Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17

Sharing the joy of Christmas is a vibrant memory of time spent in South Korea while my parents, Ernest and Dollie Pettis, served there as Presbyterian missionaries. The year was 1961. An unexpected visitor on Christmas Eve, Chin Su Ha, traveled 120 miles by bus and by foot to spend Christmas with us! What a surprise when we opened the door to the smiling young man! We did not know of his plans to visit.

Chin Su had a badly crippled leg which the medical missionaries had succeeded in making much better, although it was not “perfect.” His family was quite pleased. Despite his disability, Chin Su had made the arduous trip, carrying a large sack of chestnuts and English walnuts which his widowed mother had gathered growing wild in the mountains. 

We quickly set another place for him at the table. We gathered some small gifts, socks, handkerchiefs, a pair of gloves and some candy, that we wrapped and put under the tree. Chin Su slept in my brother Ward’s room.

On Christmas Day our unexpected visitor added a great deal to our Christmas celebration. At an informal Christmas service that day, we each told what made us happiest about this Christmas. My father said he was happiest about our visitor Chin Su, who had made the long journey to spend the holiday with us.

Chin Su later graduated from one of the Mission Bible schools and returned to the mountains as a preacher, although he was not ordained.

I was nine years old when this Christmas occurred. Interestingly, another guest at our holiday table that year was Dr. Stan Topple and his fiancée Dr. Mia Amundsen. First Presbyterian supported the Topples’ missionary work in the 1970s.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for your unexpected gifts of grace and mercy.

Katie Lockman

About the Contributor

Katie Pettis Lockman grew up in South Korea. The Korean Conflict had barely ceased when the Pettis family took up residence. Katie remembers fondly the years spent in Korea. Her mother wrote about this Christmas event when the family had returned to the United States.