One Family’s Response to a Woman Crying In Church

  • by Mary Leigh Keith

From the other end of the pew, Susan noticed Julia crying.

Susan didn’t know Julia Shim well, but Julia had attended a small group led by Susan’s husband and had visited their house a few times.

“I felt really alone,” Julia remembers. “I was doubting, does God even exist? I didn’t even know if He cared about me. It was really hard for me to believe.”

Her parents, who’d lived in Washington for 11 years, had suddenly had to move back to South Korea. Although she was now a senior at the University of Washington, many of her friends had left for the summer. And Jesus, who Julia had begun a relationship with that previous Christmas at a Cru conference, felt incredibly far away.

She broke down at church one Sunday.

After the service, Susan sat with Julia and talked. “I knew she was struggling,” Susan says. “I encouraged her that it was okay to question. And I said, hey I don’t know if this would even work for you, but we’d love to have you live with us, be a safe place [for you] to process. We have 3 kids; it’s madness. But you’re welcome to be a part of it.”

Susan and her husband, both Cru staff members at the University of Washington, carried hesitations with their offer.

“We were always pretty scared to have someone live with us,” Susan says. “It’s vulnerable. You can’t know for sure it’s gonna work out well. I just knew there was a need there and I wanted to see if we could be a blessing.”

Julia was touched by Susan’s invitation – but she also had concerns.

“I thought living with a family could be hard,” she says. “What if there’s a complication, what if the kids don’t like me, what if the dog doesn’t like me? I didn’t want to ruin the relationship that I have with Susan and Kyle.”

Julia had already signed a lease to live with 5 other girls. But when both they and her landlord were supportive of her backing out and living with the family instead, she decided to give it a chance.

What started as including Julia in simple things – family dinners each night, picking out a Christmas tree, waking up to an Easter basket – morphed into something much deeper.

“My family’s kinda broken,” Julia says. “Seeing Kyle and Susan’s relationship surprised me. It’s like, oh this is how a family is. Parents do get along, talk, care for each other.”

But it’s mostly been the little things – like Kyle surprising her by fixing her broken bike or asking his kids for forgiveness after a hard day – that have affected Julia so much.

Until conversations with Susan and Kyle, Julia didn’t know what to look for in a guy or dating relationships. “My dad never taught me that,” she says.

“It was cool to have Kyle step into this fatherly role to say, you’re worth waiting for, don’t settle,” Susan says. “We tell her, ‘we’re not your parents.’ But when certain things like that come up, we really want to fight for her heart.”

Every Tuesday, Susan and Julia spend an hour learning about Jesus together through the Bible, prayer and conversation. They’re going through a 7-part study called “Basics: 7 Truths That Will Transform Your Life.”

“I knew about Jesus but never really had a whole picture of him,” Julia says. “Living here has been helping me to puzzle [together] his ears, his eyes. I feel like I’m finally seeing the whole picture of Jesus.”

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Susan and Kyle’s names have been changed for security purposes.

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