And then I’m at the Korean Catholic Church, which is an old shoe store turned house of God, and sits nestled between a McDonald’s and a liquor store. In his penguin suit, Father Chee is waiting outside for me, because the men in front of the liquor store sometimes say bad things to me, and the “Hope you’re havin’ a great day!” trick doesn’t always work on them so well.

Technically, I got hooked up with Father Chee through my high school guidance counselor, who says I have to do a load of community service if I want to get into Bryn Mawr College, which is where I want to study English, because you can go to law school if you major in English and do really well at Bryn Mawr College. That’s what Donna did anyway. But to tell you the truth, I don’t really give a crap anymore about fulfilling the community service requirements, which are of this world, as Franks like to say. I still want to go to Bryn Mawr and all, but doing what I do with Father Chee has become part of my religious practice, which I realize might sound truly whack to some, but I believe in what FC and I do, like—for real. Word. And I had been praying for a chance to make a difference in the lives of people who needed it most, because that’s really all I want to do with my life—help people who need it, just like JC told us to do.


About a year back, Father Chee contacted the high school looking for someone to teach English to the women in his church who wanted to learn. At first, I tried to simply straight-up teach them vocab and grammar and whatnot, but it was so boring and depressing for the women that I had to think up a killer alternative or quit. Lucky for FC’s church members, I’m pretty good at thinking up killer hooey. Also, Father Chee and I work well together—we’re an awesome team—and ever since I implemented my new teaching technique, my enrollment has more than doubled.

Father Chee holds open the front door and I ride Donna’s bike right into the church.

My Man of God locks the door behind us, which is sorta weird since it’s a church and all.

“Hello, Bobby Big Boy,” Father Chee says, patting 3B on the head. Triple B licks Father’s hand, because they are boys, and then FC is pulling BBB out of the basket so that they can get a man hug in, which is cool, because B Thrice loves to hug Men of God.

My dog is Catholic. And if you say dogs don’t have a soul and therefore don’t go to heaven, I will slap your face silly. Word.

Maybe—before I get into the story of The Korean Divas for Christ and Father Chee—you might want to know how I became a Catholic and a crazy-serious religious person?

Well, the only thing my father, Bob, left behind for me when he took off was this series of children’s books called Jesus Was a Rock Star. They were these big picture books for kids—twelve in the series—and each was about one of the killer adventures Jesus had on earth, how Jesus rocked the world and then got crucified for being so cool. These books were pretty awesome because Jesus was always doing miracles like turning water to wine and walking on water and even bringing people back from the dead, which is definitely a pretty killer thing to do. Also, in the pictures, Jesus was very handsome (sorta like Jack White of the White Stripes) with His long rock-star hair. JC always had an entourage around Him, He never freaked out when people let Him down or things went wrong—JC was always so very cool—and He loved everyone and went around saving people like Mom and me, people everyone else had already given up on.

My favorite Jesus adventure was when He stopped the crowd from stoning a hooker. You probably know that one already, but all these mean men were actually going to throw rocks at the woman’s head until her skull caved in and she was dead, but Jesus did this Jedi-mind-trick thing and just wrote words in the sand until the mean men noticed and asked what the hell JC was doing. Then—so cool, like a rock star—Jesus says that the person without any sin can throw the first rock at the woman. And then the men start to feel guilty and freak out and leave—which is the best part. Jesus didn’t even have to raise His voice, let alone throw any fists. Who would have thought that writing words in the sand would work? And then JC doesn’t even yell at the woman for having too much sex. He just saves her and tells her to live a good life, which is pretty cool of Jesus. No guilt trip or anything.

I still have my Jesus Was a Rock Star books, and the pages are all worn out from my reading them so many times. True.

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My mom never really dug Jesus too much, maybe because my dad was big on JC and he broke Mom’s heart—shattered it—leaving her all alone with newborn me and an endless train of loser boyfriends.

So Mom never took me to church or anything like that.

But when I was in eighth grade, Ty was always complaining about his mom making him attend these religious classes about Jesus so that he could join the Catholic Church and avoid getting sent to hell. I asked if I could go with him, and this excited Mrs. Hendrix very much. So I started attending Jesus class with Ty at St. Dymphna’s, which is this big old church with killer stained-glass windows, ancient wooden pews full of comfy red cushions, and a massive organ that can blast your eardrums until you go deaf—St. Dymphna’s pretty much has the works.

Only the priest there—Father Johns—told the Jesus stories all wrong. Father Johns was always going on and on about how Jesus was going to be disappointed in us if we sinned or didn’t do enough charity, and the way he talked about JC made the Son of God seem more like a mean, pissy old lady than a rock star. But the one thing that really hit home with me was Father Johns telling us that we would go to hell if we didn’t join the Catholic Church, do enough charity work, and live a good life. That bit sorta scared me and made me want to join for real.

Needless to say, I was baptized, did the confession thing, had my First Communion with all of these little kids whose parents were good Catholics and therefore didn’t let their sons and daughters get to middle school before they have their First Communion, and then Ty and I joined the church as his parents watched all proud. Mrs. Hendrix was my sponsor—and she even bought me a white dress and white shoes for the big day. I took Mary for my confirmation name—not too original, I admit—and then I went to a big party at the Hendrix house, where Ty’s relatives actually gave me presents simply because I was an official Catholic now.

Mom didn’t come to see me baptized, nor when I became a member of the church—probably because of my religious dad leaving her.

For a year or so, I went to church with the Hendrix family every week, but then I just stopped going for some reason. I think it was because the priest kept on messing up the Jesus stories—talking about Jesus as if he were this boring arrogant person who didn’t rock, which we all know is not the case. I didn’t feel anything when I went to church, and I could read about Jesus at home and pray anywhere, so I just stopped going to Mass. I think I really let Ty’s mom down, but religion and JC aren’t for impressing people’s moms. True.

I was going to try another church to see if they talked about Jesus any differently, but then I met Father Chee—and instantly, I knew that I had found my priest for life. Word. FC rocks, just like JC.

Inside Father Chee’s church, there is a small room where you can hang your coat, which is where I park Donna’s bike, and then there is the sanctuary. A big crucifix hangs front and center over a little altar and a simple podium. The walls are cinder blocks painted puke yellow, and there are no windows and no pews, but only long white lightbulbs in the ceiling—the kind that look like lightsabers—and rows of flesh-colored fold-up chairs, which are currently occupied by a dozen or so Korean women, all of whom jump up and start smiling just as soon as I walk into the church.

I don’t want to brag, but I’m sorta like a rock star to these people.

The first thing that happens whenever I enter The Korean Catholic Church:

Every single one of The KDFCs gives me a big old hug and then they speak their homework sentence in English. I give them a prompt at the end of each class, which I copy down a dozen or so times because I don’t have access to a photocopy machine. Father Chee usually explains the prompt in Korean, which is sorta like cheating, but it’s also good because we want The KDFCs to do the assignment so that their English will improve and they can start branching out into America and whatnot.

Last week they all failed to do the assignment correctly.

I had asked them to state what they would most like to do in the world and to describe how doing it would make them feel, using one killer adjective. But all of these kind-hearted women—every single one—said what they would like to do for their husband or their children or their parents.

“I would like to buy a big house for my son or daughter.”

“I would like to buy my husband an expensive car.”

“I would like to send my nice parents to Hawaii.”

So I failed them all and told The KDFCs that they had to use better adjectives and say what they wanted for themselves, because having dreams for yourself is totally American, and if they were going to live in America, they needed to think like American women.

So I say, “Na Yung, did you do your homework?”

“Yes, Amber,” Na Yung says.


Na Yung, who is old enough to be my mom, gets all nervous whenever she is speaking English around me, which is why I called on her first, so she can get it over with and relax.

“I would like see live handsome movie star in Hollywood—like delicious men I see in photo American magazine.”

“Nice job,” I tell Na Yung. “Very American! Good pronunciation and delicious is truly a killer adjective! A-plus. How about you, Sun?”

“I dream to fly in beautiful fat rotund air balloon so hair will blow warmest behind my ear.”

“That’s damn good, Sun. Rotund is very good. I’d like to fly in a beautiful fat rotund air balloon too. That would be truly killer.”

As I listen to the dreams of all the Korean women present, Father Chee smiles at me so that I can see every one of his teeth. I can tell he really really digs me, in a non-sexual good-guy priest sorta way. Maybe he wishes I were his daughter, because he’s not allowed to make a daughter for himself. He would be a cool dad.

The KDFCs love it when I praise their English, and you can tell that they really dig expressing themselves in my class too, which is pretty cool. I’m having a good time listening to their dreams, but then suddenly everyone has spoken and The Korean Divas for Christ are lining up in two rows by the altar—songbooks in hand—so eagerly, because they pretty much come for the soul singing. FC and I know that they like singing better than learning English, which is why we invented this awesome alternative class in the first place.

“Shall we?” Father Chee says, offering his arm like a frickin’ gentleman.

Just like always, he walks me arm-in-arm to the front of the church, as if he were about to give me away on my wedding day.

When I am in position, Father Chee bows to me once, and then takes his place at the old beat-up piano to my left, opening his songbook to the number we always start with.

“Okay, ladies,” I say. “What do we need to work on this week?”

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