"You come here and be my girl!"
Those are the first words I remember Mom Chu saying when we knocked on her apartment door on my first tour at Ouachita. I had gone for a percussion audition and my first visit on a Saturday at the beginning of February, and Mr. Salyers, the percussion teacher who was also semi-new to OBU, was showing my parents and me around as best as he could, without an "official" campus tour guide.
We visited in her apartment for a little while, and she told me all about how much OBU meant to her, and why it had become her "home." Mom Chu invited me that day to make it my home too, and something told me, after I left...it would be!
I did decide to go to Ouachita Baptist University, and God blessed me by placing me on the "West Side" of the freshman dorm! Each dorm had a "mom" or a "mom and dad" to supervise the RAs and assist students living there, and Mom Chu was in Francis Crawford West. She always knew what was going on with all "her girls," and she took the best care of us!
Her amazing story is too long for me to share here, but she and her husband came over from China in the 1950s and began their life at OBU in Arkadelphia. They had a daughter named Jane, who also grew up there, attended college there, and majored in music. Mom Chu so loved sharing about her Chinese heritage and the wonderful story of how God blessed her family's life as they moved to America and chose to fully trust Him through the years.
I remember many Sunday lunches in the Caf after church, sitting with Mom Chu and visiting about things going on around campus, the students in our dorm, church events, her heart for China, and my passion for sharing Jesus with students and people from around the world. She was a "mother" to all the girls in her dorm, and to many other students around campus, as well as a "grandmother" to many of the children at church. We shared visits in her little apartment in the dorm, with Mom Chu teaching me a few Chinese words here and there, and always encouraging me to keep serving with all my heart and working hard in my studies. In fact, if I wind up in China with the JM program, I will know it is her fault, because of her prayers...lol...she so desires for people to visit her hometown and country, sharing the joy of Christ with the many people there who don't know. When I told her I had applied, she of course said she hoped I would go there! :)
Mom Chu moved to my home state of Missouri after retiring from OBU a little over a year ago, and I have been longing to visit her for quite some time, but it has been hard because we live four hours apart, and I don't go that way very often at all. So...when I knew I would pass through her community today, it was the perfect opportunity for a visit!
We spent time walking around her new retirement community, and she showed me where she lives now, introducing me to many of her new friends around the buildings. I bet there are few people who don't know Mom Chu! I felt so proud when she introduced me as "her little girl" from Ouachita! She shared about her new volunteer calling at the care center for residents who need special medical attention and services. Every morning she wakes up at 5 a.m., has a bowl of cereal, and walks to the care center across the highway, where she talks with, listens to, walks with, laughs with, and encourages the residents there. Many of them count on her visit each day, and she never misses one - people are depending on her, she says! It touched my heart so much, the way she shared about how God has given her so much, and the people she talks with have given so much in their lives...it is important for us to serve and give back as much as we can now. Even though her days are mostly the same now, she looks forward to getting up each morning, knowing she will share the big heart God has given her, using the abilities and blessing of health she has, to touch others.
Visiting Mom Chu was the best gift I could ask for today, but before I left, she didn't want to send me away without giving me something. She asked if I was hungry, and when I told her I'd had a snack but would eat dinner a little later, she insisted on sending some fruit with me, from a basket someone had given her. I know this was a sacrifice because she isn't able to go to the store often to buy fruit and groceries. While I didn't want her to give her fruit away, I knew she wanted to with all her heart. Then, as I was about to leave, she continued saying she wished she could give me something more. I told her visiting was the best gift I could ask for, but she gave me two small beautiful decorations from her living room too. I was so humbled by her desire to give and share, and I pray for the same giving heart, both now, and as I grow! To some, fruit and decorations may not seem like much, but for me, they were a perfect example of how God fills our hearts through the unselfish sacrifice of others.
Oh how thankful I am that God sent me to OBU for my first visit eight years ago (already that long?!), and He blessed me with the opportunity to live on the "Westside" when I moved there almost eight years ago, in August of 2003 and be one of Mom Chu's girls. My heart will always have a home there, and the people I met and grew to love will always be my family. Mom Chu is and always will be the first family member I had there!