Last year, I returned to my Christian roots, to be part of a church anniversary celebration. This was the place where, as a teenager, I was baptized and confirmed.
Mrs. Yee, a vibrant woman from our neighborhood, brought me to Jesus. We first met Mrs. Yee when she knocked on our apartment door to invite us children to the Lutheran church.
At our Chinese-American congregation generations looked out for each other. Our youth made annual visits to the chronically ill where we sang Christmas carols.
I attended Chinese language classes every afternoon here.
I played the fife in the marching band and participated in our thriving youth and young adult groups. The band marched in the freezing cold amid exploding firecrackers in the annual Lunar New Year parade.
Members of the youth group taught Sunday school and vacation Bible school. We attended weekly Bible study.
In preparation for Christmas and Easter, many of our hands waxed the pews and scrubbed the floors.
This was a time and place where seeds of faith were planted, the earth was cultivated, and seedlings burst forth. At this congregation, I felt accepted, nurtured, challenged and needed. Young people were appreciated. This multigenerational church was a center of activity both inside the building and out in the neighborhood.
Mrs. Yee is my role model of living Lutheran.
After being out of touch for decades, I contacted Mrs.Yee, asking her to visit my mother who was living in a nursing home.
Mrs. Yee faithfully visited my mother. She shared the love of God in the language my parents could understand — Hoisan, a dialect of Cantonese.
She provided baptismal instruction for my mother and father. After a few months, my parents were baptized. Two years later, Mrs. Yee participated in Mom’s funeral.
Over 20 “sons and daughters” of my childhood congregation made the church a “career choice,” becoming pastors, deaconesses and lay professionals. And many continue to be faithful members of congregations across the country.
I continue to treasure my years in the congregation Mrs. Yee invited me into, and ask that, as we pray for each other, we remember with gratitude our past, and yet move on, knowing that there is One who gives us the courage to travel the road ahead.
Fern Lee Hagedorn is the Friday morning voice of WJFF, public radio in northeastern Pennsylvania and the Catskills in New York. She is a member of St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, an ELCA congregation in Narrowsburg, N.Y.