I have an acquaintance named Jenny. Jenny is Chinese and has lived in the States for many years but has not taken the time to learn the English language very well. When I met Jenny for the first time she attended our church and was the manager of the local Chinese Restaurant. Her daughter was living in China with Jenny's parents and things were very different. Then, a few months later Jen-Ye came to live with her mother and Jenny began going to a Chinese church so that Jen-Ye would not lose her Chinese heritage.
Several months ago we ran into Jenny at a local restaurant. She introduced me to her parents who are now living with her, as well. They are lovely people but they cannot speak English and I felt their discomfort as they attempted to communicate through Jenny as she is not fluent in our language, either.
In November we learned that Jenny's father and mother, Mr. and Mrs. Chen, had been involved in an automobile accident. Can you imagine not being able to speak the language and being in an accident. The police attempting to question you and you wanting so desperately to explain...
Well, not long after this there was a summons to court. Jenny and her parents were terrified. Why were they being called to court? Did they do something wrong? We attempted to reassure them that they would be fine but without reading the documents we were unclear as to the purpose of the court date. I felt so badly for them as the court appearance was scheduled for the day after Christmas. What a shadow that must have cast on their celebrations.
Jenny requested that our Pastor show up to be with them in court on that day and that he would bring other "English" friends to support her father. I was glad to be able to go along but was apprehensive because I didn't know what to expect either.
Pastor Mike and I got there and could see into the courtroom from an outside window. There sat Mr. Chen, his Granddaughter and an interpreter. Jenny had not yet arrived. We wondered if the case had been moved up and we were missing it or what the story was. As we were debating what to do another young man showed up looking nervous. He asked us where the witnesses were supposed to go. It turns out he was a witness to the accident involving the Chens.
A very concerned Jenny hurried into the District Justice office. She was assured that her father's case had not yet started and the Police Officer involved in the case took us out into the hallway and explained what was happening. It turns out that the girl in the other car was fighting the charges pressed against her and Mr. Chen was simply there to tell the court that she had attempted to pass him unsafely on the right. The other witness had been driving past and seen the accident and he was simply to share his knowledge of the experience. I was so thankful that this officer let Jenny know and she was SOOOO relieved. My heart aches for the torment that she and her parents were in up until this time. It is so sad that they did not understand this before then.
When we were allowed into the courtroom this was all explained to Mr. Chen through, Sandy, his Chinese interpreter. He was also asked by the Police officer to remove his hat in the courtroom. I don't know why I found this interesting...it just struck me that somewhere there are still rules of conduct and they apply to everyone. I was pleased that the police officer cared enough to let Mr. Chen know that before he appeared before the Judge.
After testimony by all involved, including the swearing in of the interpreter, the case was very short...maybe 20 minutes. The Judge found the other driver was guilty of the charges she had received. He declared it over.
Poor Mr. Chen was still trying to show diagrams to explain his side of the story and wanted to make sure that everyone understood exactly what happened. It was so wonderful to see the look of absolute relief when he broke into a huge smile and took a deep breath as he realized it was over and he was not in trouble.
I do not know how we will help this family improve their English skills but I am hoping for the opportunity to see that they get some help in this regard. They were so frightened..and this so needlessly.
I am thankful for Pastor Mike's attempts to help Jenny improve her language skills...maybe this will, in turn, help her parents. These are practical things that we can do to minister to those around us.