Coffee Reggiegram : who are the people you admire in your life!?
Have you thought of thanking them?
Something going on in the kitchen. Jan’s mom called out to her, “Jan what’s keeping you? I need you here in the dining room! What’s going on?” It turned out that Bruce was in the kitchen proposing to Jan right at that moment, unbeknownst to her mother, in a totally inappropriate circumstance. But, regardless of circumstance, Jan knew what the answer would be, a great one that would last beyond half a century. My wife and I were new in Cincinnati, and that evening we were guests of Jan’s parents. We were just chatting away with them in the dining room, oblivious of the nuances of American life in the kitchen. Though technically I suppose we became quasi-witnesses to this mutual affirmation.
The untitled founding elder. We met Bruce at the “American church” that we first attended after we arrived in Cincinnati, to begin my training in Neonatology, the care of sick small infants. Our spiritual interests and focus on serving God were so similar that we hit it off instantly. Thereafter, Bruce would become an essential part of the beginning of our Chinese Church, literally a founding elder, though he never was given a title, and technically wasn’t even an “official member” of our church. Of course we didn’t have a true membership roster anyway! A truly unsung hero.
The one-year contract person. Bruce is the only person I know who makes a habit of only agreeing to do a new ministry project for one year. I’m guessing it’s his engineering background that made him “project driven”. He would graciously agree, but after that one year he’s gone!
Actually it turned out to be a sensible idea, because usually after a year or so, most things had settled down. It was probably good then that we were left on our own to solve our problems, and not become too reliant on him. Enough help when needed, but goodbye when the time came. Maybe even a humble variant of “Don’t overstay your welcome, ” as some like to say.
Crossing cultures. Both Bruce and Jan were especially helpful for our developing youth and children’s programs respectively. On and off we would call them to “pinch hit” when needed. So even though it was beyond any “contractual relationship”, we often saw them: when called, they readily responded. They were excellent teachers who loved the youth and children, and were loved by our church.
I’m sure crossing cultures was not that easy for them. Imagine walking into a hall of hundreds of Asians, and you’re possibly the only lao wai, technically and affectionately translated, “old outsider”, meaning lao or old as in “old friend”, but also wai as in “you are the foreigner”. Which is also funny, being an outsider or foreigner in your own country.
The neck scar. Bruce had a distinctive large scar on his neck that was not only vivid, but a suggestion at least to me, that he had lived an adventurous life. He was tall and muscular, and had worked in Libya, North Africa, on a geologic oil drilling operation, so there was indeed an aura of adventure. After all, I loved to read books like Lawrence of Arabia, and other Arab intrigues which colored my childhood thinking. Unfortunately, he explained that his seemingly exciting macho scar was really only a thyroid operation scar, from a surgeon less refined in cuts and scars! This explanation was a bit of a disappointment for my imagination.
颈部瘢痕。布鲁斯脖子上有一个明显的大伤疤，这伤疤不仅引人注目，而且至少对我来说，暗示着他曾有过冒险的生活。他身材高大，肌肉发达，曾在利比亚、北非的一个地质石油钻探作业中工作过，所以他身上确实有一种冒险的气息。毕竟，我喜欢读《阿拉伯的劳伦斯》(Lawrence of Arabia)之类的书，以及其他让我童年思想多彩化的阿拉伯谋略的故事。不幸的是，他解释说，他那看起来彰显阳刚之气的伤疤实际上只是一个甲状腺手术的伤疤，一个不太精致处理伤口和疤痕的外科医生给留下的!这个解释让我的想象有点失望。
Model teacher. Bruce was a math teacher at the arguably top public school of the city. He must have been a model teacher, since the Cincinnati public schools appointed him as master teacher to teach other teachers. I felt they made a wise choice, since I had seen his excellent teaching on numerous occasions. Teaching is such an important profession, and coaching by a passionate effective teacher like Bruce would seem to be a great idea.
Classical teacher. It is often thought that to be a good youth worker, you have to be able to play with the kids or provide lots of physical activities. Although Bruce was a fine sportsman, he was much more serious than that. In perspective, for our relatively studious Asian kids, his thoughtful approach to youth work and Christian apologetics turned out to be a great fit. He got along really well with them, without what might seem to me to be somewhat “frivolous” entertainment that some programs focus on to keep kids interested.
He challenged their minds well, and I liked that. The youth were impressed particularly because of the faithful and passionate messenger that he was, in addition to the truths and strengths of his biblical message!
I think our church parents also instinctively respected and trusted him for being somewhat closer to the Asian model of a serious classical teacher, who knew clearly what he was talking about! Or maybe that is just another Asian bias I have!
Co-founder of English service. A good number of years after the beginning of the church, we began to plan a specifically English program for English-speaking adults. So even though Bruce was still not technically an official church member, he became essentially a founding elder again for this ministry!
It was a great encouragement to have a buddy by the side, especially someone with such integrity and enthusiasm for the gospel. He had no temper and had eminent sense. We started the English program quite smoothly, and amazingly, I don’t even remember a single argument with him!
Old time preacher. Over the years Bruce would often preach on Sunday services. I like to think of him as a no-nonsense straightforward “old-time preacher”, in the great sense that he gave the message straight, not with a lot of humorous stories or something like that, but with good practical lessons and solid theology. For us as a small church with limited human resources, his spiritual maturity helped us to build a firm spiritual foundation.
Bruce the psychiatrist. In 1994 I helped start an international medical mission in China, with headquarters in Hong Kong. I needed a regional USA board, and Bruce of course naturally became its chairman. He and the board members became my regular sounding board, and probably my reluctant quasi-psychiatrists also! Building a new mission organization all the way in Asia was very difficult, particularly because of the multiple cultures involved. Diverse cultures brought diverse perspectives and tensions that sometimes quite stressed me out.
It really wasn’t the same as starting a local church, where by definition we mostly knew everybody, and had been working close together, sometimes weekly for years. In this case, we barely knew each other, but had to plan from scratch an international organization that would ultimately span more than a dozen countries and territories. It was just very encouraging for me to come home and pour out my heart before a group of people I could “fully trust”. In essence Bruce became my “chief psychiatrist” and counselor, helping to tide me over some of the most difficult times of my life!
The Eagle’s Nest. Bruce was heavily vested in training young men and women for the future, calling his group The Eagle’s Nest. His focus was on classical western philosophy and its continuing impact on young people. He trained his “disciples” not just to survive, but also to challenge our society, to bring it back to its proper Christian roots! From the Eagle’s Nesters, Bruce also sent some of his cream of the crop to help in our youth counselor team, an inspiration and encouragement for our burgeoning youth group.
Teaching in Islamic madrassa. Bruce took the novel step of bringing his 13 year old son to join one of our medical mission teams in Southwest China. It was a great move. We were able to teach English in an Islamic madrassa (religious school) in China, to make friends with the local imam (Islamic pastor) and even ultimately to dialogue with him about faith issues, privately and publicly. I’m sure the mission trip was really inspirational for this young Midwestern boy.
Bruce and Jan, Sinicized. This boy became a young man who served 7 years in China, married a Chinese personal fitness national champion, and brought her back to small-town, USA. This young vivacious lady has brought China also, so that Bruce’s family now is well Sinicized in food and many habits! I sense that Bruce and Jan also have been basically rejuvenated by this development. Especially recently with a new grand-baby!
Conclusion. If you have a chance, you should meet Bruce. As befitting Asian guanxi culture, “Tell him you know me.” My buddy for 50 years, through coffees and lunches, and many insightful and meaningful chats. A new perspective has just become available on You-Tube, where Bruce recounts his stories, try it.