On Wednesday morning, I prepared myself for the “Unexpected Opportunity” of having dinner with President Park, the first female President of South Korea. I had no idea what to expect; whether I would actually get to meet her or just be in the same room with her, whether anything would be said in English or just in Korean, whether there would be anyone in the room who could speak English, and what I would do all by myself with total strangers.
I kind of felt like Bilbo Baggins, going on a great adventure with people he didn’t know. Only Bilbo didn’t have a language barrier.
The one thing I had going for me is the One thing I always have going for me, no matter what I face – God. I knew that this invitation wasn’t just a serendipitous fortunate event. I knew it wasn’t just happenstance. For some reason, that I was not aware, God wanted me at this event. At the very least, it was an opportunity to honor my Grandfather (I called him, “Papa”) and the extraordinary contribution he made for an entire nation. But I sensed there might be something more and I wanted to be ready.
I had several times of prayer throughout the day. I expressed to God my fears and anxieties. I opened myself to whatever He wanted to accomplish through my going to this event. I even thought that maybe God’s purpose wasn’t to go to the dinner, but that perhaps I would be needed in a situation along the way (after all, it’s 60 miles from Fontana to LA – anything could happen). I surrendered my expectations, my comfort, even my life (if that’s what He wanted) to God. And I spent a lot of time in silence before Him in this posture of surrender and trust. During these prayers I felt tremendous peace and freedom. God was with me. And that’s all that mattered.
The travel to LA was uneventful. In fact, it was the fastest trip on the LA freeways I ever experienced. It helped that I was going “into” town during the rush hour when everyone was trying to get out of town. I found some parking right across the street from the new Marriott hotel at LA Live. It was a bit intimidating waiting in line, by myself, surrounded by 500 Korean-Americans who only spoke Korean, but God was with me. There was even a ray of sunlight that shined on me while waiting in line for the metal detectors.
When I found my table, I was greeted by some Korean-Americans who actually spoke English! They were the leaders of the Korean Patriot Organization, and asked me if I would come to one of their meetings to talk about Papa. They then introduced me to a man named Ralph Kim.
He not only spoke English, but with a perfect Central California twang! He knew my Papa … and my dad and my mom and my uncle!
I then met the lady who sat next to me, Daisy Kim.
Like me, her grandfather was honored as a patriot for Korea. Like me, she did not speak any Korean (she also had to ask someone to interpret the dinner invitation). Like me, she was a music major! Like me, she went to USC School of Music! She grew up in Reedley, CA … the same town where my mom grew up and where both my grandfathers are buried! I could not believe this was a coincidence. So this was why I was here – or at least part of it.
Also at our table was a Korean diplomat who also spoke perfect English. Daisy and I asked him questions about our grandfathers and why they were honored as patriots. He filled in some of the “holes” in our understanding. In short, our grandfathers helped maintain the “rebel” government that kept Korea intact under Japanese occupation. They also maintained the “rebel” army that helped the Allied troops to victory over Japan in WWII. My grandfather was freedom fighter!
And yes, President Park came in. I didn’t get to meet her and I didn’t understand a single word she said in her speech. (And I wasn’t allowed to take a photo of her – darn! And the Secret Service people were all over the place). But I witnessed a historic moment: the first female President of Korea in her first trip to LA. She was elegant, graceful, regal, and I could sense humility in the way she spoke to us. It nearly took my breath away as I watched her speak. I know she is an earthly “ruler,” but the sense of awe and respect she commanded through her presence gave me a small glimpse of “majesty.” I thought to myself, “How much more is my Lord!” How much more noble, more gracious, more regal, and more humble is He! What a blessing!
I still don’t know all the reasons why my God dropped this unexpected opportunity in my life. Nor do we always understand why God does many things in our lives. But I believe if we hold these opportunities with open hands and open heart, with our gaze intently on Him, we will see how simply amazing He is through it all.