Given the ongoing coronavirus situation around the globe, it is easy to become fixated, frighten and discouraged. In times of crisis it important to return to memories and stories that are simply uncomplicated, easily understood and abundantly hopeful. Simply put we need a diversion that reminds us of our roots and the source of our strength in remarkable times. One of the first stories we are taught at an early point in our personal journey is that one man plants, another waters … but, it is God who provides the seeds, makes the connections and is the source of its growth. Nowhere is this message clearer than in the simple yet complex story presented below. It is about a simple connection in a land far away that spans across three generations between two organizations that on the surface seem to have nothing in common however in reality they served the same purpose; To share the Father’s love with abandoned and vulnerable children in Asia. In the end it is about God simply blessing both missions and turning a field full of chaos, destruction and weeds into a beautiful bounty of wildflowers.
Several years ago we were introduced to Nell Chennault Calloway, CEO of the Chennault Aviation and Military Museum (https://chennaultmuseum.org/) located in Monroe, Louisiana. Nell’s interest in the Flying Tigers began as a young child carefully listening to stories told to her by her grandfather General Claire Chennault, the legendary commander of the Flying Tigers.
The Flying Tigers were a group of extraordinary brave volunteer American aviators who were tasked with the mission of confronting the Japanese air forces who were viciously and indiscriminately bombing citizens of China including young and vulnerable children in the late 1930’s. Despite being vastly outnumbered, supplied with limited and outdated resources and the on and off backing from the U.S, government, Claire Chennault and the Flying Tigers were able to overcome overwhelming odds and successfully defend the Chinese people from the invading Japanese troops thus saving China from a Japanese takeover.
When we first met Nell, we mistakenly thought the only connection we had was that both groups had toiled in and had an affiliation and love for China. We soon discovered that the relationship was much deeper and more promising than we first imagined and once again, we underestimated the power of our father. The blessings of this connection became clear very early on. Because of Nell’s connections in China we were able to quickly resolve an ongoing issue we had in China.
It was however not a one sided exchange as it also had a personal and deep connection with Nell. It reminded her of stories/rumors she had heard regarding her grandfather’s personally supporting several orphanages during his time in China. Recently to her extreme delight she was able confined the stories of his connections in the attached letters (Gen. Chennault supported orphans). The letters addressed to Claire Chennault from Madame Chiang Kai-Shek provide detailed accounts of the daily events that were occurring late in 1940 and early into 1941, before the U.S. officially entered World War II. Despite the unmitigated destructive and catastrophic bombing events that was occurring, the letters documented the need to return to simple daily activities in midst of chaos and pandemonium. Simply put, it was the selfless desire of General Chennault with assistance from Madame Chiang to provide normalcy and hope to the vulnerable children under their care. We are now the current caretakers and placeholders of their legacy…one plants another waters.
A significant part of the Flying Tigers efforts was to protect an area near the city of Chongqing which today is a thriving metropolis and home to 35 million people. It just so happens that our care center in Zigong is less than a 3 hour drive from Chongqing, the very city that was discussed in the correspondence between Claire Chennault and Madame Chiang. While we lack historical proof, given the proximity of the two cities it is not out of the realm of possibilities that some of children that have passed through our care facilities are direct descendants of those who people who lives were spared by valiant efforts of the Flying Tigers. What we know for sure is the efforts of the brave airman are a significant reason why Agape Asia is able to exist today as a caretaker to vulnerable children in China. In simple terms we were blessed to water the seeds that they had planted. It is due to the heartfelt and brave efforts of Nell’s grandfather along with members of the U.S. military that we can demonstrate our love for our father by caring for children who sadly continue to be vulnerable today as their ancestors were 80 years ago. We feel honored to follow in their footsteps and hopefully we can continue to create a sustainable mission for the foreseeable future honoring the past as well as the future all while knowing for certain that one man plants while another waters and in the end the flower that bloom are part of Gods magnificent mystery.
To this day, Claire Chennault is revered in China and is treated as a national hero and treasure. We are convinced that what appeared at first to be a rather innocuous connection will turn into a blessing for both missions and we are excited to share this mission with General Chennault who graciously reached out to the vulnerable children many years before we existed. We are continuing to look for opportunities to partner with Nell to carry on Agape Asia’s mission while honoring the legacy of her grandfather and the Flying Tigers.
Once we return to normalcy, if you ever find yourself driving through Monroe, Louisiana, we encourage you to take a few moments to stop by the Chennault Aviation and Military Museum (https://chennaultmuseum.org/) and share your story with Nell. Mention to her you are involved in Agape Asia’s mission and I guarantee you that she will welcome you as an honored guest and kindred spirit. With her southern charm and wit, she will regale you with stories about the Flying Tigers and Claire Chennault and his personal connection to the Orphans in China and the natural bond and affection she has for our work in Asia. I promise you will leave with a smile on your face, a deeper understanding about both organizations and a reminder that if you seek to do Gods will, you will receive blessing and form relationships that you could never imagined existed.
If you want to learn more about our either organization, please feel free to reach out and we would be honored to make an introduction, or you can contact Nell at:
Nell Chennault Calloway, CEO Chennault Museum, and granddaughter of Gen. Claire L. Chennault