(So I wrote this right before I left for home… I just didn’t quiet have a chance to finish it up and post it… )
It is just as I suspected… two months after my first blog I am finally sitting down to write my second with only 6 days left of my time in Thailand remaining. Not that I ever planned blog weekly… but a little sooner than this probably wouldn’t have hurt anything… Though… I did try blogging one evening only to end up with a case of writer’s block which is how Bethany (my roommate) came to write my previous blog… and I hers… funny how its easier to write for someone else… But here is the real update on my adventures… straight from the source… sorry for the delay… if I ever blog again I will be sure to get a blog accountability partner ;)
Ah! I am not sure what to say. I would much prefer to sit down with each of you in a cozy coffee shop over hot cocoa and share my heart rather than write a mass message. But since my budget- both time and financial- doesn’t allow for that, I suppose this will have to suffice.
I must start off by saying that this season has been one of unexpected joy and peace. Its funny in coming here I kinda braced for the worse. I think sometimes I start to buy into this weird picture that I think has been a picture painted back in the states o f the “outside” world… particularly countries outside of the west… that causes a great amount of fear among people or at least an assumption of guaranteed misery. I am not sure how it formed… perhaps through media… the news… movies… or perhaps because we only tend to remember the exciting and frightening bits of the stories we hear… however it came to be constructed, I think it exists unjustly. And though some of it perhaps has a rightful place… I mean there are fairly dangerous places in the world… most of it really is not merited. I also think we expect life to be so much more difficult overseas…. Thoughts of living without hot water… flushing toilets… or a car… seem to be not only inconvenient but unpleasant. Now I fully agree that there are places in Bangkok I shouldn’t go to alone at night to and not to mention I am counting down the days until I get a hot shower… but none of these things are really (or whatever ever else we associate with living overseas or as a missionary) as terrible as we make them out to be. There really aren’t men around every corner trying to kidnap me or spiders the size of my head pouncing on me every night. Life is actually quiet enjoyable over here and most of the inconveniences normally end up as little adventures or funny stories to laugh about later.
Furthermore, I think there is a glorification of overseas work that is also a little out of balance. Don’t get me wrong- I don’t really have a place to begin talking about sacrifice. I have been over here three measly months. However, I have met people that have given their entire lives to be here… sacrificing what looks like so much to me. Yet, they don’t see it like that. They instead say things like “Wow I can’t believe the places and things God has led me and allowed me to do!” Seeing the sacrifice I have seen in people here coupled with this attitude has thrown me for a loop. Because on the outside I think “Look at all they are sacrificing” but they say “What a blessing and privilege to live for God.” This seems strangely similar to what Jesus had in mind when he said “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 10:39. These are the verses God has continually challenged me with while I have been here. They are so contrary to man’s way of thinking. Yet when we live this out… we find what we have been searching for. This doesn’t mean life is easy. William Barkley said “Jesus came not to make life easy but to make people great.”…. We can’t have both… ease and greatness. Yet, I confess… so often I want them both. All too frequently I want the shortcuts but there really are none…I always tend to think of it like health…. You have to work on it… everyday. There are things that are sacrificed…. And at time all the work- soy milk, Pilates, Jillian Michaels- feels like it might kill you. But in the end… you are healthy and… I have noticed that most health “nuts” seem to love it (though I confess I haven’t really experienced health nut thing personally). Anyway my point is… that in the same way… being a Jesus “nut” seems crazy and unpleasant… and perhaps a bit odd to those outside… to those inside there is an almost secret knowing. The kind of knowing a parent has at Christmas watching their son or daughter unwrap a present they have given them… looking on quietly with a half smile and twinkle in their eye… but are filled perhaps with an even deeper joy and enjoyment than their small child. Maybe this all sounds a little cheesy… but I feel like this a bit… the answer to the mystery of life and purpose… is mine. And I love it…or rather Him.
What He will do with each of us is different. For some the best way he can make us great is to send us to Thailand for 10 years… or to Wilmore, Kentucky… or maybe back to Oregon. I have wrestled whether or not to come back to Thailand. I am not sure what the answer to that question is yet. However, I am learning that although the “where” at times is important… it is not as important as the “who”. Who am I? What am I living out? Am I living a life of love- slow to anger, quick to forgive, preferring others above myself? Or am I seeking my own life… my own happiness… my own way? What I have been doing in Thailand isn’t necessarily glorious. It’s me living life in Thailand…hopefully looking a little like Jesus. Life has looked different here than perhaps what it looks life for you or what it has looked like in the past for me. I spend most of my days rubbing shoulders with women who have been exploited in the sex industry but are trying to build a new life. I have spent a lot of my time with their kids to keep them off the streets and out of trouble. During my last month in Thailand I have spend a lot of my time doing behind the scenes work on computer writing an addiction class to help these women work through their drug and alcohol addiction and piecing together other mental health curriculum. I spend some of my evenings in bars with women and transgender men, talking to them, learning a bit about their lives…and their heartaches. Sometimes we take them out for the night for Karaoke or to just chat over a smoothie. I have seen prostitutes varying in age from 11 to 70 just trying to survive and spent time with fellow ministry partners racking our brains trying to figure out how to reach them. And in the midst of all this I have been living with seven other diverse people who are just as imperfect yet in need of love as I am.
That has been my life… and while in a sense it isn’t anything glorious…in every sense it is… because God is changing me … and I trust using me to change others with his love. And that is a miracle. I have fallen on my face many times trying to love people… When I try to love people in my own strength or to please God I end up not only failing but overwhelmed and exhausted. But God has been giving me a deeper glimpse of the meaning of the cross. Jesus experienced so much sorrow, rejection, loneliness, and pain… but all willfully for me. Think of the times in your life you have felt these emotions the strongest. Wouldn’t you have given anything to escape them? He could have. He simply could have got up and left the garden of Gethsemane before his crucifixion… but he didn’t. He went to the cross anyway because he loved me… and you. Imagining the pain Jesus willfully endured emotionally and physically for us seems unbearable to me. I don’t have that kind of love in me. Yet… when I see the goodness of Jesus… the love that he had… the love I have for him grows. Have you ever seen someone do something so loving and selfless that it made love for them rise up in you so much that you wanted to do something for them? It’s not a burden to sacrifice for them. This love is what is behind some of the people I have seen here. That is how people can come around the world and live lives that look like huge sacrifices but they don’t really pay much attention to that… because they love Him so much that it is their pleasure to serve.
There are stories I could share with you that are heartbreaking. But we have all heard countless heartbreaking stories and sometimes I think we feed off that drama… but really don’t care much past the drama to the actual people involved …I don’t mean to say that stories don’t have their place and a time to be shared but I guess what I hope to somehow convey to you through this painfully long and overdue blog is: fear not He is with you. Don’t be afraid to step out… the United States doesn’t have the ticket to the best life… Jesus does… follow him… its hard at times… but good… I struggle to believe this all the time… I am nothing special or noteworthy…I have only been over here a very short time… and maybe I will live the rest of my life in the States… I doubt it but maybe… and even if I do… it is not the key to a fulfilling life: He is.
Please continue to pray for me as I seek direction in the following months. Thank you to each one who has prayed for me… supported and loved me… I know I have done a terrible job at blogging… but I am grateful for all of you more than I can express…. And with that… I leave you with the words of a song a friend and I wrote while I was here in Thailand… they are the words of God from Isaiah and have been an immense comfort and challenge to me:
“My Son, do not fear;
I have redeemed you and you are mine.
I will strengthen, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my hand.
When you walk through the river,
When you pass through the fire;
The waters shall not overwhelm,
The flame shall not burn.
You are precious in my eyes,
You are honored and I always will love you.”