More than two hundred guests filled every round table in the elegant restaurant attached to the National Palace Museum in Taipei last night. They had come from all parts of the island to see their beloved Belle become engaged to Gary, who was also accompanied by fourteen family and friends from Bermuda.
As Belle’s surrogate father – her own father passed away many years ago – I was invited to sit at the head table with the engaged couple and members of their families. I had also been asked to interpret for the young friend of Belle’s who served as Master of Ceremonies for the event. As we ran through the program ahead of time, I saw that there was no way I could replicate the elegance and poetry of her Mandarin, nor the enthusiasm with which she entered into this occasion. Not only is she a professional, but she was truly happy for her college classmate, though she herself has not yet found a life partner.
How shall I describe what took place during the next four hours of feasting, toasting, singing, speaking? Chinese love formal ceremonies, and this one met any standard of excellence, beauty, and warmth. Guests enjoyed delicacies from a world-class kitchen (though some of the dishes seemed a bit strange to foreigners); other friends played and sang for Belle and Gary; the mothers were presented with bouquets of gratitude; pictures were taken. I gave a short speech, as did an elder from Belle’s mother’s church. His homily on the secret of a happy marriage – mutual respect – was worth pondering more than once.
My remarks traced the course of my relationship with Belle and then Gary. I closed with these words:
"Among his own people, Gary is considered a prince. Is that not true? (Nods of agreement from the Bermuda contingent). And, as you can see, among her people, Belle is highly esteemed, and deeply loved. In some way, by at least some of us, she is regarded as a princess.
"My wife Dori cannot be here today, but she joins me in presenting to you both this cup, designed by Thomas Jefferson. On it is inscribed 'Genesis 24:58,' the passage where the father and brothers of Rebecca ask her whether she will go with Abraham’s aged servant to a distant land to marry Isaac. 'I will go,' she responds, and their union becomes a source of blessing for millions of people.
"You are not getting married until September, but tonight you are publicly saying that you are willing to go with this man to Bermuda. It is not easy for us here to send you off to such a faraway place, dear Belle, but we do so with our blessing, and our belief that the two of you together will bring great glory to God and to our Lord Jesus Christ."
For many of us, the highlight came when Belle and Gary addressed the room. With me interpreting, Belle spoke of the sacrifice being made by her mother, who would lose her daughter to an island half way around the world. Belle herself could not deny her sadness at leaving family, friends, her culture, and her home. But she reminded us all that a marriage is not just about two people; there is a Third present, at least for followers of Christ. She goes with God.
Gary displayed his elegant charm for all to see, both by thanking Belle’s family and friends, and by presenting a short video of Bermuda, concluding with dozens of church members saying “Ni hao” (“Hi!”) to Gary and Belle and all their loved ones in Taiwan. All of us were delighted by this happy greeting; many of us were deeply moved.
There we were, the three of us standing on the same platform – a Chinese beauty, her handsome black fiancé, and I. In an age of racial tension and cultural conflict, we represented the unity of the Body of Christ.
As Belle’s oldest uncle said to me, with solemn dignity, “This is the will of God.” I have to agree, with all my heart.