Hear the Sound of Heaven’s Joy
Chapter 7 A Family History
“Okay, so what did you want to talk about, Emma?”
“Our parents.” she replied.
Emma began pulling a few more items from the depths of the trunk, starting with that curious small cardboard box.
“I’m guessing you saw the contents of this box, right?”
“Don’t worry.” Emma interrupted, “That was the plan all along.”
“Whose folded flag is this anyway,” Ethan demanded, “Isn’t Thad’s memorial flag downstairs on the mantle?”
“I’ll explain all of that in good time.” she responded. So, for the next hour, Emma retold what Papa had shared with her, in a manner reminiscent of the Bible stories he had read to the children so many times from his rocking chair.
Emma held the little box in her hand and unwrapped the two New Testaments, just as Ethan had done earlier. She asked him if he had noticed the language version of each pocket-sized book. One was in English and the other was translated into Korean. The armband with the large red cross on it was worn by Papa during his military service in Korea. Papa served as a Navy corpsman, better known as a combat medic, assigned to accompany Marines on the front lines of battle. Papa also served as a chaplain to these Marines both on and off the battlefield. Sometimes, the wounded spoke only Korean, so he learned enough to communicate the Gospel of Christ to soldiers—whether friend or captured enemy. He would also be called upon to provide medical or spiritual help to civilians caught in the crossfires of war. It was definitely a life-changing experience for Papa.
During his final combat mission, Papa patched up a number of wounded Marines and carried the ones who couldn’t walk on their own, back to safety. When Papa headed back to treat another casualty, he was severally wounded himself while protecting that soldier’s life from the shrapnel of an exploding grenade. Despite his own wounds, Papa rose up to lift the wounded Marine upon his shoulders. At that moment, Papa took a bullet to the chest. God saved his life that day when the two New Testaments that he always carried together in his vest pocket absorbed much of the bullet’s force. He woke up in a Naval hospital a week later, with a nurse watching over him, welcoming him back to the States. The war was over for Papa. Emma showed her brother an old photograph.
“Look familiar?” Emma asked, her eyebrows raised in anticipation.
“Umm, hey that’s Mama, right?”
“Yes, Mama was that Navy nurse who cared for Papa,” Emma replied, “She was born and raised in a small rural Korean village not too far from where Papa fought his last battle. Mama came to the States, attended a college nursing school, became a citizen, worked as a nurse before joining the Navy when the war broke out.
“These are her folded-flag memorial and service ribbons.” she said, pointing to the other display cases.
The mystery of two folded flags was solved. Emma told Ethan about their parents’ return to Korea a number of times to adopt orphans. They eventually adopted five children in all. On their final trip there, they saw a newly-born set of orphaned twins, and they just didn’t have the heart to separate them.
“So, here we are!” Emma said, with a broad smile.
With the prized coin now held securely in Ethan’s hand, the twins headed downstairs to see what was happening there. Papa was ready to walk with Ethan. Together they strolled seemingly every inch of the farm, occasionally pausing to observe, talk and even laugh a few times. Little had changed there from Ethan’s boyhood.
As they walked by the lambing shed, Ethan thought about Papa braving a fierce late winter storm to rescue a newborn lamb left shivering in the cold. Ethan appreciated that story even more now knowing of Papa’s Korean War experience as a combat medic. It brought a deeper sense of appreciation for Jesus’ words about rescuing a lost sheep: “I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7 NASB).
Chapter 8 A Chorus of Angels
Papa and Ethan now entered the big red barn. Ethan glanced up toward the hay loft that doubled as the family’s choir loft back when all seven of the children re-enacted Luke’s manger scene narrative. Now, the story was just read around the breakfast tables. Emma hoped someday they could renew the barn tradition with the nieces and nephews. Ethan mentioned to Papa that Emma had spoken to him about the trunk’s contents.
Ethan listened to Papa give him more things to ponder, hearing about Jesus’ mission to seek and to save the lost… that’s the real story of Christmas. It’s all about Jesus. And, Papa reminded him that Jesus has a specific job for us, as believers… the good works that God has prepared for His children. Papa recounted his firm belief that God provided the farm, but also as a place to love and provide for those who had nothing in this world, no hope and no one to even care about them. So, before they got married, Mama and Papa began praying and asking God to show them His will and how to go about accomplishing it.
“God’s answer for us was going back to Korea, a place torn apart by war, and rescuing orphans by adoption, just as God has adopted us into His family as repentant sinners trusting Christ for our salvation, Papa said, pulling a handkerchief from his hip pocket to wipe away the mist forming in his eyes, “He is a good God.”
“As for you, Ethan, there’s no denying that the last few years without you here have been tough for Emma and me,” Papa said, looking him straight in the eye, “And I suppose some might think that I considered you my prodigal son and, in some ways I did. That’s why I waited for the Lord to bring you back home… in His good time. Although I wanted to do it myself. But I know from my own experience, when I was about your age, that wasn’t going to work.” Papa remembered well that parable’s verse: “for this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found. And they began to be merry” (Luke 15:24 NASB). “Welcome home, son!”
“I have one more thing to show you.” Papa said, drawing Ethan’s attention toward one of the empty animal stalls storing a very large object hidden under a canvas tarp.
“Let’s go take a look,” Papa encouraged, “Go ahead, and lift the tarp.”
Ethan raised a corner of the tarp revealing an authentic-looking replica of Papa’s old pickup truck—which Ethan totally wrecked while learning to drive it, one Christmas day. Except, this was no replica—this was the same vehicle—now fully restored and ready to stay on the road this time.
“It’s been parked here a while, waiting for your return,” Papa said, “It’s my gift to you… Merry Christmas.”
Ethan’s jaw dropped in amazement but before he could express his thanks, Sally interrupted him again as she entered the barn, carried in the loving arms of her Aunt Emma, who happily joined Sally in singing another round of the sheep chorus. Sally held the stuffed-toy sheep tightly in her arms as Papa and Ethan caught a glimpse of why Jesus came to this earth in the form of a newborn baby to give us opportunity to become newly reborn by His grace.
“He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face, He was despised, and we did not esteem Him… All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him” (Isaiah 53:3, 6 NASB).
“…Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29 NASB).
Alan Summers, GBC Elder
All Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB), 1975 edition unless indicated.