Back in 1993 we moved to BeiJing, China where we lived for two years. We were able to attend church there with other foreigners. One of them was a man I had known about 10 years earlier when I served as a missionary. He was part of the branch presidency in the missionary training center. When we got to China, he was preparing to leave China. He was trying to get a business going there (never did have any success with that) and had a college student he was working with. She lived out in the country with her younger sister on the back porch of a farmer. They had no running water, and just an outhouse to use. She had no phone, and this was not a permanent address. This man wanted to keep in touch with her, so introduced her and her sister to me, so that he could contact them through me.
These girls began to come to my house a couple of times a week. They would spend all day with me! At first this was a little irritating to me because I couldn't get anything else done on those days. But as the months went on, we became friends and had a lot of fun together. Some of my most cherished memories of my time in BeiJing involve the time I spent with them.
After the second year in China, I went home to the U.S. for vacation. I also had to have gall bladder surgery. After my surgery, my husband called me from China and said, "I don't want us to go back to China. I think we need to move home." So I never said goodbye to those girls, and I had no way of contacting them. Over the years I have thought about them, and it has been a point of sadness to know that I had lost contact. Recently I got thinking about it and even prayed that some day I could make contact with them again, somehow.
Yesterday my husband told me he needed to drive the car because he had some work done on it, and the repairman said he should drive it 60 miles before getting the smog inspection done. I suggested that we drive to Sandy, about 45 minutes away, and go to a Chinese grocery store there. We needed some supplies, so we jumped in the car and went.
As we were getting out of the car, I noticed an American man coming out of the store wearing a Chinese army issue winter hat. As he passed me, I saw his profile and realized I knew him. I said out loud, "I think I know him." He heard me and turned around. When I got a better look, I realized who he was. He was the man who had been in the branch presidency in the MTC. I mentioned that to him. Then the memory of him introducing the girls to me came back. I reminded him that he had introduced me to them. He said, "Well, Li Jia Na will be coming out of the store in a minute." I was so surprised! Come to find out, the two of them were married! They have a 17 year old son together!
This was really a blessing of God to me, because I never thought I would see her again. And I have to admit that when I saw her, I teared up. And so did she, and so did her husband. :)
Here is the thing: he is 30 years her senior. Some people might wonder how in the world they could marry each other, but I understand. She always used to tell me that she didn't think she would ever marry. She is a very humble person. She was always the "mother" in her family. Because her parents were farmers, they were allowed to have more children. They had 9 children in their family. Jia Na was the one who did all of the laundry....by hand! She always put effort in to helping her younger sister dress well so that she could some day get married. But she never expected it for herself. I think she felt that this was her only chance, and took it. And she has been able to be a mother in the process! Her younger sister? She is still single.
I really feel it was a tender mercy from God that I was given the chance to meet up with my old friend again. As it turns out, she lives about 15 minutes away from me. Sometimes God does give us second chances.