Hello! I’m a native Arkansan who relocated here 17 years ago due to a job change. I spent at least three years trying to find a way back home because I was uncomfortable here. I’d smile and say “Hello” to folks in the grocery store or other public places and more times than not was met with either a cold stare or no response at all. Homesick and feeling isolated, I’m thankful I had the Episcopal Church to lean on – first, St. Luke’s in Manchester and St. Martin’s shortly thereafter. Although both differed from my previous church experiences, there was still a comforting familiarity, most especially the liturgy. The other thing that helped me acclimate was meeting a co-worker who later became my husband. Jack Brown and I celebrated 13 years of marriage in July.
I am the third and youngest child of Chinese immigrants who came to Pine Bluff, Arkansas in 1949. My dad was all about ancestor worship and insisted there was no God. My mom was a believer, but to keep peace with my dad, she acquiesced to him, and nobody went to church. When I was 9, a family friend-also from China- approached my parents and convinced them that their kids should have a choice since they’re in America now. They offered to come by and take us to their church on Sundays. Shortly afterwards, my brother, sister and I started going to Trinity Episcopal Church in Pine Bluff, where we were all baptized and confirmed. I have fond memories of going to Sunday School and processing into “big people church” at the appointed time.
Since coming to St. Martin’s in 2003, I’ve been honored to serve in a plethora of roles: LEM, Vestry – twice, Junior Warden, handbells, outreach, assistant to clergy, stewardship, convention delegate, acolyte, altar guild. I primarily attend the 8:00 Sunday service because I love the Rite I liturgy. In my current role on Vestry as stewardship liaison, I hope to help the committee turn stewardship into a year-around effort and not something we just think about annually when it’s time to fill out a pledge card.
Pledging and giving back is something I prayerfully and freely do, but it hasn’t always been that way. On many Sundays in “big people church,” whenever a certain usher would lean into the pew with the offering plate, his jacket would fall open just enough to reveal a holster with a gun. As a naïve kid with a wild imagination, I took this as a subtle hint that I would meet an early demise if I didn’t put something in the plate. He often called on my family at stewardship time and I remember clearly urging my parents that even though they didn’t attend church, they needed to pledge so that we would all remain safe.
Eventually I learned this gentleman carried a gun because he was a Special Agent of the FBI. We became friends. He taught me that stewardship wasn’t just about money and that if I increased my gifts I would be exponentially blessed. I count my St. Martin’s family as one of those blessings, and I’m thankful for each of you.