Oh God, Oh God, Oh God by Emily

Tim and the kids flew to Urumqi, in the far northwest, close to Pakistan and Kazakhstan.  Two days later, after school, I flew to meet them.

The plane was late taking off. Somewhere along the way we were supposed to stop to let some people off and more on.  Due to turbulence the seatbelt sign stayed on most of the trip.   A Chinese teacher and her mother sat next to me.  She spoke some English and we chatted.  Eventually they fell asleep holding each other’s hand.   From my aisle seat, I strained to see the sky but the wing blocked any view.

I brought along a book by an American who lives in China and writes about the changes the country is going through.  What makes it so interesting is that he also follows the lives of people that he befriends.  I read while the flight crew made announcements in Chinese and in English, but sometimes they forgot to do the English and then I was clueless as to what was going on.

I asked the flight attendant if I could go to the bathroom and she said no.  I returned to my book.  Suddenly the plane jolted and hit something hard.  I yelled, “Oh, Lord Jesus!”  It felt like there was a hole under us!  I waited for the plane to explode.

Then I recognized the sounds and sensations  – it was the plane’s wheels hitting the ground.    We were merely landing.  More words, “Dear Jesus, dear Jesus.”

My pulse was slowing back to normal as the plane came to a stop.  We sat on the tarmac, waiting for clearance to proceed to our gate.    Suddenly a young man in jeans and a dark T-shirt stood up and began to walk towards the front.  Two flight attendants, from their seats in the back, called for him to sit down.  He didn’t respond, and they yelled louder and louder.  He just walked faster up the aisle.  The attendants yelled more.  We passengers silently watched him.  I wondered, “Why am I just sitting here?  What if he’s dangerous?”

He reached the front of the plane and another flight attendant, from his seat, reached out to the passenger.  And then I couldn’t see the young man anymore.  I waited.  Was he being tackled?  Did he sit down?  All was quiet.

A few minutes passed and the plane taxied to its gate.    While my heartbeat again slowed to normal, I thought of another incident this week.   Tim was out of town and the kids and I had been inside all morning.  We were barking at each other and it was getting worse.  “Get dressed, we’re going to the lake,” I finally ordered.

With treats in hand from a French bakery we passed the bronze buffalo in the water and crossed the Broken Bridge that isn’t broken.  Zo and Sum posed with giggling teenagers who wanted a photo with foreigners.   We watched a dressed up woman badly singing karaoke.  At the lake there is always karaoke with older adults singing to intently listening crowds.

We left the park and started across a busy street.  I was in front when suddenly I heard a terrifying scream from Zoe.  I turned to see a bus turning the corner and only feet away from her.  I pushed her backwards and shot the driver a look mixed with warning and gratitude.

On the sidewalk I wrapped my arms around her and felt her bony spine.  Zoe hung limp against me.  We stood together, my eyes closed.   There was no afternoon heat, honking of horns or smell of Stinky Tofu from nearby vendors.  The world was gone.  It was just my daughter and me. For that moment, my little girl was safely in my arms and that was all I knew.  Then, I had the overwhelming urge to get home — back to the den with my baby cubs.  I clasped both of my children’s consenting hands and hurried them down the sidewalk as I chanted, “Oh God, oh God, oh God.”


We got to a bus stop and I clutched my cubs close to my chest.  Sumner said, “Mom, I don’t like when things like this happen because for the rest of the day, you look serious and sad.”  “Hmm,” I murmured, squeezing him closer.  My lips were pursed, my head shook side to side in disbelief as I chanted over and over,  “Oh God, oh God.”

Sometimes the words that fly out of my mouth cause the kids, with enlarged eyes, to say, “MOM!”  Though not holy words, in those moments, my gut is reacting again with horror to the fact that I’m not in control.

I try to be careful, but I can’t control everything.  Oh God, I can’t.  The terror of that descends upon me at times, swiftly and unexpectedly.  It is a nightmare.  And I react. I fight – like the time I pounded a speeding driver’s side mirror with an empty box when he almost flattened us in a crosswalk.   Or I run.  I flee.  I try to get back to the cave where I feel safe.

For now we are together.  I don’t know tomorrow.  Oh God, if I did, I would despair.


But the words that occasionally fly from my mouth show my belief that, come what may, I realize that I do not walk alone. For He Himself says, “I will never leave or forsake you” (Hebrews 13.5).  That doesn’t take away my responsibility, not does it take away my fear of bad things, nor does it even guarantee bad won’t happen — though I sooo wish it did. What it does mean is that I am not alone, and that someone and something greater than me will walk with me — and our family,  And that I desperately need to know.



Our Photo Shoot: The Emperor & Empress & Children by Emily

We journeyed to an ancient Chinese town known for its tree laden canals and lazy boat rides.  Strolling a cobblestone street we happened upon a shop.  Our daughter peaked our imagination with an invitation to don costumes and travel back in time.

For a time we assumed new roles and lifestyles.


Zoe & Sumner in Model United Nations by Emily

Model United Nations (MUN) is based upon the United Nations and is for middle and high schoolers, as well as university students.  Students get to be a delegate from a country and serve on a committee.  They research and formulate political positions based on the actual policies of the country they represent.

At a MUN conference, MUN clubs from surrounding cities or countries gather.  Words like these will be heard:  delegate, debate, caucus, placards, speeches,please refrain, time limit, resolutions, vote.

In the fall Zoe got involved in the MUN club at school.  As a delegate from Canada on the subject of Human Trafficking, she attended a conference which was primarily for high schoolers.

Zoe at the beginning of the conference                        pic.Z.scared.MUN 

Our school’s MUN club at the end of the conferencepics.Z.fall.MUN

Sumner then got involved,    20140301_135301_resized

and he and Zoe attended a conference for middle schoolers (chaired by high schoolers).


Their topic was Intellectual Property Rights, and they represented India and France.  At this conference Zoe’s resolution (a proposal for how to handle this problem) was debated, voted on and approved almost unanimously by the other countries.

She was quite pleased.20140301_135147_resized

Stuck in Hong Kong With the Kids Without Tim by Emily part 2

Tuesday, December 31
Optimistic that we might leave, we have luggage with us.  The immigration office has multiple floors with multiple windows for different scenarios.  We found ours on the 5th floor in line 1.  I filled out forms.  The clerk sympathized, “I don’t know why we give little papers that get lost.  We used to stamp the passports like other countries.”
“Why doesn’t immigration staple them in the passport when people arrive?”
“Oh, they can’t.”
When he returned our passports, a new slip of paper was stapled inside each of ours. “Stapled?” I asked.  He nodded.
We lugged our suitcases up escalators and stairs.  We saw number 6 before lunchtime. “Can we get approval to go home today?” I asked brightly.  “You need xerox copies of everything,” he said.  “I’ll do it,” Zoe said grabbing the papers and rushing to a copier.
 I leaned close to the glass and smiled, “One of my closest friend’s —  her husband is a consulate from Switzerland.”
Awkwardly he glanced up from his paper shuffling. “No, no,” he mumbled and shook his head.
“Oh please, we just want to go home,” I said.  “We need to go.”  It was Dec. 31.  The office would be closed the next day.  I didn’t want to stay longer in this tropical paradise.
“I cannot make the decision.  You have to meet with the consulate,” he said nervously. He glanced over his shoulder,  then grabbed our papers and disappeared. When he reappeared empty handed he said,  “Go to window 15 and wait.  She will come.  You talk to her.”
“Thank you, thank you so much, ” I said.
“Listen, Sumner and Zoe, this is like going before a judge.  Sum, take that candy cane out of your mouth.  Both of you, stand straight and don’t lean on the ledge.  Don’t grimace, smile nicely but not too much, and don’t start crying in front of her.”
“Mom, you need more  lipstick.”
This special line was very short.  We waited behind an older couple.  The consulate appeared behind the glass.  In Chinese the couple pleaded their case and the woman wailed loudly.  Later she wailed again.  In the end, the woman bowed repeatedly with her hands clasped in front of her.  I took that to mean good news for them.
We stepped to the glass.  “Yes, ” the consulate looked at me.
I stammered that we had come for holiday and wanted to return to where we were living with my husband who was working in a job through the U.S. government, as “you can see in the letter he wrote.”   She slowly read Tim’s letter.  I mentioned “U.S. government” again.
She called for No. 6.  They whispered.  He seemed timid.   I wondered if I should mention that Sumner had a fever several days ago, that he still had a cold and that we were supposed to go cat sit.
“Please, we need to go home,” I said.
“It takes at least four days to process your application, but you can pay extra and rush it.  It will be ready Thursday morning.”
“But can’t we go tonight?”
“No, it would normally be ready next Monday.  You can get it Thursday.”  She slid me the paper to pick up the expedited visas on Thursday.
I quickly led the kids far away.  We sat down.  Zoe cried loudly, and Sumner put his head down and cried quietly.  “I hate Hong Kong,” Zoe said.  I reminded her that she’d already said that and that I’d rather her say it alone or in her journal.  Sumner asked for the umpteenth time, “Does this mean we don’t get to stay in that nice apartment and cat sit?”
 We didn’t have enough cash to expedite the visas.  I returned to window 6.  He had a hard time looking at me, and I wondered how a soft hearted soul like him did this job.  “Did she say yes?” he asked.
I shook my head. “Thank you for trying.  Can I get my passport back?   I didn’t make a copy of it and it is my only ID.  I need it so I can go to our bank to get more cash.”
“It is already in the back.  I am not allowed to take it back,” he said.
“Well, I really need it or I cannot get cash.  I have no other ID,” I said in panic.
“I am sorry,” and he looked truly sorry, but he didn’t budge.
I emailed Tim and he immediately responded, “Contact the U.S. embassy to see if they can offer advice.”
I went to their website and saw that their office closed at noon and would be closed tomorrow for New Year’s.  Within a few minutes an email showed up in our inbox.  It was from the embassy,
Dear Mr. Roberts,

Thank you for your email.  We are glad that you have located your family.  However, there is not much we can help to obtain a China visa.


American Citizens Services

U.S. Consulate General to Hong Kong and Macau

Office:  +852 2841 2211 | Fax: +852 2845-4845| acshk@state.gov | http://hongkong.usconsulate.gov/acs.html

 Visit us online! 

I hung my head.  Thoughts flashed through my head.  Our situation really wasn’t that bad.  Our friend Merih is from the African country of Eritrea with a corrupt government that oppresses its people.  It isn’t safe for her to return.  On her wedding day, in Chicago, she cried because her family wasn’t there.  She tried for over a year to get visas for her two sisters to come to the U.S.  I thought of the Iranian and Iraqi refugees in our church in Turkey — people without a country.  If I were alone, it wouldn’t be so bad to be stuck here, but how could I help my kids?  I felt lost.
“Do you need help?”  I looked up. A handsome body builder man was looking at me.  Next to him was a gorgeous volumptuous woman with Bambi eyes.  “We heard you talking and it sounds like you need help.  How can we help you?”
I stared at them.  They were so beautiful and sincere sounding that I wondered if they were angels or if they were scam artists.  But what could they get from us?
I told them our need.
The man pulled out his wallet.  “We understand.  I’m from Australia and my wife’s from Russia. We were living in India when our first son was born.  When my work was done we were at the airport about to leave and they told us that we could leave, but that our son couldn’t because he was an Indian citizen.  They wanted us to leave him!  It took us several weeks to work it out so we could leave with him.”  Again, our desire seemed puny — how could I compare fighting for custody of one’s own son to waiting a few days to return from a holiday.
“How much do you need?” he asked as their son, a round faced boy, leaned against his mother’s leg.
I told him.  He counted out some bills and added a few more, saying that I should have more pocket money, just in case.   He wrote down his email and said, “When you get back and get settled, just email and I’ll tell you how to transfer the money to me.”
 And they were gone.  It was hard to wrap my brain around what had just happened.   I hadn’t even prayed for help, and what about Merih’s sisters and refugees?
I kept saying., “They didn’t even know us and helped us” and Sumner kept asking, “Why’d they do it?”  And I would respond with things like, “They understand.  They’ve been stuck.  They are kind.  I don’t know.”
We drug our suitcases outside and sat in the sun.  A couple walking a dog passed, and  the man hovered over it snapping pictures like it was a new baby.  We ate clementines, bread and cheese.  I prayed aloud that we could love someone while we were still in HK.
We booked a room in our third hotel in the Mansion.  Our building was close to the water where nightly people throng to see the world’s largest permanent light and sound show, according to Guinness Book of World Records.  Sumner suggested we watch the countdown before midnight and I agreed.  However, I fell asleep and Zoe had to wake me.  We opened the window to listen to the fireworks then flipped on the TV to watch the firework and light show from our beds.
Wednesday, January 1, 2014
We stayed in our room until afternoon then wandered the streets for a while.
Thursday, January 2
We picked up our passports — and visas.   When I waved to No. 6 and said we were going home, he nodded shyly.
On the plane I thought of my prayer and that we hadn’t done anything spectacular for anyone in Hong Kong.  But life will present a myriad of opportunities yet.  I hope I respond well and that my children will also do the same.
while we have opportunity, let us do good to all ”  Galations 6.10
                    Going Home!