REPORTING LIVE FROM VIETNAM ...
It has been a while since I’ve provided you with actual details of our lives trekking around the globe, so I thought I would give you some newsy fill-ins on the past few months in Southeast Asia.
When we left for the World Race, Asia didn't cross our minds much; we were more focused on Africa.
We didn't know that we would end up in Vietnam - all we knew was that our tenth month of the race would be a "surprise" country somewhere in Asia. Our team jokingly began to call month ten "the Asian surprise."
When we found out last month that we were headed here, we were excited, but we never could have guessed how Vietnam, and Asia in general, would soon have a place in our hearts. I wrote about my fear of the unknown continent in this post, and I've been amazed at how quickly Lord has opened our minds and hearts to a new continent.
We are currently living in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) -- and we LOVE IT. We host English conversation classes at a local coffee shop run by Christian owners. All kinds of people show up to practice their English, and we’ve made some sweet friends here.
- I am so thankful for the gentle Vietnamese culture -- they are so kind, interested in knowing foreigners, and hospitable. I am daily challenged by how considerate they are, especially considering the dark history between our countries.
- It is my hope to soon be able to share with my new friends how with them how much Jesus loves them - when the time is right. I’m being reminded that discipleship is a lovely journey - meandering for some, sudden and dramatic for others. I’m so thankful that the Lord romances us each in our own way, and that this year I've gotten involved in every part of the process.
- We make daily discoveries here in Asia, some spiritually deep - and some not so much. For instance, it turns out my small stature is totally normal on the Eastern side of the globe. Ha! I am delighted to find clothes that ACTUALLY fit me and people at my eye level. American Standard, I reject you as inferior.
- We are also excited to see how far our dollar stretches here. It is a welcome relief from the inflated prices of home! We daily enjoy FRESH fruit smoothies for 75 cents and spring rolls (made on the spot) for 33 cents.
Next week we head to the coast, where we’ll be working in a deaf community and reaching out to the tourists who come to the beaches to lose themselves in a life of drinking and pleasure … stay tuned for updates, and please pray with us that our time there will give us meaningful opportunities to serve and share.
Thailand: Tackling Trafficking
- While Thailand has come and gone, we still think about our time there with fondness. The ministries we served there were some of our favorite so far.
- I want to thank everyone who journeyed through the red-light district of Chiang Mai with me - your support and encouragement is invaluable.
- A significant role I had in Thailand was to interceed for and encourage two of my teammates, who developed a deep friendship with a local bar manager. We watched the Lord work, transifxed as the hardened owner of one of the wildest bars on Loi Kroh road was transformed by his love. You can read my friend Carly's personal account of the whole thing here - it's worth your time:
Cambodia: My Desert
- Last month, we lived in a very remote village in Cambodia. The Lord really tested us there - living accommodations were challenging & our bodies had difficulty adjusting to tenting in the 100+ degree heat, avoiding all the insects, and living off of primarily dirty water. There were moments I was tempted to feel like an Israelite, wandering in the desert and not sure what I was doing.
- Our ministry involved teaching the adorable local children English. I often felt uncomfortable becuase I did not feel I was not connecting the with kids like I wanted to. Worse yet, I did not feel motivated to show them the love I knew they needed.
- In so many ways, I felt exhausted and dried up, much like the wilted flowers growing outside my tent, fighting for life and struggling to add color to the monochrome landscape.
- In my frustrated moments, the Lord was refining and teaching me -- showing me that HE is the one who puts work in my hands. So often, there is the temptation to evaluate if my days are productive in my own eyes. God reminded me that he makes the plans -- he only calls me to be faithful and to trust him with what he gives me. We studied Abraham for our team Bible study recently, and I was reminded that Abraham was praised in Hebrews 11 … because he was faithful. Because he was obedient to the Lord.
- Even when he had no idea where the promised land actually was, he set out and took one day at a time, trusting that God would show him in due time what he was supposed to be doing.
- Abraham’s obedience put him in a position to receive God’s blessing.
- At the end of the month, God allowed me to see a glimmer of how he worked through me. A team member shared that after we left, some of the girls in our class were deeply upset and expressed how much we meant to them and how much they would miss us.
In my doubtful moments, I forgot ... I forgot that God is faithful. I forgot that the Lord is constantly drawing each person to himself. I forgot the weightiness of being a child of God. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, and we literally carry Jesus wherever we go. It's impossible for things in the spiritual realm to remain unaffected when his children are present. It’s impossible for God to NOT use our presence as part of his plan.
In my doubt, the Lord opened my eyes to the beauty in Genesis 16. It's the poignant story of the slave girl Hagar, who found herself pregnant, kicked out of her house, and wandering alone in the desert.
Verse 7 says that "God found her." The Lord heard her distress, sent an angel to comfort her, and gave her the promise that she would be mother of a nation. The slave girl was not forgotten by God of the universe.
Her response reaches the deep places in my heart -- "“You are the God who sees me, ” for she said, “I have now seen the One who cares for me.” (Genesis 16:13)
God whispered to my soul -- "I see you" "I have not forgotten you." "Be faithful, and you will see greater things than these."
May I encourage you with the words the Lord gave Hagar so many years ago, gave to me, and gives to you --
Wherever you find yourself, He invites you to simply be faithful ... and in that, to "share in your master's happiness."
Is there anything better?