For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6 (ESV)
This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1 John 4:9-10 (NIV)
Let me begin by saying it feels a little strange to be creating a word document instead of typing a quick status into Facebook or Twitter in this modern age of social networking. Years ago, I would sit next to my mom as she typed out her annual January Christmas letter. Now, as most of you already know, I have a family of my own, and would like to continue her tradition in some fashion or another. Most of you reading this will likely already have “friended” Jisu and me, so you should be pretty much caught up with our lives. For the rest of you who haven’t seen me in several or more years, here’s a quick recap.
In 2003 after graduating from Pitt, I joined the Army. During that time, I was assigned to the 2nd Infantry Division in Korea, which is where I met Jisu, who was a kindergarten teacher at the time. We got married, I completed my enlistment, and I found a civilian job with the Army. As of now, I have been in Korea for four years – two in the Army, and two as a civilian. I work for CACI as a maintenance and logistics supervisor, supporting a unit that collects and analyzes aircraft-based signals intelligence based at Camp Humphreys.
On January 18, 2011 at 9:35pm, Zoe Lee Oelschlegel was brought into the world: perfectly normal, healthy, and completely wonderful in every way. She was due on the lunar new year (one of the biggest holidays in Korea), but arrived two weeks ahead of schedule, and so we are thankful there was no shortage of hospital staff at delivery, and a potential disaster avoided. I can’t tell you what a blessing she has been in our lives. Her name comes from Greek, where it means “life.” In Korean, her name is spelled 조이 (pronounced “joey”), and means “morning joy” in Chinese. And she lives up to her name quite earnestly, if morning is defined as 5:30am and joy means cries of hunger. She loves robot noises and helicopters flying past the window (my daughter); she sleeps with her arms above her head and is ever-curious about food (Jisu’s daughter). She gets excited and repeats the baby word “aht-da” when the security system in the living room announces my arrival into the parking garage, knowing that I’ll walk in the door within a few minutes. Then again, she says the same thing when the helicopters go by, so maybe not. Bottom line is we love her in a way neither of us ever thought possible.
Jisu spends her days at home taking care of Zoe. In between Zoe’s particular needs, she fixes lunches, cooks dinners, does laundry, cleans the apartment, pays bills, exercises nightly, and meets weekly with our neighbors for a study of The Purpose-Driven Life. She also recently got her driver’s license. She saves judiciously, planning on graduate study at Drexel University in the field of library sciences. She loves Billie Holiday and Coldplay and good jazz music. Most of all, she embodies what it means to be a Proverbs 31 wife and mother, and willingly accepts both roles.
Life for me in Korea is full of ups and downs, and has been lonely at times. Although I work around lots of people, the turnover rate is high, and true deep friendships are hard to come by. In April, God answered that prayer with a Tuesday night men’s Bible study. One of the men in the group, John, was a pilot who flew the type of aircraft I work on. I had known him for only four months when tragically, he was killed in a motorcycle accident. For many of us in the Bible study and those in our families who know John, his death was a catalyst for change in our lives. Jisu and I started going to a Sunday afternoon fellowship, where John had usually led worship by himself, playing guitar. Now we have a full-out band; others have also rediscovered their musical abilities, and I usually end up playing whatever instrument is left over (typically piano). The biggest blessing has been an outpouring of love and generosity, friendship with the men and women, and godly examples all around of how to live life and raise a family in Christ Jesus.
God has been good to us this past year. He has blessed us in every way imaginable. He has provided for all of our earthly and spiritual needs and then some. And the best part is, his blessings never run out, if we continue to ask him for them; Matthew 7:11 reminds us: “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” Our prayer is to forward those blessings on to other people. The other day I read an article highlighting random strangers paying down layaway accounts at Kmart stores across the nation. While that’s noble indeed, our family’s desire is to see God paying down the debts of those he has placed in our lives, and using us in the process.
This season, we celebrate the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, the fulfillment of a promise made to Abraham two thousand years prior: “All nations on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:3). May God bless your lives as richly as he has blessed ours. From our family to yours, we wish you a very Merry Christmas.
Love, Erich, Jisu, and Zoe Oelschlegel