Dr. Rodney T. Hard

Note by Dr. Rodney T. Hard:  This story was written by my sister-in-law, Janice, the wife of my youngest brother Gregory.  This incident happened to Janice and my nephew Ian in October of 1985 in South Korea.  I was shocked when she sent me this story in May of 2011.  I had never heard this story before, and it made me reflect on all of the years that my siblings and I had run around the Korean neighborhoods unattended by adults.  Truly, God had watched over us, and by His grace, we had been kept safe.

City street in Korea.

Ian almost a year later wearing a traditional Korean outfit.

Janice Hard, Sister-in-law Gwen Hard, Ian, and Ian's grandmother Grace Hard.

Little Ian in 1985 shortly before going to Korea with parents Gregory and Janice Hard.  He is wearing the same blue navy outfit that is described in the story.

            EVEN IN A STRANGE LAND


By Janice Hard                                                           

It was a crisp cool early autumn evening as the young mother and her toddling son began the now familiar walk up the steep winding hill to the shopping district just above their new home.  In the short six weeks that they had lived in this city the young mother thought she was adapting well to the new sights, smells and customs of the area.

She didn't hesitate or blink uncomfortably when the young shopkeeper plucked up her precious treasure and asked permission to hold him.  Her son’s dimples mesmerized the shopkeeper.  The shopkeeper played patty cake with the tiny little one.  Soon the shopkeeper hugged her son and set him back on his young chubby little legs, waving and bowing as the mother and charge continued on their journey.  

       As they walked past the next couple of stores they came to a hawker who barked out his line of “Come in, come in and see all the best products and good prices.”  The ritual of six weeks would begin; as the hawker would bend down to greet the child.  He would shake the little one’s hand and in return receive a big, sweet smile.  There they were again those big, beautiful dimples.  The hawker would salute the mother and they would continue their trip along the strip of stores with windows filled with their bright and sometimes unique wares.

Tonight’s trip meant a longer walk then usual.  She and her son would be meeting her husband in the area below the Crown Hotel where there were several small mechanic shops.  He was going to be getting their car from the mechanic and had promised that if she and their son would walk down to meet him that he would take them out to eat.  In light of that she had dressed up and was wearing heels for the walk.  She had dressed her son in an adorable navy sailor suit.  He was definitely drawing attention as the only little blonde haired tike out walking and window-shopping with his mother. 

As the young woman approached the silk dress store the matronly storeowner came out and scooped up the tike and headed in to the store with the precious bundle.  Checking to see that the young mother followed she reached below the counter for a small iced yogurt smoothie that she opened and gave to the tike.  He smiled and drank with her assistance.  After much smiling, words of thanks, bows and waves the duo were back on their way.  Sometimes the mother carried the child when his little legs gave out, other times he walked with a wandering, weaving but determined gate down the now familiar pathway.  

        As they approached the new cobble stoned corner and turn that led to the hotel and mechanic, the mother saw what was an oddity to her in this new city – a strangely dressed almost punk like couple.  They reached down to scoop up the dark eyed little tike.  A tremor of doubt and uncertainty assailed the young mother – they were so different in appearance and custom from the friendly shopkeepers, patrons and other people she had met.  She recalled her husband’s words that she would learn to adapt and trust the people of this large city.  She remembered being told not to call attention to herself.  She remembered more importantly that even in this new strange city God was with her.  So she relaxed as the punk pink haired young woman held her child. 

In an attempt to calm herself she tried to initiate a conversation with the young couple but was dumb founded when the couple turned their back on her and started to walk away.  Not into a store but down the cobble stoned pathway.  Not slowly waiting for her to catch up but at a steady gathering speed.  Her mother’s heart cried out that something horrible was happening, her mind that she just did not understand what was happening.  She began to walk faster, but was hampered by her heels.  She would never catch them. This stretch for a short period was abandoned, lonely.  There would be no help; she had never felt so far away from home.  

        As she fervently began offering prayers to her only source of help and comfort, she quickly removed her shoes, preparing to run and scream in what might end up an embarrassing situation.  As she started making blubbering sounds – she looked down the pathway and saw what to her will always be a miracle of divine timing – a solid khaki green wall emerging from the courtyard of the hotel coming toward her.  Four of the biggest, ugliest, yet somehow beautiful American Army soldiers blocking the sidewalk headed her way.  Someone would hear her cries. 

However, someone else saw the approaching soldiers and weighed their chances of getting past the green bulwark.  The unusual looking couple turned around immediately and headed back to the young mother like nothing unseemly had been planned, they handed over the child to the mother, bowed and scurried away to lose themselves in the crowds of the shopping district.  The young mother stood clutching her precious son to her chest.  She was stunned, finding it hard to process what had just happened.  She had come so close to losing her son, but even in a strange land God had answered her plea.  

        As the American soldiers approached she contemplated telling them how God had used them to save her son, but she hesitated and the men walked on toward the Army base.  She let them go and hurried on to her waiting husband.  Her first words to him were, “I want to go home.”  He was stunned and initially disbelieving, but relying on his wife’s intelligence came to see the seriousness of the situation.  Together they soon realized though that God had protected their son and they stayed to do the work that had brought them to this land. 

At twenty-seven I did not know that there were isolated cases of Caucasian children in Korea being kidnapped and sold.  But, at 27, I learned firsthand and in a mighty way that God does protect his children and that God had a different plan for Ian’s life.