Dare to be Different – Four Dream Pursuing Stories

(Family Magazine February 2013 5th Issue) – Editors

Although Asians demonstrate a certain pattern in their career choices, we can still find people with different goals and dreams. The following stories belong to people who dare to be different among Asians. Fueling their pursuits, we can see that personal talent, passion and perseverance, opportunities, and the support of family and of others have all played a very important role. We rejoice and are excited to learn about these dreams, and wish that their lives be abundantly blessed and fulfilled as their dreams continue to grow.

Story 1 – Soaring in the Sky

Jonathan Ma

My mom gave me a wide-body pullback airplane as a souvenir from her trip to San Francisco in 2005. After receiving that gift, for some reason, I gradually became interested in airplanes. I started collecting airplane models, researching different airplanes, and talking to pilots every time we traveled, and I got to know a lot about airplanes and careers in aviation. I had few friends when I was in middle school, but this new interest gave me joy and opened up a new career goal for me, as well as helping me develop meaningful friendships with those who shared the same passion.

I had my first real flight experience in August 2010 on a Cessna 172, and I could take full control of the landing the second time I flew without any assistance from the flight instructor. I enjoy taking off and landing the most because there are always challenges that require skills and good control, especially when it is windy. I also like to fly at different airports on different aircrafts for more challenges. At times I have been scared in difficult situations. My only failed landing thus far was at John Wayne Airport. The turbulence was just too great when I tried to land following a Boeing 737, and I had to touch down and go back up into the sky. Taking off from the El Monte Airport was a real challenge too, as there are so many buildings nearby. I just had to ascend quickly to be safe.

“But flying helps me to find my life goal and anchor so that I also have something to be proud of.”

I was placed in a special education program starting in seventh grade. Unlike my friends, I am not in many honors or AP classes. I cannot share the struggles they experience in their pursuit of academics, nor do I achieve the same things they do in school. But flying helps me to find my life goal and anchor so that I also have something to be proud of. I just turned sixteen and I am looking forward to flying solo soon. I am sure that would be an awesome experience.

Feedback from the Mother

My son Jonathan had experienced unusual struggles in his growing process compared to other children. He cried and showed tantrums easily. He had a lot of problems dealing with his emotion and interpersonal relationship. Eventually he was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder and social-emotional issues, and therefore classified to be a special child. But to my surprise, he also has a very special dream —to be a pilot.

I don’t remember when he started his love of airplanes. He has a countless collection of airplane models. He knows everything about airplanes. One day he told us that he wanted to learn flying an airplane. He started to get training when he was about 14. Although he usually has concentration issues, when he gets to the pilot seat, he is calm, confident and pays full attention. His instructor gave him this comment,” He is the youngest student in the flying school but he is flying better than many adults.” Jonathan is becoming more cheerful and confident as a person after he has started flying.

“Jonathan is becoming more cheerful and confident as a person after he has started flying.”

Once I was on board when he flew. When the plane flew over our neighborhood, I realized how different the view from the sky is compared to the ground. At that point, I deeply felt that my son’s world is in the sky. No wonder sometimes we cannot appreciate or fully understand him because we live on the ground, not in the sky. We are all unique in God’s creation. I rejoice when God reveals to my son who he is, and allows him to have his own dream and a long life passion. This is truly a great blessing and I am grateful for him.

Story 2 – My Golf Dream

Jack Ma

When I was in ninth grade, my parents had a meeting in Beijing. When they came back home to Chengdu, my mom asked me if I would go to play golf in Beijing if given the opportunity. Without much thought or hesitation, I jumped on the idea and said yes.

I had been an OK student at school—not too bright but not too bad. My goal was to simply complete my schoolwork and earn passing grades. My passion during those years had been fixated on sports. Since elementary school, I had tried swimming, biking, badminton, table tennis, triathlon, basketball, and soccer.

Golf, considered a “rich man’s sport,” seemed to have little connection with my family. But by coincidence, we met the former head coach of the Chinese National Golf Team, who had also been a professional player in Professional Golfers Association of America. This coach was a great mentor to me. In half a year’s time, my skills were obviously improving as strokes were getting lower. The thought of becoming a professional player or coach soon set in. As I matured in this sport, I found golf was challenging because it required soundness of both mind and body. As the sport became harder and more demanding, I felt I was stumbling upon the first hurdle in life and got very upset. I started to feel lost and uncertain about my dream. Luckily my parents and friends remained supportive and encouraging, and I finally figured out my own playing strategies to improve. Golf became my good friend as time went by.

One day my coach said, “It would work better for your golf career if you studied and played in the U.S.” That was how I came to Riverside County in Southern California, a totally new and strange place for me. This past summer I turned eighteen, and I also started community college. At the beginning, it was an abrupt shock to have to adapt to a different culture, language, and new ways of doing things. Gradually I learned to adjust and be more independent. I applied to college, filled out all the forms, obtained my student visa, and endured multiple interviews all by myself. Although there might still be tough times ahead in life and in golfing, I will continue to press on to become a professional golfer. I tell myself to follow my golf dream no matter what, and I know the key is perseverance and to never give up.

Father’s Sharing

I still remember the comment from my son’s friends — they called him a “free spirit” when he was in elementary school. While the majority of students went to after school enrichment programs, my son went to the beach, rode his bicycle, or played ball. I was only expecting him to pass his classes with a C average; getting As was not required. My wife did not agree with these expectations, but there was only so much I could do.

I never thought Jack would become an athlete. I just wanted him to grow up happily and be healthy. I think good health is above all other matters; I grew up with asthma and did not want him go through what I had experienced.

When Jack dreamed of becoming a professional golf player, I totally supported him. When our family visited Beijing, my son had the opportunity to receive free golf lessons when my wife worked for an American golf coach as an interpreter, the former coach of China National Golf Team. To be honest, initially I did not want my son to play golf. It was a struggle for me because golf was considered a luxury sport mainly for the wealthy, but I am just an ordinary man and a servant of God. How could I afford to pay for the lessons? I could not understand why God would provide him with an unsuitable opportunity. On the other hand, I did not want to strike down Jack’s interest in golf or bury his potential to become good at the sport. I was anxious, but I knew I had to let him try it.

I thank God for giving me a remarkable son. He is not only my sport companion, but also my life coach, and because of him I ran my very first marathon. He taught me how to become a father and a teacher. When I look at my son now, I only have praises for God.

Story 3 – A Dream of Love

Sundi Sunarjo • Interviewed by Lily Ma

Sundi liked to open her home to her friends and serve different cuisine when she was in college. She enjoyed it so much that she wanted it to become her career.

After graduation, she worked in different restaurants and even in the kitchen of a hospital. However, her mission of serving food to others with love went unrecognized by her coworkers. Eventually she quit her job in 2009 and opened her own restaurant to fulfill her dream. This is how “Love to Go,” her business, was born. It is a dessert joint where she serves her own creations of yogurt soda (a special drink that combines fresh fruit, yogurt and Italian soda) and “waffza.” (snack made from waffles) She serves unique food and builds a culture of love sharing, including sharing the love of Christ. Love to Go welcomes custom orders to cater to different tastes and needs. Sundi thinks that through this kind of service and communication, she can turn this business into a service of love.

However, it has not been an easy path, especially during the first two years. Business was not good because of a lack of advertisement, and Sundi had to do everything by herself. She gave up personal time and cut down on her involvement in church. Even though she sacrificed so much, business was only getting by. She could only cover the costs of operation, not generate any income. She almost wanted to give up.

After a while, Sundi realized that she had to refocus her original goal and dream. She wanted to spend more time at church, requiring cutting down the business hours. Surprisingly her business turned around thanks to some Christian friends who volunteered to help. They share the same vision as Sundi, and their encouragement helped to develop a fellowship among them outside the church. This in turn made her dream come true.

* * *

In the process of interviewing Sundi, I could sense that she has an ideal about food and food service. She is passionate about this ideal, but struggled to find people who can share the same. A dream to come true takes a lot of waiting and persistence, support from friends and family, adjustments in expectations along the way. We rejoice to see Sundi’s dream come true and we wish that many will be blessed by her “Love to Go”.

Story 4 – Seventeen Precious Years

Connie Sun

Seventeen years ago, I joined a very special group of parents welcoming my eldest daughter coming into this world. The joy and excitement soon were replaced by hospital visits and uncertainty. My daughter, Priscilla, was born premature. She developed different kinds of complications in the hospitals. She was released to us two months and seven days after her birth.

Raising her was a long and challenging process. I started taking her to early intervention programs since she was three months old. She was delayed in all areas of development. At that time, I had been a general education teacher for 6 years. I love being a teacher. Because of Priscilla, I decided to switch to special education. I was hoping that I could better help her if I had the proper training. Shortly after I started going back to school again, I landed on a job teaching preschool special education students. I loved this job! Even though it was challenging to deal with the behavior problems, potty training, and lack of language and social skills these kids exhibited, I had the most fulfilling experience.

During these 17 years, my world was wonderfully enriched by these kids who are the pure hearted described by Jesus in the Bible. I truly believe that they are the ones who can see God. April this year, God also answered my prayer. I became part of special education ministry at Great Commission Church International called Special Blessings. It was my dream come true. It is such a blessing to be able to teach these kids about Jesus while the parents participate in the worship services. Thanks to all the volunteers, we were able to provide good care and supervision to 6 to 9 families every Sunday. I know that the need is very big. There are still so many parents who are not able to go to church because their special child does not fit in.

If you have never encountered anyone with disability, I encourage you to do so. You will be so blessed by becoming acquainted with someone with disability like I have been for 17 precious years.