This is a true story.
I've talked before about false "Christian" storytellers. I thought I'd tell you a story I know to be true. At least it is as true as the collective memory of Carol, my beloved wife, & I can make it.
This is the story as I told it at a preaching service at the Durango First Presbyterian Church in August 1998. It is a story of when God acted "out of our time sequence."
It was very tempting to embellish it -- when I first wrote it out for an Emmaus weekend several years ago, I found myself adding details that were not part of our memories -- they were "possible history," but not history I could attest to. I took these out, because I wanted to be able to say, truthfully, the story was as factual as I could make it. I think it is just that. I hope you enjoy reading it -- it is in the form, partially, of notes.
These are notes for a talk I gave
at the First Presbyterian Church, Durango, Colorado,
August 2, 1998,
at both morning services.
John W. Burgeson
6731 CR 203
Durango, CO 81301
Some story about Samuel!
He heard the very voice of God!
I've many times wanted to have that experience.
Never have though. But yet --
I'm going to tell you a story.
Think about January. Remember what it's like?
Picture with me a downtown street in Seoul, Korea
Friday, January 25, 1974. A few years ago.
Snow -- ice -- slush -- maybe freezing rain --
Dark. Gloomy. Unlike Durango!
An unpleasant time of year.
Two children walking along that street.
the boy is four, his sister is just two.
Her birthday was four days ago;
it was not a happy time.
The boy's right hand
(his left one is hurt)
is holding on tightly to little sister..
And her hand to his.
It's a miserable day
to be out in the cold.
It's a terrible day to be homeless.
It's a ghastly day to be orphans,
in a culture where orphans are "nobodies."
Last year was a disaster.
The little girl had been badly burned.
Mother died of "the sickness" last spring.
The boy's left hand mutilated in a farm accident.
The worse time of all came, however,
at Christmas time,
in the car crash,
when dad died.
The boy had seen it happen.
He remembered the flames.
Their home was a rental,
their possessions few.
A neighbor took them in for awhile.
But she couldn't keep them.
Now they are walking along this dismal city street
-- to an orphanage.
They'll be looked after there, more or less,
raised to adulthood, if they live;
the mortality rate is said to be 50%.
No family to love and nurture them;
adoption is not part of the Korean culture.
Their future is an institution;
the only love they will experience
is that which they have for each other.
It's cold in the city.
Two small children trudge up the dirty steps
of an impersonal, poorly-funded, overcrowded
government institution, their lives shattered.
Hand in hand they go.
Holding ever so tight to each other.
It's a dreadful day. Nobody cares.
God cared. He had already been at work --
Sunday, August 12, 1973. The previous year.
Delray Beach, Florida.
With a growing family,
Carol and I had bought an unfinished house.
We were spending every available hour working on it,
keeping just ahead of the city building inspector!
It was a bigger job than we had imagined.
That Sunday we decided to skip our own church
for one down the block
where we could "sneak in/out" easily
and get back to the job early.
The kids settled in Sunday School,
we walked into the only adult class.
A retired missionary is going to lecture on a Psalm!
What have we done? Will we be able to stay awake?
Maybe we should go have a cup of coffee?
I don't remember the guy's name --
Don't remember his message!
But, oh my! I do remember the Scripture!
God's word. It burned! Deep.
Psalm 127: (Paraphrased)
Unless the Lord builds the house,
their labor is futile who build it.
It is useless for you to be early in rising
while being late in sitting up,
eating the bread of toil;
for he gives to His loved ones sleep.
Behold, children are a legacy from the Lord;
the fruit of the womb is His reward.
As arrows in the hand of a mighty man,
so are the children of one's youth.
Blessed is the man who has his quiver full of them.
Back home, Carol left on an errand,
the kids to whatever activities kids do,
on a warm Sunday afternoon
when dad's orders for house-building chores have mysteriously stopped.
I sat at the kitchen table
and pondered the message I had so clearly heard.
We had six children already, one adopted.
Resources were at the limit.
All the practical reasons in the world to ignore this word from the Lord.
That wasn't possible.
I drafted a letter to the adoption agency,
asking them for -- specifically -- a brother/sister pair;
I could "see" them as I wrote. Then I stopped.
"How am I going to explain this letter to Carol?" I asked myself.
Carol came in -- "I've just written a letter..." I began -- she stopped me.
(Here I'm reading from her notes, written shortly afterwards).
"Please let it wait.
I need to tell you of the most fascinating thought I had.
I think God is trying to tell us to have two more babies from Korea, a boy and a girl.
That lesson we heard this morning seemed to really speak to me!"
I showed her the letter.
The letter, signed by all the family,
down to the very youngest,
not quite four,
was mailed the next day.
The Lord had a test -- and a confirmation -- for us.
Now it's five months later. Monday, January 21, 1974.
A letter from the agency;
we were approved! Praise the Lord!
(Bureaucracies don't generally move that fast!).
Then, turn to page 2.
They had no brother/sister pair to fit our family!
They were suggesting a single adoption.
But this was wrong!
The Lord had told us differently!
Had He, really?
On Wednesday, January 23rd, 1974,
after considerable prayer,
we wrote back.
In essence, we said:
The Lord had promised us.
Two days later,
on January 25, 1974,
our beloved son
and our beloved daughter,
Byung Tae Jung, and Byung Tae Soon,
(David and Mary Lee),
entered the orphanage;
shortly after, they arrived into our home,
We just did the physical stuff.
Oh God! What if we had left that class that day!
When I was a boy in Sunday School,
there was a hymn we sang.
I did not appreciate it then.
I believe it --
really believe it now:
When you walk with the Lord,
In the light of His word,
What a GLORY he shines on your way...
I have seen that glory...
Will you sing that hymn with me now?
The Blessing & Charge:
Reading again from I Samuel 3:1 & 2
In those days, a word from the Lord was rare...
But one day it happened.
One day it happened to us.
May it happen to you.
Go with God.
John W. Burgeson, August 1998
Byung Tae Soon (Mary) and Byung Tae Jung (David), Jan 1974
Mary and dad, 1999
David and his wife, Nicki, 1999
1617 visitors since 4/18/2005