Jennifer

Last October, a leader at the church I attended in Korea sent an email to some singles in the church asking if any of us would be interested in going to a singles’ conference. Not usually one to get involved in those kinds of things (I’m not a fan of most “singles’ events”), I decided to give this one a shot.

Something new to try in Korea, right?

About a week later, this friend sent another email, this time asking if anyone would like to be the one to gather registrations for the church. Evidently, a different church was hosting the actual event.

I really didn’t want to take on anymore responsibilities – at that point, I was already pretty involved with the church I attended, leading a Growth Group, working with the production team on Sundays, teaching English full-time, and overloading a Master’s program. I conveniently forgot to reply to that email.

Another three days passed.

My friend emailed me a third time, this time personally, no one else attached. He asked if I’d like to head up the group since I was the only one who showed any interest.

Great, I thought, Not only does he want me to commit even more to something I’m not even sure about but on top of that, I already know from his email that I’m really the only one interested. Sounds like great bundles of joy to head up a program with that much enthusiasm behind it!

But still, somehow I felt like I was supposed to go for it, like I wasn’t supposed to turn down any opportunities in Korea. So reluctantly, I found myself replying, “Yes. Sure. I’ll do it. Who do I need to get in contact with?”

I got some contact details. The main person organizing the event was named Jennifer. And one semi-rainy evening, I met her to talk about what we needed to do.

Turns out, she was a year or so older than me, curly hair, positive personality, loved to talk. So we talked, about how we wound up in Korea and about her vision for the conference.

Talking with her, I quickly discovered that her vision for the conference was way better than I expected, not just about prepping for marriage or some other normal single stuff, more about doing crazy stuff for the church and people in general, giving away everything we own, living in others peoples’ homes to save for other adventures, living on less, living for others, and so on.

Some of that might not have all been for the conference, but it came up in the conversation anyway. And somewhere along the way, the conversation turned to adoption. She mentioned wanting to adopt.

“Seriously? Me too,” I said, feeling a little like Ignacio in Nacho Libre even as I said it.

She wanted to adopt from Russia. I was more interested in domestic adoption to start. Either way, what was most interesting was that we were both single. She was the first person I’d met who had talked about wanting to do this before getting married, not waiting.

At the time, it had only been about six months since I even started thinking seriously of adopting before (or without) getting married myself. I don’t know if I was the first single person she’d talked to who wanted to do this, but she said I was the first single guy she’d met who was interested in it.

“Hmm, I guess I’m the only single guy I know who’s interested in it too,” I said.

We talked for a while, and walked a couple subway stops too, looking for ice cream, I think. We talked about the conference, but mostly about life and where it was taking us, imagining the road in front of us, imagining how we’d walk it, years down the road.

I remember leaving pretty excited about meeting her, excited this whole thing was turning out to be a lot better than I thought it would be.

But then I got really flaky. I was pretty much the worst coordinator I could have been, exactly the kind of guy I hated dealing with, exactly why I avoided singles’ events in the first place.

I didn’t attend any of the planning meetings – I taught in the evenings when they were held. When Jennifer asked for the coordinators to each pick a specific part of the event to help with, I – again conveniently – never got back with her. And to top it all off, the day of the event, I ended up getting sick, trying to work extra at the academy, and never even made it to the conference.

Failure.

Most of it was my fault. Some of it was my situation. I felt frustrated with the situation, disappointed with myself.

I couldn’t understand why I’d been put in this situation, thinking I was supposed to get involved in the conference, and then in the end fail to even attend. God, what’s up with this?

After the conference, which got good reviews and higher attendance than any of us anticipated, Jennifer and I hung out a couple more times. Then she moved back to America for a teaching job she thought she could land.

Fast forward some months.

Jennifer and I kept in touch. I thought more about adoption and eventually launched the whole Adoption Fund experiment partly as a result of talking with her. She helped me realize that I could keep the plan just a plan, the way I planned, or I could tell everyone regardless of what anyone thought, regardless of whether or not I felt “ready.” (Who’s ever ready, right?)

We kept in touch, and I heard she got a job, a few of them actually, and got involved with a new church, a new group in Texas. And she met this guy named Jeremy, a guy attending seminary, training to be a youth leader.

Fast forward some more months to today, and I found out Jeremy asked her to marry him. It wasn’t a surprise. She said yes. That wasn’t a surprise either. I’m pretty sure she and I were both hoping he’d ask her.

I’m so happy for them, like back flip happy. I’ve never met Jeremy, but I’m looking forward to it one day. He’s got to be solid. And I’m super excited that Jennifer, the one with all the romantic ideas about adopting boys from Russia as a single woman, got her plans changed.

The adventure continues. Same direction, just different paths along the way.

When I think of her tonight, I’m reminded of the Jordan commercial from a few years back: “Much respect… to the dreamers.”

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