Tuesday, September 6, 2011

David Brainard Woodward

In Loving Memory         Sept.  2011
Dr. David and Betty Woodward
Happy Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival!  We’ve much news this month, but we will save it for later because we'd like to celebrate the life of Dr. David Woodward (1918-2011), who married Sue and I in 1981 in Taiwan.  Even today, 30 years wlater, he continues to influence our lives, and many others, especially through one of those strange  ‘coincidences’ that seem to pop up in our lives…

Coincidences or Father’s Hand?  In early 2011, two Chinese reporters interviewed me  about the amazing “coincidences” that have helped me pull together the history of the Amoy Mission (I was able to show them emails and other materials to document them).

Scientists have long tried to explain these uncanny coincidences.  In the 1920s, Carl Jung dubbed it synchronicity.  Even Einstein spoke of how his insights came not from logic but from unexplained inspiration.  Some call it the Force (rather like Star Wars!).But I see it as our Father’s hand.  He weaves the tapestry of our lives so deftly and gently that we usually go about our lives completely unaware of just how much we take for granted.  But sometimes we  entangle ourselves so much that He reaches in to straighten out a knot or two—such as he did right after our honeymoon, and later did with a gift from Dr. Woodward...

The Magic Zheng While in Taiwan for our wedding,  Sue bought a Chinese zheng for my wedding present.  I had wanted one for years, and was delighted—and then I left it on a public bus in San Francisco while transferring to another airport. I was devastated, and halfheartedly threw up a hopeless prayer—more of a complaint than a plea for help, blaming my Father for allowing his child to be so careless.  I had zero hope of ever seeing the zheng again because neither the instrument nor the case had any ID.   It was not, I felt, an auspicious way to start married life—losing my wedding present before I even got it home.

A full month later, back in Los Angeles at grad school, I was called out of class to the office—and on the dean’s desk was my zheng—no note, no explanation!  The bus company must have spent a month of detective work tracking down the owner of an instrument with no ID on it or in it.  For me, it was a special delivery straight from heaven. 

I thanked our Father for the returned zheng—and apologized both for losing it and for blaming Him for my loss, because the incident drove home two valuable lessons.  One—we, not our Father, are responsible to steward what He entrusts to us.  But two, and more encouraging to me, our Father really is there to help his children.  And He continues to drive home this lesson even today in ways so amazing that some have made it into the Chinese newspapers!   But one of my greatest lessons came through the book “Detour from Tibet,” which Dr. Woodward gave to us at our wedding....

Dr. Woodward, a grad of Princeton and Fuller T.S. (my alma mater), set off on horseback in 1945 for Tibet, and then served for decades with Betty in India, Hong Kong and Taiwan, where Sue knew the Woodwards while she was growing up (Sue’s parents were in Taiwan 30 years with TEAM, and she was born and raised there).

Marital Counseling—or Cautioning?  Sue was thrilled that Dr. Woodward agreed to marry us at Taipei’s Christ Chapel, but I was nervous when he said he had to first counsel me.  My ears were still burning from the marital counseling of Chuck Saunders, my friend from Taiwan days.   (Read more about the Saunders at:  www.amoymagic.com/AM_Saunders.htm )
Chuck Saunders

Don’t Do It, Willy! I met Sue at Chuck and Donna’s house in Pasadena on Easter Sunday, 1981, and after watching our love blossom, Chuck took me to a Mexican lunch and dispensed these words of wisdom:  “Don’t do it, Willy!” (Only Chuck,  and Art Velasquez, ever called me Willy—precisely because they knew I hated Willy).

Chuck was concerned not for me but for Sue.  He knew me from Air Force days in Taiwan, and my time as a special agent in the U.S. and the Middle East, and he was worried Sue would not be able to handle the kind of life I was likely to live in mainland China.  I of course greatly respected Chuck and his advice. He and Donna influenced me on everything from attending Fuller T.S. to going into business, and then leaving business to go to China.  But when it came to Susan Marie, I was deaf!  Happily for us, once they realized we were determined to marry, they embraced us like 2nd parents, and Chuck was the first to visit and encourage us in China right after we arrived in 1988.

Marriage Counseling—the Sequel  After Chuck’s insights on marriage, I certainly did not want a second round of marital counseling from Dr. Woodward.  But Dr. Woodward did not dissuade me, perhaps because the wedding was only 4 days away (and Sue’s dad had my plane tickets and wouldn’t let me leave the island without his daughter in tow).  But Dr. Woodward did advise me on how to keep the wife happy, and given that he was married to Betty for 66 years, I figured he must know what he was talking about, and I listened!

The Magic Book As we prepared for the wedding, Dr. Woodward delighted us with tall but true tales of entering Tibet on horseback, and he gave us a signed copy of his book “Detour from Tibet.”  I treasured that book, which I read several times, and was one of the few books I took to China. So imagine my frustration when Sue loaned it to a Chinese student, who loaned it to another student, who lost it.  I did not say much about it, but inwardly I stewed at losing yet another wedding present. And unlike the zither, I never saw that book again, but our Father used it to teach us a great lesson!

A year after losing my treasured book, we heard that some of our university’s Chinese students had volunteered to work in Tibet so they could also share their new Life there (Chinese tentmakers).  And a year after that news, we had one of those “coincidences” that even today gives me goosebumps to think about.

In 1994, Sue, the boys and I drove 40,000 km. for 3 months around China, up the coast, through the Gobi Desert, to Tibet and back.  I was exhausted by the time we reached Lhasa,(Tibet) but the second day both body and spirit were charged when a young Chinese said to us, “Are you Bill Brown?  I’m a believer from Xiamen Univ. who volunteered to serve in Tibet.  I was moved to do that because of your book, “Detour from Tibet!”

A year lesson, Dr. Woodward was delighted to hear that he was still touching the hearts of Tibetans half a century after he left the place.  And happily for me, he gave us another signed copy of his book.  I do hope to hold on to this copy, but I also pray that I’ll never again put books, or anything else, above people.

On August 23, 2011, Dr. Woodward ended his brief 93 year sojourn on this planet. And now, for the first time, he can view the magnificent tapestry of life—not from the knotty and tangled backside but from the beautiful perspective of the Master Weaver, for whom even the smallest thread has both beauty and purpose.

Ping'an, Dr. David Woodward!

Bill Brown
Xiamen University www.amoymagic.com

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