I’m reading right now a memoir called Crying in H Mart – a story of a young American woman who lost her Korean mom to cancer, and how she attempted to connect with her mom and her Korean heritage through recreating the food she and her mom had shared. Although I am not Korean and my parents are still living, I relate to the book’s title. After leaving China six years ago, tears welled every time I visited the Chinese grocery store down the street from my new American home.
Food, in some mysterious way, tangibly connects our present with our past, and has unique power to give joy, even as we taste the bitter-sweetness of memory.
This month has been a heavy one for those of us in China Partnership; our co-founder, Jay Kyle, passed away suddenly a few weeks ago. When we taste of death, we humans intrinsically know that this is not how it was meant to be. Death is an inevitable part of life on this earth, but it remains intractable, unnatural. Jay left behind a wife who mourns his absence, children and grandchildren who need his presence and wisdom, and countless plans and projects he will now never fulfill. Death is the great enemy.
When I consider my prayers this month, other tragedies rise to the top. Within China, it seems the entire country has been talking about the Xuzhou woman – a chained woman, mother of eight, who has brought national attention to the plight of trafficked and abused women within China. This woman is just one example of poor women, often from southwest China or even outside of the country, being trafficked to more prosperous regions. Christians have been serving these most vulnerable women for years – but the problem persists.
I am sharing my sadness over death and sex trafficking because this month has, in many ways, been full of sorrow. Yet we prayerfully and intentionally have been looking, this March, at psalms of joy. How on earth can we have joy in a world that is breaking and broken?
Would You Pray With Us Today?
I believe that we cannot have true joy until we understand the depths of our actual depravity. Joy that exists by “looking at the sunny side” is not deep and real, but ephemeral. That is where prayer comes in. When we taste, as everyone eventually will, the sorrow and sadness of life, we must bring that to God our Father. He sees and knows and his Son has died – and then defeated death itself. Crying in H Mart has meaning because everyone faces death, and everyone understands the visceral connections and memory food can bring. Each new day, we rise and break our fast. Each new day, we must also rise and again present our supplications to God. Prayer, like eating, is not an occasional occupation; it is a constant, repeated, persistent return to a God who hears.
I am praying, this March, for the Xuzhou woman, for bereaved families, for war, and for God’s mercy on COVID cases in China. I am praying that joy will break through, but that it will be joy much deeper than mere happiness, that it will be joy that clings tightly to hope because there is indeed hope to be found in this world.
Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again.
May we all found true, deep, and lasting joy in this proclamation.
E.F. Gregory is a mom of three young children. She lives in the San Gabriel Valley on the border of East Los Angeles, where her husband is a P.C.A. church planter.