I am the store manager for Loved Twice Thrift Boutique. Loved Twice is under the umbrella of “Love in the Name of Christ of Lake County”.
A number of Chinese students came into the store early this last June looking for bikes. The day they came into the boutique was actually their first day in the U.S. As I got to know them, I found out they had only met each other that day at the Ramada Inn where they were staying. The spokesperson, Kevin (really Pewien, but they had been given American names by Six Flags) asked me for information on things they could do in the local area. We have maps of where all our partner churches are located available at the store, so I directed them to the churches near their hotel. After taking a picture with me in front of our vision statement, they rode off seemingly satisfied that they would be able to find what they were looking for.
Over the next week, they stopped in the store several times looking for hot pots and other cooking items they needed for their rooms. They told me they had rode by all the churches and as much as they were beautiful buildings, it did not appear that there were activities happening. I invited them to Village Church and, on the following Sunday, Pewien and seven other boys and girls rode their bikes all the way to Village Church from the Ramada. I remember seeing their happy faces in the front row during the worship service. Gun Wen (Olivia) told me that day she could feel something in her heart during that first worship service. Of course, I melted...
We took them to Walmart and bought locks for their bikes and the relationships took off from there. The next week the Zamar Concert was at Immanuel Church and I was able to take them after their shift at Six Flags. The kids from Mississippi invited the students to eat with them upstairs and ministered to them as they ate. During the next three months, as much as possible due to their work schedules, I took them to Village Church on Sundays. Pastor Brandon Smith gave each of them copies of Romans and John, both versions in Chinese. When they were available on Saturdays, we attended Journey Church’s evening services in Kenosha. On their days off, they volunteered at the Thrift Boutique or hung out at my house, cooking dinner for us often. The boys loved my husband Jeff and he enjoyed their help in the yard. Everything was a new experience for them and it was such a pleasure to see their delight. We went to the Quad Cities for a weekend and stayed at my Aunt's cabin on the Mississippi River. While there, I took them to Wildwood Baptist Church, a church I attend when in Moline.
They were awed by the pastor, who is quite an amazing preacher, and we stayed after a few minutes talking about the service. As we were leaving, Pastor Brian Smith greeted us and I mentioned that Pewien had questions about God. He took several minutes to explain the plan of salvation very simply to them. It was another great experience and the message was explained very clearly to them.
Pewien was not happy with the dorm life at the Ramada and, after tons of paperwork, he was given permission to room at our house. Since we live near Six Flags, it was very convenient for him to ride his bike to work. During that final month, our relationship deepened and he told me he treasured those moments together. It was incredible for a young man of 21 to be so tender. It was very sad to see them go but Pewien and Gun Wen email me at least once or twice a week. They have both told me they are now going to church on their campuses. There are two other students, Tansey and William, with whom I am still in contact, but I haven't been able to ask about church yet. I will keep the conversation going.
It was one simple day at the boutique this last summer that God used to teach me that we simply do not know the plans he has for us, and how important it is to stay on the lookout for the potential relationships which could walk into our lives at any time.