Our {Crazy, Amazing, Unexpectedly Beautiful} Story

Michael and I met 8 years ago in Mangshi, a relatively small town in Yunnan, China. He and his wife, Caroline, were part of the leadership of the English school where I taught. I remember meeting Caroline in my first week there. Her spunk and courage immediately drew me, and she soon became one of my favorite new friends. She and Michael had three rambunctious boys, Samuel, Ian and Zach. Though they lived about 2 hours away near the border of Myanmar, we interacted quite often through the foreign community and the English school. I remember lots of laughter and fun. One of my favorite memories is when we threw a Christmas party for the Chinese teachers, complete with homemade egg nog, decorating a tree, and Michael sharing the real Christmas story. It was a great friendship, and meeting the Woos was one of the highlights of my year in China.

32248_1450818542958_5164806_n

Through the intervening years, we stayed in touch through email and Facebook. Then we all ended up at the Urbana missions conference in  2012. The conference and reconnecting with the Woos were instrumental in reigniting my desire to serve the Lord through missions.

551059_4722483092527_1306852779_n

When I heard about Caroline’s diagnosis, I couldn’t believe it. I prayed along with so many others that the Lord would heal her this side of Heaven. I cried my way through Michael’s updates, especially when things took a turn for the worst. My heart broke when I heard she’d passed away (though I know she is not really gone, just whole and joyous, worshiping Jesus face to face) and for Michael and the kids. I wept through the livestream of her memorial service.

Several months later we put together a little China reunion. I came out to visit Michael and the kids along with our dear missionary friends, Ashley and Han Wa. We also spent some time with another friend from our China community, Cheryl, and her girls, Liu Bo and Isabella.

While we were there, Michael and I drank tea and talked every night. I already knew him as a friend. I knew his character and love for Jesus. I was unsure if he was thinking of anything beyond a friendship, but my heart was crying out to the Lord for clarity and wisdom. I had never met Isaac and Salem, and the boys didn’t really remember me, but we got along really well. Salem took to me almost immediately, and Isaac asked me if I could stay with them forever.

fullsizeoutput_595e

On the final night of our visit, Michael asked me a question, “How open are you to having your life interrupted?” Immediately I felt this deep and profound peace from the Lord. After all, I was willing to go to wherever God called me, be it North Carolina or the other side of the world. We prayed together, and the miracle that is our story began to unfold.

Since that first weekend together, I have had this sense that we are being carried along by God’s sovereign plan, caught up in a story so much bigger than ourselves. The sorrow of losing Caroline is real, and yet, we do not grieve as those who do not have hope. Her legacy lives on in her children and the many, many people who were touched by her love for Jesus.

Though I don’t pretend to understand God’s plan—His ways and thoughts are so much higher than ours—I know that He brought Michael and I together. I would never have imagined that my dreams of having a husband and children would come true under these circumstances, but the Lord loves to bring beauty out of brokenness, and I am humbled and honored to be a part of His plan for this family.

I Said, “Yes!”

“Naomi, I love you. Will you marry me?” Michael’s words brought tears to my eyes, and, for a few magical minutes, I forgot the frigid cold and there was only him, only us. The picturesque wooden bridge illuminated by Moravian stars provided the perfect backdrop for a perfect proposal.

“Yes…a thousand times, yes!” I responded, and my heart continued, “Yes. Yes to loving you with all of me through the good and the bad. Yes to loving your kids as if they were my own. Yes to following you as you follow Christ. Yes to serving Jesus side-by-side. Yes to being yours and yours alone for as long as we both shall live.”

What a beautiful way to start the new year (yes, it was New Year’s Eve)! 2018–a year of new beginnings, a year of saying yes to a new season, yes to Jesus, trusting His guidance, fixing our eyes on Him, living our every moment for His glory.

“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:19

Naomi Woo

Author Naomi Woo

Naomi is a new mom... of five! She recently married an amazing man with five kids who lost his first wife to cancer. Together they serve with OMF (Overseas Missionary Fellowship) as mobilizers, helping inspire and prepare new missionaries to share Christ in East Asia. Naomi has traveled extensively as a short-term missionary to China, Japan, Cambodia, Nepal, Uganda... to name a few. An elementary teacher for thirteen years, her heart is to raise up the next generation to know and love Jesus. She loves old books, mountains, travel, strong coffee and spending time with her new husband and kiddos!

More posts by Naomi Woo