My American Friend Cathy

Hsung Shiao Ming-ling

本文原刊於《舉目》28期

      After we moved from the East Coast to Los Angeles, I really missed many of my friends there; but one person especially. Her name is Cathy Bidelspach. I gave her a Chinese name that sounded like the pronunciation of her American name; ‘Cai’- meaning victory, and –‘thy’ meaning joy. She was very pleased with this Chinese name, and even put it on her business card.

       She is a tall, well built lady, vivacious, full of energy, kind and warm. She is more than fifty years old, and already has five grandchildren.

       I met Cathy when our church held an evangelistic meeting and we were looking for someone to look after the children. An American friend introduced her to me. I was worried that with so many children aged from 4 to 10 one person might not be able to cope. Later on I found that she and her husband had received special training and had been Sunday school teachers for many years. They also had four grown-up children, so they were very experienced. Not only were they extremely patient but they were also very loving; the children all really loved them. From then on, they became our regular child-carers whenever we had special meetings.

        I don’t know why, but Cathy seems to have a special affinity for Chinese people; and a special burden to bring the gospel to them. However, apart from a few simple Chinese phrases such as ‘thank you’, and ‘how are you?’, she spoke no Chinese. How would she be able to fulfill this desire? I believe that she had prayed a lot about it and that God opened a special door for her.

        The city we lived in was a college town with many graduate students and post-doctoral scholars from Hong Kong, Taiwan and Mainland China. The student wives were at home all day and apart from taking care of their children and housework, they all suffered from the loneliness and isolation that comes with living in a foreign land and having to communicate in a foreign language. Their difficulties could be eased if they were able make friends with local Americans and learn to speak English. Cathy was able to use her natural talents by acting as their teacher.

        She taught English for free in the students’ homes. Most of the newly arrived student wives could not drive, and with small children this could be really inconvenient. So, whenever she could find a group of three or more students, she started a class. Her weekly schedule soon became very full.

        Her English classes were actually English Bible studies. Apart from the English Bible, there were also simple conversational textbooks especially designed by a US Christian organization for people studying English as a second language. The contents of the textbooks were basic Christian doctrine.

        Cathy used an illustrated Bible with vivid colored pictures to make the Bible stories more alive and memorable. The Holy Spirit worked among her students and Cathy led many people to Christ.

        Cathy had a busy life. In addition to teaching English, once a month she organized activities for elderly Chinese. Many scholars’ elderly parents had come out to visit, and some of them would even stay and help to take care of grandchildren, to allow their children to concentrate on their work or studies. These elderly people’s lives could be monotonous and boring; Cathy organized tours taking them to visit different places in America, including the White House in Washington D.C.; the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia; the Niagara Falls near Buffalo; or Amish villages in Pennsylvania. The Amish are a special sect who do not use electricity or automobiles; they ride horses and donkeys, and use horse-drawn carriages, they all wear black clothing and tall top hats. Their simple rural lifestyle attracts many visitors. Cathy and Ben have a van, which they used to take their elderly Chinese friends on outings, one as the driver and the other as map-reader and tour guide. I went on these outings a few times as an interpreter.

        Watching this couple’s labor of love, involving so many people, both young and old, and uncomplainingly traveling long distances, I was deeply touched. Why would they give up so much, if not for the sake of the gospel, and in order to please God?

        In addition, they arranged for these foreign friends to have an experience of living in the homes of American brothers and sisters, to give them a taste of how Americans live and to share brotherly love. Each host family treated them as honored guests, bringing out their best china and silverware, and cooking their favorite dishes to entertain them. Despite the language barriers, sharing a common love for God binds hearts closely together. Almost everyone who attended these occasions kept coming back to our church and was no longer resistant to Christianity. Of course quite a few of them eventually committed themselves to the Lord and were baptized.

        When Chinese festivals came along, Cathy became a whirl of activity. She would organize combined functions with several local churches to celebrate Mid-Autumn festival with moon cakes, and dinner parties for Chinese New Year. Special speakers were invited to share their salvation stories and allow these strangers in a strange land might to sense the warmth of God’s love and be touched by the marvel of God’s salvation.

       At a personal level, if anyone had a problem in their life, from a broken-down car to a house move, she was there to offer a helping hand. She would visit and pray for anyone who was sick, spreading her love.

       She was such a great example to us all of really living out the life of Christ. I miss her greatly. May God bless her and her family, and continue to use her to bless many others !.

      The author was born in Tianjin and grew up in Taiwan. She is work-studying at Logos Theological Seminary in Los Angeles.

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