With college just weeks away, Tiffanie was looking for ways to make her dorm room different. So when she spotted the little wooden chest with enameled drawers at Bob’s Junk Shop, she happily paid the seven dollars and rushed home with her find.
As she wiped off layers of grime, Tiffanie felt something shift within the chest. Inside the last drawer, she discovered a little latch that opened a false bottom. Reaching inside, she pulled out some yellowing papers and an old passport.
Awesome! Tiffanie opened the passport to find it stamped in English and unfamiliar characters. The photograph was faded and brittle. Carolyn Winston, she read. Gee, Carolyn, couldn’t ya smile a little? How old is this, anyway? A moment’s examination gave her the answer; the first stamp on the passport was dated 1927, Shanghai, China.
China…that’s where they wear those kimonos! Or maybe that’s Japan. Whatever. I wonder what Carolyn was doing there in 1927. I know, it’s just like that Indiana Jones movie that starts in the fancy Chinese nightclub. Maybe she was a glamorous singer…
Shanghai, China, 1927—Carolyn dipped a cloth in cool water, and pressed it to Jiang’s forehead. Jiang was exhausted after hours of labor, her skin pale and damp. She reached for her newborn, but her arm fell weakly to the thin mattress.
“Your baby is fine, Jiang. Just rest now. Jesus is watching over you.” Carolyn spoke in broken Mandarin, but Jiang understood enough.
“Miss Carolyn,” she whispered, “thank you for teaching me about Jesus. Please teach my baby...” Jiang coughed blood into the rag that she kept in her sleeve. Before the morning sun reached her baby’s face, she was resting in the arms of her Savior.
* * * * * * * * * *
Tiffanie examined the yellowing papers, boarding passes for airplanes and ships going between California and China. Carolyn Winston seemed to travel every three or four years. What an exciting life she musta had! I remember, China’s where they have all that silk and jade. Maybe she was a millionaire’s wife, and her house was filled with pretty vases…
Shanghai, China, 1935—The cackling of chickens in the courtyard awakened Carolyn early on the morning of the new clinic’s opening. It had taken five years’ labor, and all the resources that she could squeeze out of Missionary Circles in America. Finally it was finished, and the first leprosy patients would be accepted today.
Gradually, Carolyn became aware of a sound in the alley that separated her small dwelling from the clinic. She lifted the paper shade from her window and gasped: dozens of patients, most with family members, were straining to enter the clinic. The alley was packed with people, many with limbs wrapped in filthy bandages.
Carolyn went out to minister to God’s people.
* * * * * * * * * *
Turning the last page of the passport, Tiffanie saw that Carolyn’s final trip was in 1949. I wonder why she stopped traveling to China. Maybe she decided to stay here to raise a family. I bet she told her children some great stories. S’pose she walked on the Great Wall of China? Or visited the Emperor? They have emperors in China, right? Gee, I shoulda paid more attention in history…
Shanghai, China, 1949—“Miss Carolyn, Miss Carolyn! You must hurry!”
Carolyn looked into the frightened eyes of her housekeeper and friend, Meiying. “What is it? Don’t you remember—‘Lo, I am with you always’?”
“Oh yes, Miss Carolyn, but please, you must go from here! The government is telling missionaries they must leave the country immediately! If you do not go, I do not know what will happen! Oh, please, Miss Carolyn!” Meiying grasped Carolyn’s hands, pulling her toward the door.
Carolyn desperately wanted to stay and continue her work in the flourishing clinic, where hundreds had received healing. “No,” she told Meiying, but then her door was kicked in, and men with guns were pushing her outside.
“Wait!” she cried. “Just let me get a few things!” Carolyn ran back inside and threw her passport into a bag, along with some clothes and the little wooden chest that had been her gift from a leprosy patient.
* * * * * * * * *
Tiffanie felt around in the false bottom of the chest: nothing but dust. Well Carolyn, I guess you won’t be needing this any more. She tossed the passport into the trash.
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