"Hey Parvin!" The shout came across the newsroom of the Chicago Tribune, and assistant news editor Charles C. Parvin looked up: "Someone said you're going to Korea as a missonary. Is that right?"
"Well Je-e-esus Christ!"
"Yes." replied Parvin who is not famed for loquacity, "that's the reason."
Last October Chuck and Debbie Parvin let their five-bedroom home in the Chicago suburb of Arlington Heights and gave up the comfortable middle-class life for an ascetic year as temporary missionaries in South Korea. The idea of a news executive taking a year's unpaid leave to work with his wife in remote mission hospitals for an annual stipend of $1,200 hardly sits well with the tough "front page" tradition of Chicago newspapering.
The couple's friends who knew the whole story were not surpised. They understand why the Parvins - saved from an ordeal that shadowed their lives - would want to give thanks by helping others.
The Parvins live in a single 13-by-18 foot room in Seoul now. Chuck, a tall, lean-framed man of 49 rides the jam-packed city buses and teacches journalism at a leading university. Debbie, a warm, vivacious woman who look 10 years younger than her 48 years, gives therapy to severely handicapped children in a city hospital.
They look, and say they feel sublimely happy. Five years ago Debbie Parvin made an inexplicable recovery from an illness that was supposedly incurable. She and her husband believe it was a miracle. "Definitely," said Mrs. Parvin, "and I didn't really believe in miracles. Maybe if my faith had been stronger it would have happened sooner."
When Parvin told a few journalist friends of his wife's miraculous recovery, they made guarded comments - "Isn't that nice," and "That's great Chuck." He accepts their incredulity, yet has no doubts himself: "I don't think the age of miracles occured only in Biblical times. They happen today."
TDebbie Parvin was 30, mother of three, a dancer and singer with her own studion when illness struck without warning. She fell down one morning aand was unable to rise. Her condition worsened rapidly and she could barely walk at all when five months later doctors finally diagnosed a rare degenerative condition related to Muscular Dystrophy. Parvin was given a grim prognosis. His wife would be permanently bedridden in a year, dead within five.
It went on for 14 excruciating years that tested the Parvins' deep Christian faith to the utmost. She suffered constant pain and was frequently hospitalized. A regimen of 30 pills a day, including steroids - A 'last resort' medication - ballooned her weight from 120 pounds to 200. The slightest bump tore her weakened skin - doctors put 200 stitches in one of her legs. "There were times when I wished it would end. I wondered why he would stay with me," she said.
Parvin is gruffly taciturn about his own feelings in the years his wife was slowly sinking: "There were some rough times there . . . She was very good. She had a lot of guts, or I couldn't have stood it." For years he worked the overnight shift at the Trib so he could spend his days caring for his wife and bringing up their three children.Afternoons he taught high school to keep pace with the medical bills.
By November, 1972, the doctors were helpless and the struggle seemed nearly over. Then one night, and Mrs. Parvin doesn't think it was a delusion brought on by painkilling drugs, she saw Chris - "surrounded by light and no farther away than you are now." The message was that she was healed but should tell no one.
Her condition immediately began to improve. Her husband noticed it too, but it was weeks before they dared to share their hopes with each other. "I thought it might be another remission and I did't want the agony of seeing her go back downhill again," Parvin explained.
The changes baffled her doctor: "He told me, 'you must be in a remission but I've never seen one in this disease before. Then I told him I didn't have the disease anymore. The disbelieving doctor put her through every conceivable test and found she was right. Also heart damage, an ulcer and a hernia had spontaneously healed. She discarded her wheelchair in June, 1974, and now looks a picture of health and vigor.
The Parvins were deeply grateful and sought an active way of expressing their thanks. Through the United Presbyterian Church they applied to the Volunteers-In-Mission Agency and were sent to South Korea.
Their-12-month assignment is split into three sections. The first four months they lived on Koje Island off the southern port of Pusan, where a small mission hospital serves 50,000 people. The Parvins lived in a tiny house and ate and slept on the floor Korean-style. They taught Bible classes and Chuck did some editing for the hospital director. From Seoul, they will move to Chonju to complete their year in another hospital. Their depleted savings are now putting their youngest son Scott, 21, through college and three South Koreans through high school.
Their home church has provided $6,000 to back the Parvins' missionary project. The entire experience has strengthened the whole family's faith. The three children are embarked on religious careers and the elder Parvins say " there's a quality ofjoy in our lives.