’m surprised we didn’t pass out from altitude sickness.
We meandered our way to the top, weaving past Chinese tour groups, all dressed in matching yellow t-shirts, sporting matching yellow umbrellas- until we made it to the top to see the breathtaking view.
Only, there wasn’t one.
It was so foggy that day, the glacier was completely hidden. I’d seen close-up pictures of the glacier before, and here was our handsome tour guide pointing to where it was, right there in front of us, but all we could see was a wall of thick fog… It was a little eery to think that something that huge and beautiful and majestic was just a few yards from our faces and we couldn’t even see it.
Taken the day we met… wearing the coolest hat I’d ever seen…
standing in front of the glacier we could NOT see.

Jeff apologized that we had come that far, and maybe he thought we were disappointed, but we weren’t. We all stood to rest for a few minutes on a large, wooden platform. Maybe Jeff thought if we waited a bit the fog would clear. No matter. I was happy to be there.

Once again, he pulled off his backpack and unzipped it, pulling out more treasures. Mini cans of Pringles, and a few snickers bars. (Some of the few ‘Western’ treats you can buy in that Chinese town.)
“I thought you might be hungry when we reached the top, and you’ve used up a lot of energy walking up in this altitude, so you need to replenish,” he said.
He had thought of bringing provisions for us? This time I purposefully took note of the thoughtful gesture… And the hint of leadership in his character…
We happily ate our snacks in peace and began to make our way back down the wooden steps, careful not to slip.
Somehow the ride down was a blurr – the day was going by too quickly. I wondered if Jeff would leave us at the end of the bus-ride back to town and head back to his rugged, back-packer life.
We crowded onto the bus, B and I sharing a bench seat with a few Chinese tourists, and Jeff positioning himself sideways so he could talk with us a bit more. He dug a little deeper into the conversation, asking questions about where we came from, and what we see ourselves doing in the future. I knew well enough that he was partially debriefing us, for we were at the end of our trip to that region. But it seemed he was personally and genuinely interested as well.
We had to be careful in conversation, since it was probable that many folks sitting around us could understand English. And well, if we went off spatting about how we wanted to spread the Gospel and see many converts for Jesus, … Well, things may not end well. So, much of our conversation was sprinkled with ‘code’ words.
Soon, the rowdy back row of Chinese guys and gals pushed forward in their seat and wanted to practice their English with us. It took about 2 seconds for us all to realize one of the guys was flirting, and then he asked if B or I were married or had a boyfriend. I think B said she didn’t need a boyfriend… And I – hating this kind of attention – stated that I had a boyfriend already, hoping they would leave us alone and my face could turn back to it’s normal shade.
As soon as “I have a boyfriend,” left my lips, my immediate string of thoughts went something like, Oh no, now he thinks I have a boyfriend…. Like it matters… What am I crazy? Who cares? No, I can’t leave him thinking I have a boyfriend.
So just in case, I quickly added, loud enough for Jeff to hear, “Yeah, my boyfriend’s initials are JC.”

Lame, I know.

B laughed.

I felt pretty dumb.

But there was no back-paddling at that point. And the message was there, and I was pretty sure Jeff was smart enough to pick it up.
The bus raced on down the bumpy road and the rowdy back seat turned back to themselves. And our conversation picked back up again. Jeff explained that we were headed to the university on the outskirts of town, where he and some of the other team members lived and studied Mandarin – he thought we might like to see the school.
I was very interested to see the school, since I had been asked before by the team supervisor if I wanted to move there and join the team. And I was happy to know that our time with our friendly, inquisitive tour guide wasn’t ending just yet.
“And K & S (team leaders) made spaghetti for lunch for us,” he added.
We hopped off the bus and begin to make our way to the school, walking through a tall gate, and meandering down a walkway, around a few buildings, to the foreign students’ dormitory.
K and his wife S were already dear to my heart. At this time, they had no children (they now have five) and they always have been a shining example of Godliness during every moment I have spent with them.
B and I helped fix plates and we all sat down at the round table that took up most of the space in K & S’s small, semi-outdoor kitchen. (Kitchens were separate from dorm rooms & suites.) The air was perfect, though flies buzzed all around. (I soon learned this was fly season.) A strip of sticky tape hung from the ceiling in the corner of the room, and at least 50 flies were stuck to the tape.
I admired the meal that S had prepared for us. Delicious spaghetti with bread and butter and salad. At that time I knew little of what kind of hard work it took to make an American meal like that, but I still admired it.
The meal was lovely and I was happy that K & S took over most of the conversation, so that I wouldn’t have to fight off blushing and squirming every time Jeff looked my direction. Soon, lunch was finished and Jeff announced that we were off on another adventure. But first, he had to retrieve something from his dorm room, which was a few yards from the kitchen. He invited B and me to follow.
Jeff pushed back the fly-netting, which I then noticed was in front of every room door, and turned the key in the lock. We followed him in, leaving the door open, but letting the fly netting fall back into place. He went over to the laptop on the desk and began telling us about the newsletter that he would regularly write and email back home to friends and family.
“Do you girls want to be on the mailing list?”
Of course we did!
He wrote down each of our email addresses. I tried not to smile too much when I told him my email address: “write_mulan@…”
I tried not to wonder if this were his was him finding a way to stay in contact with us…
Then it was time for the next adventure.
“Okay, I want to take you to play my favorite game here in town,” he said. “We call it Road Rage.”
We both gave him inquisitive looks.
He walked over to a built-in closet and opened the door.
“But first we need these,” he said
B and I peered into the closet and watched as he pulled out…. a gun?

Part 3

“Okay, I want to take you to play my favorite game here in town,” he said. “We call it Road Rage,” Jeff grinned.
We both gave him inquisitive looks.
He walked over to a built-in closet and opened the door.
“But first we need these,” he said
B and I peered into the closet and watched as he pulled out…. a gun?

Sure enough, along with the clothes, shoes, and backpacking paraphernalia, were several guns of various sizes. It reminded me of my Daddy’s gun cabinet back home in south Louisiana – only these were plastic air guns.

“Some of the other guys and I found these in the market,” he explained, picking out two pistols and stuffing them in his backpack. “They work great for warding off rats in the dorm,” he continued. “But they’re also great for playing Road Rage… do you like go-karts?”

Are you kidding me?

I, for the record, love go-karts. (I even drove one when I was pregnant with Carson – shh, don’t tell.)

I tried not to act too giddy.

We followed him out of his room, and out the dormitory gate, and meandered back to the school entrance where we were happy to find a small red cab, waiting for passengers. Following Jeff’s lead, we piled inside the dusty backseat of the cab.

Without turning around, the driver inquired in a gravely voice, “shemma?”

Jeff rattled off something in Mandarin, and we were off, racing down the dirt road that lead from the university back to the newer, busier part of town.

There are no seat-belts in Chinese cabs. And sometimes there seem to be no traffic rules, either, as drivers speed, and then stop fast, or whip around another car or pedestrian – and everyone honks. Constantly. But even this early in my China-season, I was accustomed to public transportation, and just held on for the ride.

We soon stopped and jumped back out of the cab while Jeff paid the driver. The establishment looked nothing like Celebration Station, or any other similar place in the States. It was just a concrete lot with some beat-up go-karts and some tires and concrete blockades. I was pretty sure it was not at all safe, and I was anxious to get behind the wheel.

Jeff explained the rules of the game, which were ridiculously simple:

Aim at your opponent.
No head-shots.
Oh, and try not to wreck the go-kart.

If memory serves me right, I believe Jeff offered to let us ladies go first. Then it was B vs. the Tall Tour Guide. Then I was up again. Jeff was in one kart, and I was in another… since it wasn’t exactly a race to the finish, we put some distance between us and then Jeff started shooting pellets my direction. I was laughing so hard I could barely keep the steering steady, but I held tight and shot a few pellets in his direction, fairly certain that one of them hit him. Then he reeled around and shot me right in the leg!

By the end I just couldn’t contain my laughter. If this guy’s assignment had been to help us have a good day and some stress relief, he had certainly met his goal.

We decided to park the go-karts and head off by foot to the older part of town. My face hurt from laughing so hard.

“I want to take you to my favorite restaurant in Old Town,” he said. “They have the best chicken schnitzel and they even have chocolate banana milkshakes.”

Well, count me in!

It would take a while to walk into Old Town, and Jeff started up conversation again, somehow getting B and me to tell him stories of our life in New Orleans,… how we had become friends,… what the seminary was like… what we liked to do in our free time. I talked more than I did earlier in the day, but still let B take the lead, since she is so funny, and much more entertaining. Jeff laughed at our stories and asked more questions as we weaved around hundreds of locals, cut through alleys, and crossed streets.

We followed him across a major intersection to get to the large sidewalk leading to the entrance of Old Town. We kept walking and talking. We passed the giant water wheel and along with the sound of rushing water, I began to hear the melody of the flute-like folk music coming from Old Town shops. The concrete beneath our feet became cobblestone as we left the busy-ness of New Town. One of the things I love about Old Town is that everyone is on foot. It’s a rule. You cannot drive a car or ride a bike in Old Town; you must walk.

And walk we did, but not much farther.

A few minutes after hitting cobblestone, we slowed our pace, and Jeff came to a stop, proudly extending his arm towards the place, to show we had arrived.

“This is my favorite restaurant in Old Town,” he said with a grin. Like every place around it, Jeff’s favorite restaurant was a small, rugged, split-level wooden structure. It was old and quaint. A small stream separated the building from the street, and we walked across a small wooden walkway, into the restaurant.

Jeff said something to the smiling waiter, (he was probably the cook and the owner as well) and then headed up the steep wooden steps to the upper level. B and I followed, and then sat with him at table on the balcony, overlooking the stream below.

B smiled at me and looked happy to be there and I silently agreed. I loved the setting, and thought I couldn’t be in a happier place.

I had no idea how the conversation about to take place would change my life forever.

Part 4 (Finale’)

We had only been seated a few seconds when a sweet local girl walked up to take our order. Jeff suggested that we needed to try the chicken schnitzel and of course, we all needed a chocolate banana milkshake. Off she went to put in our order, and we were alone again at our table. B was sitting close to the balcony railing, admiring the view, and Jeff was directly across from me.

Me sitting at the same restaurant two years later…
With a Chocolate Banana Milkshake

A small bowl of sunflower seeds was on the table – the rugged-China version of chips and salsa, or basket of bread. We took turns grabbing seeds from the bowl as we chatted, and Jeff nonchalantly spit his shells on the floor from time-to-time, as is the custom. Each of us had our own bottled beverage we had picked up at a small shop along our walk. The drinks weren’t cold, since cold beverages are such a foreign concept (and considered unhealthy) in many Asian and European countries, but it didn’t matter. I found everything about that dinner refreshing.

Soon our food appeared, and we dug into our chicken schnitzel. And as promised, it was delicious. The milkshakes were very different than what is served in the States, but surprisingly yummy. Jeff finished his meal and sat back in his chair, with a determined air about him.

It was time for some serious debriefing.

Turning to B, he asked her to sum-up her trip and share what she was planning to do in the near future. She shared with him her difficulties with culture shock upon arriving in Asia, which is so vastly different than anything she had experienced in Brazil. And she said that while she was certainly glad God had brought her on this trip, she definitely thought she’d be doing work long-term in Brazil, where she was fluent in the language, and already had established contacts with the people. (Note: I don’t know if B ever went back to Brazil. She’s been serving in Asia longer now than all the time I spent there combined. God is funny that way.)

I listened, sipping on my runny milkshake.

Jeff turned my direction and smiled. My turn.

“Now let me ask you something,” he started. “I hear you tell me that Father has called you into this work…”

“Right,” I answered.

“And I hear you tell me that you’ve come to this country several times, and this is your 2nd time in this region…” he said.

“Yes, ” I answered.

“And I hear you tell me you love this people group, and your heart is here…” he continued.

“Right,” I said.

I tried not to take note that he’d been listening so well all day.

“And so… why aren’t you here full time?” he asked.

I paused nervously, and looked down towards the cobblestone street.

I didn’t want to tell him what my struggle really was. If I did, he would surely think I was weak. B knew. And she didn’t understand. She was stronger, more independent. She knew the burden on my heart, and I sensed that she was impatient with me for it.

I opened my mouth, fully prepared to lie to Jeff and give him an answer that would satisfy his curiosity and close the door on that conversation.

But before I could get a word out, I heard the Lord clearly say to my spirit, Tell him the truth.

And then I looked him straight in the eye and the truth came spilling out…

“Honestly, I don’t want to do it alone,” I said.

He put his chair back on all four legs and leaned in on the table to listen.

“Yes, I do feel like Father has called me to do this work, but I struggle with this,” I continued. “Because I don’t feel like he’s called me to do it alone.”

“I see,” he said, waiting for me to say more.

“I believe he’s called me to work alongside a husband, for our family to do the work together… but here I am as a single woman, and Father hasn’t brought a husband into my life yet… so while I don’t feel that it’s Father’s will for me to do this work as a single woman, that’s precisely where I find myself. So that’s a struggle for me… I know that may sound weak, but that’s my answer to your question,” I finished.

Jeff smiled, “I don’t think that’s weak at all,” he said.

There were no speeches about being a strong woman and not needing a man.

No sermons about God calling some people to be single.

No jokes about going to seminary just to get my “Mrs” degree.

Instead this rugged, backpacking missionary encouraged me to keep seeking the Lord’s will and said he would pray for God to give me guidance.

I silently breathed a sigh of relief, happy that I had told him the truth. But I could still feel myself blushing as I had been briefly put in the spotlight.

By then the meal was finished, and we gathered ourselves up to leave. Back down the steep staircase we went, B and I practicing our “xie xie” (thank you) towards the kind staff members. Back across the little bridge and onto the cobblestone street. The three of us chatted as we walked back towards the entrance of Old Town. We came to the place where we would part ways, and B and I thanked our new friend for spending the day with us. He told us how happy he was to meet us, shook our hands, and urged us to be safe in our travels.

My Hiker

And then, just like that, he was walking away. B and I turned to walk the opposite direction towards our guesthouse. It was time to start packing for our trip home the following day. I turned once to look back at him, feeling slightly sad that I’d probably never see him again.

Chiding myself and feeling silly, I turned back around and matched my step with B, not wanting her to notice that I’d given him a 2nd glance.

But inside I prayed that the Lord would send someone like him into my life…