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John Chen

We got to spend the week at Apex, which is part of our daughter’s leadership courses with The theme at this event was about Joining the Story. Each of us has a unique story to tell, but WE aren’t the center of the story, God is, and when we share our gifts and talents for His glory, we can actually join His story. So, the story I want to tell is about John John F. Chen. John was behind the scenes as part of the activity staff. His role was to help with the Giant Swings and the Zipline, but he did so much more than that. In my line of work, you learn to train your eye for the little things, the details that often fall between the cracks and go unnoticed. That was John.

He was constantly holding babies and helping to ease people's burdens. He drove clear from New York City to a lodge in Michigan, but he brought enough food and beverages to literally feed an army of Unbounders, as well as the volunteers. When the sun was beating down and you were thirsty, John was offering you Lemon Tea or Iced Coffee from Taiwan. If you were hungry, there were more varieties of snacks than you could shake a stick at. If you had a sore throat, as my daughter did, he was giving you a bag full of cumquats, which were better than mere cough drops. You might think that was pretty amazing, but John went even further. At 11:30 at night, he offered me Cup Noodle. Never heard of Cup Noodle?

Neither had I. It was basically spicy Ramen noodles, and just as I was about to tell him it really wasn’t in my Western diet plan, he told me about the tradition in his family. After big gatherings, they all sit down for Cup Noodle, and it’s not because they’re hungry. It’s not even because it’s healthy (too much sodium), it’s all about fellowship and community. I was intrigued and obliged, and so I sat down at the kitchen table. John brought over a fine selection of three different kinds of Cup Noodle, regular, mild, and hot, all preheated and ready to go with hot water. More people came strolling in, and then more, and we began to chat. It didn’t take long at all for me to appreciate John’s plan. I was talking with a man who was until that moment a stranger to me, and we were having a very good time. The ice was broken. Guards were let down. Doors opened. “Don’t drink the juice,” John said.

“Why not?” I asked. “Is it bad?” “Too much sodium.” He said. “Some people do. It’s up to you. You can if you want.”

So, did John stop there? He did not. The next night, he heard that my daughter was sad to have missed the Cup Noodle experience, so after their formal Gala, as all of these beautiful, stunning young ladies were finishing up with a night full of dancing, John walked up with a big box of Cup Noodle.

Abby thanked him, but asked, “What do I do with all this food?” John said matter-of-fact, “You go find people.”

There were 6 Cup Noodles, so Abby went on a very short-lived mission to find some hungry girls. Instantly there was a round-table Cup Noodle experience happening, filled with laughter, great conversation, and community. Well done John.

But did John stop there? You already know the answer. The next night, at the end of all of the events, John had set up shop. Well, not really a shop, because everything was free, so I guess you would call it a food bank, but even that wouldn’t do it justice. He recruited some young men to help him make the arrangements and even sent some of them out into the masses to recruit others to come and join in for Cup Noodle. Soon the entire camp was shuffling through, picking through an assortment of delectable cuisine. Tables were filled with young people sitting, laughing, conversing, and friendships were being forged. I told John later that I really appreciated his servant's heart. He even gave me a box of food to share at the airport.

John replied, “Just involved in a very small part of the story.” But here’s what I think, friends. Without people like John, the story doesn’t even get told. It doesn’t flow. It’s just confusing. Without the John Chen’s, it doesn’t even make sense, and I think God knows that too.

If you ever think what you do isn’t significant, that you only have a small part or a cameo in this grander story, you’re wrong. David herded sheep. Matthew was a tax collector. Ruth was as down and out as they came, and yet from her line came none other than Jesus Christ. I could go on and on with stories just like that. The world is filled with people who think they have little, small parts to play, yet were their story to go untold, you would never hear another great story again.

I often wonder just how grand their reward will be in Heaven because I can guarantee you that none goes unnoticed. In fact, I think they are God’s favorite parts, and I can’t wait for the standing ovations.

Thank You, John. I plan to always have a box of Cup Noodle on hand from now on.

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