Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Faith's Visit

At ten years old, in Juneau, Alaska, I stood reading some of the papers tacked to the bulletin board in the foyer of the church building where my family worshipped. On the board was a newsletter from an orphanage in Hong Kong, operated by Sister Elizabeth Bernard. In that newsletter were some faded black-and-white pictures of some of the children in her care.

"Wouldn't it be fun," I thought, "to become a pen pal to one of these children." I carefully copied the address from the newsletter to another piece of paper and took it home with me. That night I wrote a letter, on lined paper and using my best cursive, to Sister Bernard. I asked if any of the children at her home would like to be my pen pal.

A few weeks later a light blue air mail envelope arrived at my home. It had stamps I had never seen before - as I recall, they were adorned with portraits of Queen Elizabeth. I eagerly tore into the envelope and found letters from two girls about my age. One girl's name was Muriel Yue, and the other girl's name was Faith Lee. They both wanted to be my pen pals.

That began a long exchange of letters crossing the Pacific between Alaska and Hong Kong. Muriel and I wrote sporadically, and her letters eventually ceased - not an unusual scenario for grade school pen pals. But Faith and I continued to write throughout our elementary, junior high and high school years.

After graduating from high school I ventured off to college in Texas. College classes meant lots of studying, so my correspondence to Faith dwindled. Having completed my first year, I went back home to Juneau for the summer. It was that summer that I received a letter from Faith telling me some surprising news; she would be coming to America that fall to attend college . . . at ABILENE! I couldn't believe it. We would actually meet!

At Abilene Faith lived in a different dorm than I did. She wasn't in any of my classes. And we only occasionally ran into each other on campus. When we did we'd always stop and talk briefly, before dashing off to class.

The next summer Dan and I got married. Living off campus meant that my encounters with Faith became even less frequent. When I finally graduated, in 1971, and moved back to Juneau, Faith and I were, once again, dependent upon the postal service for communicating. We mostly wrote to each other around the holidays. I knew that she married and that she and her husband, Chi, had two children. I knew that they lived, for nine years, in China and the Philippines because of Chi's job, but that they returned the U.S. - Texas, specifically - after that tour of duty.

It's been 41 years since Faith and I have seen each other, and I have never met her husband . . .

Until today.

Faith and Chi live near Fort Worth and today they drove down to see us. We went to lunch together and spent a few hours catching up on their life story and ours. The last time we talked, we were wide-eyed college students preparing for life. Today we talked about retirement and grandchildren.

Here's our happy party - left to right (not counting the lovely tattooed lady in the booth behind us): Chi, Faith, Linda and Dan.

In preparing to write this post, I looked on the internet to see if there was anything about Sister Elizabeth Bernard and her work with the orphans in Asia. I found a wonderful (and lengthy) article by Tom Tune, telling her story. Both Muriel and Faith, my two pen pals, are spoken of in this article. If you look at the Contents, you will see links to the paragraphs about them. The Muriel to whom I wrote is the one referred to as "Second Muriel."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was so pleased to see the pictures of Faith. I recall when you first started writing, and of being able to meet her when I visited you in Abilene when you were a Junior in college. You two must stay in touch now, and meet again before too long.
Love and hugs....Your Mom