On a dark and stormy morning, December 12, 1992, Mom, our daughter Karen, my wife Ruth and I piled into a limousine to LaGuardia Airport. We were going to meet Ruth’s mother and fly to Longview, TX. The event was our son David’s graduation from LeTourneau University. Oh, the joy of graduation: being surrounded by family, tossing one’s hat in the air as a sign of freedom from stuffy classrooms, and the excitement of looking forward to being a wage-earning, self-sufficient, and independent adult.
We lived in Bellport, a little more than half-way out on Long Island. A week before, our daughter, Karen, had flown in from Korea, where she had been a short-term mission assistant to Pastor Ahn in Suwon. Mom had driven down from Oneonta, NY, where she had been caring for my dad in a nursing home for the past five years.
As we traveled in the limo, the weather was fierce, the roads were a little icy, and we held our breath most of the journey. Due to the wind gusts, La Guardia Airport had put masking tape on the windows. Ruth’s mother lived just 10 minutes away, so she joined us there and we impatiently awaited our flight, hoping it would take off. The Dallas flight before ours did, but ours was delayed. More nail biting. Then a second delay and finally, our flight was cancelled till the next day, Sunday. Although we could try Newark Airport, there was no guarantee of getting a flight, much less of taking off in the raging storm. Tearfully, with heavy hearts we called David and sobbed that we wouldn’t be able to attend. Tail between our legs, we reluctantly retired to Ruth’s mother’s place in Astoria, had some hot coffee, shared some stories and went to bed.
The next morning, though she normally attended a nearby Sisters Mission Church, Ruth’s mother suggested we walk a few blocks to Queens Lutheran Church. It both an English speaking and a Korean congregation. After the English service, the pastor greeted us and asked Karen what she did. She replied that she was looking for a teaching position and mentioned her recent trip to Korea. Pastor said, “You should apply to our school.” After lunch, Karen and I returned for the Korean service. Pastor Ahn (apparently, like Stoltzfus in Lancaster, Ahn is common in Korea), invited us to the coffee hour. Karen was given an application for the Korean school. Ruth’s mother drove us all home to Bellport, NY.
The phone woke me the next morning, “Is Edith Nettleton there?” It was the nursing home to say my dad had died. Mom responded, “The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh, blessed be the name of the Lord.” Another sadness, but fortuitously, Mom & I, not being in Texas, could drive up to Oneonta to take care of arrangements and legal papers. This was not turning out at all to be the graduation weekend we had anticipated.
Some days later, Queens Lutheran School called and asked our daughter Karen, “Can you come in for an interview?” The interview went well and they asked, “Can you start next month?” Their 5th grade teacher had unexpectedly resigned. Surprised, but pleased, Karen agreed, not really thinking of what a parochial teacher makes and what her rent would be. But again, God was at work. One of Ruth’s mother’s renters of about 25 years gave notice she would be moving to live with her daughter. As a result, a rent-controlled apartment was now made possible for Karen.
We were destroyed at missing David’s graduation, then Dad’s death, but God’s raging storm led to being near enough to help with Dad’s passing and to launch Karen’s teaching career. Another reminder had been given us, just like the one given to Ruth in the Old Testament, to trust God and watch His miraculous hand at work. “Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5b). That was the Geritol for our faith journey.