Just come to the table

I had a toddler at my feet and a baby in my belly. I had just quit a night job that we needed to make ends meet because I was too tired to take care of my little ones during the day. I knew exactly how much I had in my hands to offer, and it was desperately little.

If this baby turned out to be the high strung-screamer that rebelled at all sleep training methods like my first had been, I knew that the very little energy I had would be burned up in sleeplessness. No. I did not have extra time or energy.

And yet…the Spirit nudged. A woman had newly arrived from China with her little boy and her stoic husband. Every week at ESL she was so eager, drinking in the Bible lessons as much as her limited English would let her.

The food she ate, the way she dressed, the Chinese grammar that punctuated her sentences…they all made me ache deeply for the country that had captured my heart years ago. I deeply wanted to share with her the hope of the Gospel, but I didn’t know if I had words. I didn’t know if Jessee would understand my English and terribly limited Chinese.

And Lord, You know I don’t have time.

Great need and great limitation loomed before me. Utterly exhausted with a soon to be arriving baby, I wrestled in the minutes I had between housework, groceries and caring for my energetic toddler.

Quiet time was a distant memory, I wolfed down podcasts, articles and chapters of my Bible just like I wolfed down physical food — whenever I had time. The lack of adult interaction had driven me to an inner world where God was my only companion, and I poured my heart out constantly to Him.

Sometimes I wrote. Mostly, I fretted and complained. The almost forgotten author in me despaired of ever producing anything. More than anything, I needed sleep. And still the burden persisted.

Beset with weakness and filled with frustration, I finally surrendered.

Lord, you know exactly how little I have to give. If you want to use it, it is yours. If you want me to reach out to this woman, I will try, but you will have to give me a content baby. I don’t see any other way. And, I added ruefully as I looked at my lovely strong-willed toddler, I don’t seem to produce content children.

Soon, I gave birth. A healthy 8lb 4oz, Adele came out and softly protested. As soon as they handed her to me she was silent. I sang to her and she stared at me soulfully and quietly listened. She nursed like she had always done so. Then she slept, exhausted.

That night I woke her to feed her after 6 hours — I couldn’t stand it a moment longer. And so was the beginning of the most peaceful baby I have ever had. (I have 4 kids) To say she was content was such an understatement. She slept through the night if I would let her (I often woke her).

I set her down to sleep at nap time and she would quietly close her eyes and…and sleep! When she was awake she nursed well and played quietly. I was in awe. After a month or two, the Spirit reminded me of my prayer and I remembered my Chinese friend.

I didn’t know what to do, but I had to do something. On the evening of Chinese New Year, two months after Adele was born, during a snowstorm, I felt the Spirit urge me out to bring my friend a gift.

She lived thirty minutes away on a good night, but the snow would slow me down. Since Adele was so flexible with the bottle or breast, I left her and Elise with my (very) supportive husband and made the trek to the Chinese market, bought a lovely Chinese tea set and tea steeper (a traditional gift for New Year as far as I could remember) and a bright red gift bag with gold sparkling tissue paper.

I made my solitary way to her apartment and called her. She was so shocked to see me on the lonely dark night. Just obeying the Lord, I handed her the shiny gift and never knew the impact. I headed home.

Later, she asked me for help with English. Once a week, I dropped off my happily chatting toddler with my mom, and brought my quiet newborn to her apartment and laid her on the bed. Adele, amazingly, slept without ever moving or crying for exactly two hours. After two such appointments, Jessee asked me to stop the English lessons and just teach her the Bible. I didn’t know where to start so we started with the beginning and opened our Bibles to Genesis.

We read about Adam and Eve and their terrible disobedience and the seed of hope that would come through the seed of the woman. I introduced her to the God that I knew — the friend that was my only adult companion. I told her about the Creator that made everything and I watched atheism slip away from her mind. She knew it was true. Astounded, I shared the truth in simple English, broken Chinese, with a bilingual Bible and the translation app on my phone.

The God who made everything stepped into our world to fulfill the promise that He made at the beginning. It was so faltering, so rough, so ridiculous compared to what I thought personal evangelism should be. We had only reached Genesis chapter 3 when she understood the Gospel for the first time.

I watched in utter amazement as a light seemed to turn on in her spirit. She looked at me with joy — and I blinked in shock. Just then her four-year-old threw a ball directly at her head. The moment was gone, but she told me later that was the moment when she trusted Him for the first time.

She told me a lot of things in the years that followed. When she came to the US she just wanted to go home. She had no friends here, no home, no knowledge of our culture. At home, they had good jobs and a good house that they owned.

But there she was utterly alone. She wanted to come to the US to support her husband’s dream, but privately she wanted to learn more about the Western God.

She had grown up in a home where her beloved father was a spiritual shaman of sorts in her rural village. She deeply respected and loved him, but witnessed things that terrified her. After he died, she felt alone, adrift and exposed in a spiritual world that she had no control over.

And so she started seeking the true God. And when a kind American mom brought her the Gospel, she found Him. She clung to Him like a life ring tossed to her in the storm.

Now, six years later, Jessee is one of my good friends. When fellow Christians are amazed at me, I laugh. I know I brought nothing to the table, I was just at the table.

I had no skill to know this woman’s heart or history, I just left the skill to God. While I stumbled, embarrassed by my Chinese, it served very little in our communication — only for building a genuine bridge between two women with the common obstacle of language learning.

I figured she would be missing home during Chinese New Year because I missed home so desperately during Thanksgiving the fall we lived in China. That little act of kindness in the midst of her loneliest hour broke down all her defences and opened her heart to my message.

I met her in my lack and introduced her to my resource — my Friend. I was just an exhausted new mom with a prayer for a content baby, and God used me. Is there anything more thrilling than that?

Every person I’ve reached out to has not accepted the Lord as I prayed. It’s been a long road and Jessee is the exception to the norm. But I learned an important lesson that I never forgot — God does the saving and I am just the messenger.

So please, dear sister, if God is nudging you to reach out today, do it.

Come to the table.

Bring your fears and your insecurities and present them to God. He can use you to reach the lost because you’re not the one reaching them. He is.

And you are uniquely suited to reach that person. You and I just have to be willing to show up. We do not need to know what to do — because we are just His hands and feet and He is the Savior of the world.

* I share this story with Jessee’s permission and blessing!

Jessee is to the right of me in this picture, in the center. This is a picture of a Bible study group that grew from my friendship with Jessee.