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The Chinese Waitress

August 15, 2009

About eight years ago, my husband, Ken, and I went out to eat at a Chinese restaurant. Our Chinese waitress was trying very hard to do a good job, so Ken encouragingly said, “You are really on the ball.” She looked puzzled and said in broken English, “On…the…ball?” The more we tried to clear up the misunderstanding, the worse her confusion became.

My heart went out to the young woman. She wanted so much to please us, yet the language barrier caused her to fear failure. Then I had an idea. I asked her if she would like to come to my house and learn to speak English. I wasn’t sure that she understood me, but she said yes, so I gave her my address and phone number. I really didn’t think that she would call, but she surprised me by calling the very next day. I could barely understand her, and I’m sure it was mutual, but we set a time for her to come for her first lesson. A missionary friend had told me about a simple Bible study guide that they used in China, so I found my copy and had it ready. She came every week, during which we read through one of the SOL Bible studies. I was amazed at how well she read. Of course, I took for granted that she was comprehending what the words meant. But one day she stunned me when she said, “Now tell me again; this Mo-ses, is this a group of something?” I sighed…“so much for homeschooling a Chinese girl,” I thought. We began again, but this time I explained any words out of the ordinary. I drew pictures, did charades, anything to help her visualize what the words and story meant. (If I had had the Good and Evil illustrated Bible storybook, this would have been so much easier).

Angela (her chosen English name) was very intent; she really wanted to learn. We just read and read, and talked and talked. I never pushed the salvation issue, but kept on studying the Bible lesson book with her. After about 12 weeks, when we came to the invitation part of the lesson, she said that she wanted to receive Jesus. I was a little uneasy about doing it with her, because I wasn’t sure she understood, but she seemed very happy afterwards.

After that, she came to church with us a few times, and we had her husband and friends over to eat. They in turn had us over to eat a wonderful Chinese meal. We took that occasion to give the gospel to the whole family. I also helped her with legal decisions and paper work, and nurtured her through the time that her 3-year-old son arrived from China, when his arm got caught in the escalator at the airport upon arriving and suffered major damage. I was her friend.

She and her family moved away. We lost touch. Years passed. Then God, in his tender mercy, gave me back in full measure the bread I had cast upon the waters over eight years earlier.

One afternoon the phone rang. Angela was on the other end calling from California, where she and her family now live. She was calling to thank me for leading her to Jesus. She said that she just wanted me to know how thankful she was for my spending 12 afternoons of my life teaching her to read, while at the same time teaching her about the Savior.

How sweet that was to me after all those years to know God’s Word does not return void. We women sometimes wonder: Do I make a difference? Jesus said to go into all the world and preach the gospel. Here I was, just a retired homeschooling mom. How was I to obey that command? The answer was simple: Just do what I had been doing for years… teach someone to read. Eternity was changed because I was willing to try. I am so glad God found me faithful.

From Debi

Just a couple of months ago, I was sitting in my mother’s hospital room weary and sad when my cousin, Freida came to visit. My mom, Nanny, appeared to be in a deep coma-like sleep. Freida is the cousin who wrote, What is a Cold Dinner?, one of the chapters in my book, Created To Be His Help Meet. She has always been my strong kindred spirit. I began to tell her our desire to show our homeschooling audience how easy it was to share Jesus with people from different countries and languages by using the Good and Evil book. I saw brightness suddenly fill her eyes. Something wonderful had just captivated her spirit. I faltered. “What…what is it?”

Her voice was brimming with delight. “Did I ever tell you about Angela?” And then she told me the story you just read.

I have to say, glory filled my soul when she told me about Angela’s recent call of thanksgiving. I truly wanted to shout. Instead, I said to my friend and cousin, “This is exactly what we want the homeschooling families to know! They can make an eternal difference by just being willing to give a Good and Evil book to a waitress in a restaurant.”

Nanny stirred in her bed, so I quietly got up and leaned over her. Her eyes were open and sparkled with pleasure as she said with an amazingly clear voice, “That made you proud, didn’t it, Debi?” The phrase “made you proud” was Nanny’s way of saying, “thrilled and satisfied your soul.”

I glanced over at Freida. Her face reflected mine. We were both surprised at Nanny’s clarity of voice and understanding of spiritual things at such a dire time. I looked back down into the face of my dying mother, affirming to her my glad heart and, I am sure, God’s glad heart. “Yes, Nanny, that made me real proud.”

I want you to know, dear homeschooling mom, you can make a difference in eternity. Without spending a dime, you can put up signs showing where Muslims can go on the web to read Good and Evil in Arabic If you can afford to buy Good and Evil in Chinese, then you can give your Chinese waitress the whole story. The family will hungrily read anything in their own language and will very likely pass it around to others. Or you can take simple gospel tracts to your local park. You can show your children how to be a real light unto this world, not just a sweet example. You can make an eternal difference. As I sit here typing, I can hear Jeremiah’s loud, happy voice outside yelling, “Yes, I can!” I concur so heartily.


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One comment on “The Chinese Waitress”

  1. I would like to hear from anyone who has used Good and Evil to teach English as a second language. There is a branch of the International Rescue Committee here in Phoenix. (Incidentally, I read about them in a newspaper article I had set aside to read on the way to the Ozark Shindig — which our family greatly enjoyed!) They provide English language classes to newly arrived refugees in our area, in addition to other needed help. I am very interested in contacting them to volunteer to tutor, and I would like to use the Good and Evil books to teach English. I smell a potential family ministry here, and I was wondering if anyone might have any advice in contacting them. Thank you so much for your time.
    ~Laurie Burton
    [email protected]