Written in loving memory of Pete Huang.
Dr. Pete Huang immigrated to the United States in 1961 from China. He became well known in China and the United States for his contributions to civil engineering.
He authored books, even in later life. His eyes still sparkled when he spoke of how to build roads.
Jay and I first met Pete through a Sunday School class. We knew nothing of his educational level or his fame. We just knew him as Pete.
Pete taught us, not about making physical highways, but about how to travel on The Way of Jesus, Who is The Way.
The Sunday School class was the most unique group we had ever encountered. They were all over 80 years old. When we first visited the class, we felt a warm welcome by all.
We knew we had found The Fountain of Youth when an elderly lady said, “It’s so nice to have young people join us.” We were in our 60s at the time.
We were duly oriented to the class routines and rules, which apparently had been agreed upon years before.
The members found its boundaries not restraining, but comforting … dependable in an ever changing world. We found it to be true for us as well.
The class started on time … not one minute before … not one minute after. Everyone sat in the same place every week. They never claimed their seats and would have given it up to anyone else, but we all knew whose seats were where and we eagerly waited for that person to occupy the seat.
If anyone was missing, their seat went unclaimed. We felt they were there in spirit, even if their physical body was not.
I became the song leader for the class.
As such, I had the opportunity to witness the most wonderful section of God’s Choir.
The group always began with the chorus of “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus,” as they had done for years. Looking into their eyes looking into Jesus’ Eyes was perhaps the most spiritual experience I have ever had.
This was my first real introduction to Pete. Pete was very hard of hearing. But this in no way limited His Praise of God. He sang enthusiastically and with Joy.
He was often not in synch with the other voices because he could not hear them. He was having one on one communication with Jesus. And his face shone in the reflection.
The next step in getting to know Pete was through the monthly potlucks. Once a month, everyone came to the church social hall with their dishes.
While we were never instructed in what to bring, after a few months, we noticed a trend. Everyone always brought their same dish every time. Everyone knew what the other was going to bring because they always brought “their dish.” They could count on it.
There was also a division of labor. When they gathered, each person knew what their job was and they did it faithfully. Jay and I were rotated through and taught what to do.
And so came the next part of getting to know Pete. He was the official dish washer and dryer. He was meticulous. Dirty dishes came in and he put them through the wash.
But what intrigued me was how he handled each dish. Picking each one up, holding it up to the light to be sure it was clean, and gently placing it on the drying rack.
It made me think of Jesus taking us dirty children and rendering us without spot and gently … very gently … putting us down to dry.
I grew up in the days before we had a dish washer, so I was the family dish dryer. Pete was delighted to hear that. He said, “So you have experience!” I felt like I was on a job interview and I wanted to work for Pete.
He “supervised” me until he was sure I could handle the job. Then he showed me where each plate, serving platter, bowl and utensils were stored.
I always looked forward to my times in the kitchen with Pete. I had no idea Pete was Dr. Pete. He willingly served in humility, just as Jesus did. While he could have been addressed as so much more, he was content to just be called Pete … one name like Jesus.
Perhaps the greatest lesson Pete taught me was about unconditional love. Pete had a wife named Jane. She was at every potluck with Pete.
Pete always fixed her a plate and served her before he got his own food. The looks of love between the two of them could light up the room. Everyone talked to Jane and so it escaped our attention for awhile that she never answered.
Gradually we learned of the vibrant, active woman she had once been … before she developed Alzheimer’s Disease. She had been silent for awhile. She possibly did not know her friends. But she knew and loved Pete.
His gaze never left her. Even as he was washing dishes, he looked up at her and smiled. And she smiled back. She had forgotten many things, but she never forgot Pete’s Love.
Pete also loved his children and grandchildren and they loved him. Pete shared with us how proud he was of his children, but what most pleased him was that they knew The Lord, Who had ordered his steps all the way from China to the United States.
At some point, we discovered the academic and professional achievements of Dr. Huang. He even shared his book with us. He shared everything, not in pride, but in gratitude to God for allowing him the life he had.
I was saddened to learn of Pete’s passing this week. But then I realized he had just been promoted. He was truly faithful on earth.
I am sure Jesus welcomed him with open arms and said, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!”
At the end of each potluck, I led the group in singing “Bless be the tie that binds.” It was the way they had ended potlucks for years. It was their testament to The Spirit that held them together, no matter what.
The original last verse spoke of the pain of parting. This seemed very out of character for this group. I was a little nervous about proposing any change, but I felt led to do so.
They heard it and the vote was unanimous. It became our new non-parting song. And Pete was the most vocal in singing it. I hear him today from Heaven, singing it.
When we asunder part,
we surely will feel no pain.
For we will still be joined in heart
And know we will meet again!
And many of that group, including Jane, were already in Heaven to welcome Pete!