“Jason, we need to pray for baby Grace.” Preceded by a brief hello and no explanation, his wife Stephanie's frantic words agitated an already hectic daily routine.
At the time, Jason was working a high-pressure banking job and its pace wasn’t well matched with vagueness. “Baby who?” He rushed. “I don’t know who she is,” Stephanie said, “but God told me clearly to pray.” Flippant and distracted, he responded, “Are you sure you don’t mean you just need to pray for more grace?”
The conversation was clearly over.
But God was sparking something in Stephanie’s heart. With or without details, she had never heard God speak so specifically to her before. Slightly deterred, but still determined, she asked close friends to join her in praying. Weeks passed. Nothing more became clear about baby Grace.
Three months later, Stephanie went to meet a new customer who had purchased one of her refurbished furniture pieces. After striking up a conversation with a woman named Kelly, Stephanie noticed a beautiful Burmese baby in her backseat. Kelly was a blonde American woman. It was clear there was more to the story.
Kelly explained that she lived in a close knit community in Tukwila and that the baby, Sian, was a refugee baby taken from poor housing conditions in Tukwila and needed proper care due to premature labor complications.
After exchanging numbers and saying goodbye, Stephanie wasted no time searching for the meaning of the name Sian. In the mundane surroundings of a Starbucks parking lot she had to catch her breath. Sian meant grace. Stephanie’s heart raced and she phoned Jason again–”You won’t believe what just happened. I think I just met baby Grace!”
When she got home Stephanie poured over news reports and began to piece together the story of Sian’s life. Ten years prior, Zam Khup, Sian’s father was desperately seeking a way out of Burma due to religious persecution for his Christian beliefs. He fled to Thailand for eight of those and lived in a refugee camp before he was able to get sponsored and relocated to the U.S. After being approved for permanent residency, Zam was able to finally send for his family of eight and they moved into a two-bedroom apartment in Tukwila.
The pieces were still fragmented at best; the story of what Stephanie and Jason’s involvement would be, uncertain. God’s hand seemed to be moving through a thick fog, leading them one step at a time.
Not even a week later, Stephanie and Kelly were chatting in her living room. They both had felt a connection even though Stephanie hadn’t revealed the months she spent praying for Sian. As she began unpacking the story, Kelly couldn’t deny that there was something bigger at hand. She decided to arrange a meeting with Zam, Sian’s father, so they could all meet in person.
Huddled in a small room, Jason and Stephanie sat across from Zam and spoke through a translator. After introductions, Jason had a pressing question: why had he named his daughter Sian, grace?
Zam nodded and began to paint the picture. The morning Sian was born, he had heard a loud crash in the other room and rushed in to find his wife, six-months pregnant, collapsed on the floor. After being rushed to the hospital, she underwent an emergency Cesarean delivering a two-and-a-half pound Sian who could fit into the palm of his hand. His wife did not survive the procedure. When he was asked by the doctor what he wanted to name his daughter, who was struggling for her own life, he needed five minutes to pray.
Torn between the loss of his wife and the joy of new life, he explained, “As I prayed God reminded me of how good He has been to me all my life. That’s why I named her God’s goodness; God’s grace.”
In the wake of Zam’s wife’s death, a life scarred by displacement and persecution, he explained in earnest what God’s continued goodness looked like to him: living in a two-bedroom apartment infested with bedbugs and working the night shift at a processing plant for minimum wage. To him, he was rich compared to his beloved family in Burma. Zam was a man fiercely devoted to worshiping a God he was certain was good.
The reality of Zam’s faith and trust tilted the room. Tears fell. God was covering baby Sian and Zam with incredible provision while crashing directly into the lives of Stephanie and Jason. As the story concluded something in the timeline caught Jason’s attention, “Zam, when did you say your wife collapsed?”
“Around 11 in the morning on December 2nd.”
The exact moment that Stephanie had been told to pray for baby Grace.
Jason tried to compose himself, “Zam, I want you to know that God knew Sian’s name before you did. I want you to know that God had Stephanie interceding on behalf of Sian the moment your wife collapsed. He’s had a community of people interceding on behalf of you and your family since that moment, a community of people who had no idea who you were until now. Indeed, God is good.”
But the Khup family was still broken. His daughter Sian, still not in his care. His house still unlivable by authority standards.
That night they left shell shocked, and driving home the discussion turned to housing for the Khup family. “Do you think God is asking us to buy them a house, Steph?” And much like Jason’s response to Stephanie asking him to pray, Stephanie balked. She saw visions of the house she had sent to their real estate agent days ago–the one with land, a barn and a pool–begin to fade to gray.
They knew what they were supposed to do: Sian had been removed from her father and siblings’ care because of poor living conditions and God was asking two strangers to reconcile this family; to give them a chance to put roots down. Stephanie and Jason decided to co-sign for Zam to be able to purchase a home for his family. They knew this might mean they wouldn’t be buying a home of their own at this point, or in reality, maybe ever. But they faithfully moved forward.
Unfortunately, the bank declined the loan. Such an usual loan situation was out of their realm of comfort. They were again left with nothing but a few breadcrumbs down a path of faith.
Regardless of the setback, Jason and Stephanie were still determined to find a way to care for this family and find them proper housing. The search is still on for answers and practical solutions, but they hold true to the idea of being invited into the adventure of life: a partnership with Christ and what he is doing.
An unbelievable story guided by the hand of a very big God, Jason and Stephanie are left in awe of God’s provision and preparation of their hearts.
“We want to be people who do the crazy, stupid things,” Jason explained. “When you see God move, when he stirs your heart for things, he doesn't force you to do it. He gives you an opportunity to be a part of his plan–and that in itself is the reward.”