Monday, March 31, 2014

Thailand Part II: In the Thick of It

 I found myself in the thick of Thailand,
in the thick heavy of the humid air that we swam through,
in the thick of a language I did not understand,
in the thick of intimidation as I gazed out the window of the bus at a lovely landscape scattered with Buddhist shrines shining like they were mocking my attempt to come here and speak the Gospel

This is our turf these lifeless shrines began to mock me what makes you think you can bring your Jesus here?

Oh, but Jesus was already there. 
And that Jesus, He is beyond merciful.
Especially when the thickest thing I was in was my own impatience... a head spinning dizzy trying to strategically maneuver conversations with my new Thai friends that would somehow work Jesus in.
And this was just day one.

I can just see my King laughing at His frenzied daughter, saying, Just wait. I need no help revealing myself. Just wait.

So my sweet new Thai friend and I, we giggled over the chick flicks we both liked, she told me of her dreams of being a flight attendant, and all the while I'm fervently asking the Lord like some anxious toddler, When, when, when?

We drove past more trees with blossoms flaunting their bountiful beauty in the gracious breeze that kissed the heat that day, and I drank in the vision of serenity after being in the hectic Bangkok traffic just an hour earlier.

As the city melted into countryside, the Lord melted my anxiety and though I was impatient, doubting, and questioning His sovereignty, and really did not deserve what came next--
an open door for the Truth to flood in,
a glimpse of the treasure I'd been begging for: the privilege, the honor, the blessing of an opportunity to share the Greatest News with this new friend of mine.

The Lord composed His moment like this:

As we talked about this new marvelous thing of Thai culture with our new Thai friend, I felt the Lord push me to take a step in faith, to ask my friend about the Buddhist shrines and what they meant.
Like Simon Peter, I threw out the nets after already feeling defeated, wondering if I could ever witness on this trip, if I would ever see fruit.
But I threw them out in faith.
And my net broke under the weight of God's utter grace.

"What do Christians believe?" she asked.
I did a mental double take and I felt the Spirit sweep in and clothe me in God's bravery and strength as I spoke the Gospel, oh so careful not to mess up this message that burst forth from my heart, vibrated in my vocal cords and burst into the air for all to hear.

When Simon Peter saw the net come back full of fish, it was enough to make him fall to the ground before a Holy God,
and all Christ could say was, "Do not be afraid."
And that day, that first day in Thailand,
though I did not deserve,
though I doubted as passionately as I should have believed,
though I questioned as deeply as I should have had faith,
the Lord made me a "fisher of men."

And all that maneuvering, tinkering with some grand strategy to share His Gospel--
it's man-made garbage because Christ's way is the best way, the only way.
And the only way is to be still, to love Him, and let that flow forth.

Jesus through me and my missions team partner,
He proclaimed His redemptive story,
He used my insecurity for His glory as I voiced morsels of testimony,
He used the spirits she feared to offer His overwhelming victory over them,
He revealed His end to the Buddhist cycle of karma,
and these things became a masterpiece before my eyes that I could not claim any part of-- and that's what made it such a beautiful miracle.

My Thai friend took the weight of the words, and expressed how difficult it was to choose to leave the Buddhism she grew up with, especially when the church she had tried made her so happy, yet her family was proud of their Buddhist faith.

And I felt like I was bathing in a melty pool of chocolate,
overwhelmed in sweetness,
indulging in warmth,
knowing again that my inadequacy means nothing,
and that Christ is everything.
Though I was impatient and did not deserve any of it, stuck in my doubt, paralyzed by my planning,
 I got the utmost privilege of witnessing His seed planted, and speaking His glorious truth.

No matter what the outcome, just the experience of the Lord's grace, reminding me that He will work and have unimaginable glory despite my impatience, despite my inadequacy, despite my plans that were bound to fail-- that is satisfaction filling enough for eternity.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Thailand Part I: Open Wounds

So how do I even begin to express in words an experience that was rampant with miracles and saturated with God's presence answering prayer after prayer like some marvelous fireworks display before the eyes of me, my missions team, some new Thai friends, and a family of believers and believers to be?

How could I possibly convey the magnitude of God's transforming power working on overdrive in the hearts of the unsaved, resurrecting a new hope and zeal int he hearts of believers, and revealing His glorious love in new ways moment after moment, wondering to myself if it could ever possibly get better, and being shocked and awed as the Lord was better and better all the time?

Maybe I'll begin the story of my missions trip to Thailand with the hours before I stepped on a plane to arrive at a life forever changed. Maybe I'll begin with the whispers that became loud, harsh accusations as the hours of anticipation wore on. Here's what they sounded like:

You are in NO shape to go to Thailand and share the Gospel. Heck, you don't even get the Gospel yourself! You're so deep in this dry season no one will want what you claim to have.

And then other moments they sounded like:

You've let your eating disorder be your king so much this semester, how could you possibly be used by God anymore? He's so done with you.

The little seedlings of truth, that I had been struggling with  my disorder, that I did feel so very inadequate in my understanding of the Gospel, and of Jesus' love, that I was going through a dry season... they took root and I boarded the airplane defeated.

But with courage from the Lord I uttered softly to myself, "Lord, I literally have nothing to offer you. I just ask that you would use me for Your glory, if that's at all possible anymore. I love you so much, and that's really all I have right now."

It was as if the flood gates were opened for the Lord to drown me in grace when I'd been trying so hard to tread the water myself.
A sigh of relief in my heart as I realized my inadequacy, realized my weakness, only to realize the greatest lesson I learned on this trip:

The way God will use me, the way God will make me an instrument of His grace and mercy and glory, is in NO WAY dependent on my spiritual, mental, or physical state.
Oh, and once we surrender and realize that,
the ways He works in a willing, humbled heart are amazing.
And even when my heart was not as humble, not as willing, not as open as it should have been,
 the Lord allowed me to share the Gospel on the very first day I arrived in Thailand.
the Lord allowed me to share my testimony in a church half a world away from home.
the Lord graced me with an earth-shattering, and really, a me-shattering experience where I got to worship as the sun rose on a beach and witness two more sisters claim our Heavenly Daddy as their Savior and begin a relationship with Him.

And so I begin this story as a joyous mess,
because in the admitted mess is where we find real joy. 
Not in our strategies for ministry,
not in our spirituality that is really a gift anyways,
but in our brokenness.

My team leader told me on the trip, "By His wounds we are healed, and sometimes, by our wounds, we can heal others too."

I begin to show you that my exposed wounds were the avenues for the outpouring of His glory,
and when He taught me to boast in my weakness there, across oceans deep, I learned what grace really is.

A sunrise over Thailand, the morning two of my Thai sisters were saved