March 5, 2010

New connections

Last Saturday, I drove up to the mountains to join my new church for their women's retreat.

One of my goals for the day was to connect with the new pastor's wife. She's a Korean-American married to a Caucasian man. I was tired of people asking if I'd met her. Turns out, she was the main speaker at the retreat, so it was hard to grab her in any natural way. I shrugged and wandered around meeting other people instead. At lunch, I connected with a woman over our shared love of going to the early service in order to get to the Mountain View farmer's market before it closes.

On my way into dinner, I prayed that the Lord would guide my conversations. As I stood in line to get food, I wasn't even aware of who was around me. All of a sudden, the woman in front of me, turned and saw my nametag. Since it included my last name, she exclaimed, "Oh! Are you married to a Korean?" It was the pastor's wife. We started chatting in line and then headed for seats. I asked if I could join her and she was excited to have me. I think the other people at the table were a bit shocked as we compared where my in-laws and her family were during the war. I'm guessing that stories of invasion, child soldiers, threatened execution and 11-year olds wandering alone for 6-months are not the normal fare at a retreat.

She's an amazing woman. After college she and her husband-to-be worked for Int3rvars1ty, a Christian organization on college campuses. For making the choice to have to do fund-raising as well as not going on to graduate school, her parents disowned her. For a year she had no contact with them. She co-authored a book for Asian Americans about obeying God without dishonoring parents. Somewhere in there, she married a white guy. They struggled for years with infertility. When they finally were selected as adoptive parents, they got a little boy when he was 4-days old. Two weeks later, he's diagnosed with failure to thrive. From being a national-level speaker, she became a home-bound mother. I asked her if that had made her angry toward God. She said it hadn't, that God had given her some level of mother love that made her prefer being with her son to any other option. "I think it's easier when it's a child that's the tether. If it's the spouse, that's much harder." They now have an adopted girl and a biological child for a lively bunch.

Most of the women stayed for another day, I drove home that night. When I went to church the next morning, I happened to sit a couple rows behind the pastor. During the service I had a thought. When people were mingling after church, I went up to him with one of my personal business cards; on the back, I'd written three menu options.

"Pastor, I'm OTRgirl. I bonded with your wife last night at the retreat."

His face lit up, "She called and told me about you! I'm happy to meet you."

I gave him the card and said, "I would love to have dinner with your family, but I'm guessing it's hard for all of you to get out, so here's my proposal. We'll bring the dinner to you. I can make some Korean food, or my husband can make some non-Korean food. Just let us know what works for you."

She emailed me two days later and we're scheduled to bring dinner in early April. Now I just have to pull out my Mom K recipes and make some kalbi (beef ribs), buy some sides (good Korean market 30 minutes from our house), and defrost Mom K's mahndu (dumplings). Shouldn't be too bad. I don't think I'll get ambitious and try to make much more than that. Maybe I'll do a whole fish? Any kid-friendly Korean dishes I should consider?

I feel like my Mom. She was bold enough, crazy enough and hospitable enough that if we had a Chinese guest coming, she'd make chinese food. For an Indian friend? She made curry. I've never tried to cook for a Korean woman! I'm intimidated.


NGS said...

You are amazing. I'm incredibly proud of you for just striking up a conversation with people you don't know.

Good luck with the dinner!!

mary said...

Sounds like the start of a great relationship. She DOES sound like an amazing woman. =)

Anonymous said...

Wow! I've been in Korea for almost 11 years and I *still* feel intmidated making Korean food. ^^

Thanks for the comments on my blog, btw - you rock!


Word verification: spellit

otr mama said...

You are amazing!

Aimee said...

Don't feel intimidated. The fellowship is more important than the food, but I know the food will be fabulous, too!

Rachel said...

How awesome that you were able to connect with the pastor's wife.

Kalbi jjim is a great company dish, because you can make it ahead and reheat it. I always buy my favorite banchan at the Korean market.

Some kid-friendly Korean foods are cut-up sheets of kim with rice and fish cakes. They always love the meat and rice, or course.