We have had a great week in E Asia so far. God has blessed us on this trip with smooth travel, good health, fellowship with new and old friends, and really good food. Many things to share and looking forward to doing so when we return. We arrived in Shanghai last Saturday night and were blessed to have Stephanie Rasmussen waiting for us at the airport. We had dinner with Jay and Stephanie and it was great to find them well and to find out about their lives here. We hope to have lunch with them and visit this Sunday when we travel back through Shanghai. We travelled to the island on Sunday where we met up with M and V and the other members of their team. Sunday through Tuesday, we participated in the staff retreat for the team. Our team’s responsibility for the staff meeting and the conference for the island Ms was to lead worship and Bible study. I was blessed to lead a study on spiritual renewal and Mark Gottschalk led worship through music on Monday and Tuesday. What a privilege and blessing to do that for M, V and their core team. Our team also entertained the kids at the swimming pool while M and the team had an afternoon strategy and planning session on Tuesday. On Wednesday, we travelled to a UPG village just outside the city and had lunch with new UPG friends that MC and MJ have made. It was fun to learn more about the new friends, fellowship, and share photos of our families. The best part was seeing MC and MJ share stories about Jesus in the local language. On Thursday and Friday, many of the Ms on the island came together for the first ever cross group conference for a time of encouragement and collaboration. What a blessing for our team to spend time for these last 2 days with this group of Ms who love the Lord and bring the message of Jesus to the UPGs and other groups on the island. So many stories from the meetings and new friends made - just wow is all I can say. Our team again led worship time on Thursday and Friday with Mark bringing a message of encouragement from Nehemiah and Tim sharing his testimony and a message of renewal. M,V, the team and the Ms have been so welcoming to us and gave us a great response to the sessions we have led. God has truly blessed our time here this week.
That's all for now, but more to share when we return. We have another 1.5 days here before travelling home late Sunday night after a stop over in Shanghai. We appreciate and need your prayers while on this trip. Thank you for supporting and praying.
Sunday evening was the last of our 4 team meetings before this group 6 people packed their bags for the journey to the Czech Republic.
Our original plans were to have 3 meetings to help the group of 8 unify. As is ever evident on mission trips, our plans take back seat to our God who is actually in control, driving and steering us for His purpose.
The first two team meetings each lacked in attendance by two members. As a means to help us unify, we added an impromptu social lunch at Five Guys and were short by only one. It was at our last meeting on Sunday with our prayer partners that all of us were able to attend. That was the sweetest day of all.
Unbeknownst to some of us, there was already a heavy-handed attack underway against two of our team members that would affect our numbers. By Monday’s end we were searching for two new members to fill in. Then, even with new potential members in place, difficulties in logistics proved by Thursday that we were going to be 6 and no more.
I believe God turns our attention to Him and opens our eyes to the spiritual things around us when we step out for His sake. I can feel myself looking at events as either blessings or hindrances.
The bag in which I packed my clothes has had an issue with the extendable handle which I thought was resolved or easily fixed. Super glue and a new screw did not do the trick. In hind sight, I should have tried duct tape, the cure-all for mechanical issues. Karen Melles suggested I use David’s carry-on bag of the same size. Since the Melles family live so close to the church, we let the other vehicle with it’s three team members go ahead and we did the swap. A quick grab and then a cumbersome repacking in the car and David’s suitcase was now mine, for the trip anyway.
This could have been a small thorn in my side all week if my stubborn self had pushed through and kept my old suitcase just to be on time, which would have been in-character for me.
Inside the airport terminal we met up as a complete team again. Standing close to the automated check-in kiosks, we debated whether to use them or go up to the counter. At the counter, Martina and I were getting checked-in first. Keith hastily distributed the yellow ID tags for our luggage. Sometime during this and the chatter about what was to come, our airline rep asked if we were going on a mission trip, citing how excited we looked. Fast forward to us boarding the plane and we discover that the first three of us to check in were assigned exit rows. At 6’4′ I appreciate sitting in an exit row.
A potential frustration was dissolved and a lovely blessing was bestowed. I say the Holy Spirit was at work and praise God for his loving grace.
Our stop-over in London was a rush of moving from one gate to the next. With all of the construction going on, they were transporting passengers via busses between certain sections. We made our gate in time and it was a quick flight to Prague.
In the Prague airport, Martina was already feeling frustration toward the often typical Czech mentality. The agent checking her passport gave her attitude straight off, taking advantage of the chance to tilt the expectations of weary travelers. Our driver was quite friendly. His English proved he learned as he went, so it was cute to hear his mistakes. He and I had a chance to converse along the way allowing me to brush off my Czech language skills. Martina and Karen sat just behind and listened in, while Martina translated some of it or clarified on other subjects. Keith, Jon and Steven sat in the very back taking in the landscape of lush green hills, tall trees and the old Czech architecture of the small towns along our hour-long journey.
We checked-in by 2:45 and decided to go out to see some of the town for two reasons. First, it was a good time to see new sights and experience some of the culture. Second, we needed to stay awake until bed time to adjust as soon as possible to the new time zone. I pray it will be easy to adjust to the 7 hour difference.
Our tour for the first afternoon took us up one of the main streets here passing by a beautiful theater to the main square that holds the tallest spire in all of Czech (possibly all of Europe). Inside that Catholic church we took time to pray for the city. Then we went for a traditional Czech dinner at Svejk restaurant. Our dinner included three orders of Svickova, a beef and dumpling dish with heavy cream sauce; one typical pork, cabbage and dumpling dish; a duck, cabbage and dumpling dish; and then a bowl of soup. Before we went back to the hotel, we searched out CrossCafe where we ordered thick hot chocolates, a coffee and a latte.
We are in Taipei now. We went to a public school today and met with some taiwanese teachers who are trying to reach their school for Christ. We had a great lunch with them, then prayed for them. Missionaries here showed us how they do outreach to a school here. They are able to share the gospel as an American cultural experience. This was very interesting. We also did a bible distribution at a memorial. Tomorrow we will attend a buhdist temple during services, then distribute bibles. We have given out over 2000 so far. Team is doing well.
Working in bible warehouse today. We visited with taiwanese families last night in their homes. We had great conversations and prayed with them. Some were not believers. We have distributed over 1800 bibles. Team doing well.
Monday, June 25, 2012
Today we distributed 875 bibles, and we had lots of great conversations with many Chinese. We saw god do many powerful things in our interactions throughout the day. Continue to pray as we do more distributions, and make home visits to unbelievers tomorrow.
A few highlights…
- After distributing Bible packets for 6 consecutive nights in two locations, our team handed out 2050 Bibles. As many of you have heard these statistics, Southern Cross estimates 10 people will have access to each Bible and packet distributed. That means over 20,000 Chinese will have access to God’s Word where they once did not. Our team is celebrating God’s favor upon our team this week.
- Both our teams prepared and performed a skit in the slums with a clear gospel message. After the gospel was presented, there were opportunities for Thai men and women to pray to receive Christ. While some indicated they did, we have put that in God’s hands, but just having this opportunity has been a real blessing for us.
- While in the slums, our teams were able to pray over the hurting, the needy, and the broken – both physically, and spiritually. Many on our teams had powerful experiences in which God was clearly working through the prayers of His people.
- We had multiple opportunities to minister to children in various capacities. Many of these kids live in slums, or orphanages and have no families to care for them. Our groups were able to play (think piggy back rides for hours) and spend time with these kids who just soaked up the love we had to offer. It was a great way for our group to express the love of Jesus.
- On Wednesday morning, our group gathered with other local ministries for a worship service. It was a great reminder of the cooperation of God’s people. Each person was there to pray together for each ministry need and the efforts they would be doing in the city. Whether the group was praying and singing in English or Thai, it was great to see the same God being worshipped and served.
Lessons to share…
- Prayer is powerful. Too often we live our lives being self sufficient. Here, we realize we are desperate for God to move. We can accomplish nothing a part from God’s plan and purposes.
- God doesn’t need to use us, but He desires to use us. While He can accomplish anything He wants, He wants us to be faithful to pray and act.
- Showing the love of Jesus can cross over any language or cultural barriers.
Things to pray for…
- The Chinese who have taken Bibles this week. Pray that they would be drawn to these Bibles and the truth they find there will transform their lives. Pray for their families, friends, neighbors who may have access to these Bibles once they return to China.
- Southern Cross. Our team is the final team to work with Southern Cross in Thailand. Southern Cross is moving its ministry to Taiwan. Pray for Southern Cross as they make this move over the next two months. Pray for the thai staff members who will be looking for other ministry jobs in Thailand. Pray for Bahn, Naam, Alex, Nigh, and Enoch as Southern Cross moves out of Thailand.
- Pray for other local ministries in Pattaya. Pray that this city would continue to be penetrated by the light of Jesus Christ through these local ministries.
- Pray for our team as we travel. We will be traveling Sunday and Monday (Texas time) arriving back home Monday night. Pray for safe travel.
- Pray for our team as we return that we might live out the experiences we’ve had here this week.
Finally, let me say thank you for sending us, supporting us, and praying for us. It has been a tremendous week, and we look forward to sharing more with you as we return.
The rest of the is taking a well deserved day of rest before we begin our journey home around 3am tomorrow morning. They are spending the day at Nong Nooch (http://nongnoochgarden.com/) and should come back with many fun pictures and memories. I am staying at the hotel, hoping to recover enough before begin our travels home.
Every day this week, the teams have been busy from sunrise to sunset with so many ministry activities. Each evening we have two teams distributing packets with the Gospel of John in two locations - one where the Chinese go to eat, and another where they go to get massages. I don't have all of the numbers, but I know that there have been at least 1300 packets given out -- which translates to 13,000 Chinese who will likely see God's word as a result of this week's ministry. According to the folks running this ministry, each packet/Bible that gets back into China is likely shared with 10 people!
Both teams spent time this week at the slums, orphanage, and jail ministry. I believe that both teams performed the "Lightouse Everything" skit at the slums. For the seniors, they were so energetic in the first performance that Allie even took some cuts to her hands and knees from being bounced around :(
I also heard great stories about our kids playing with the kids at the orphanage. Who needs a common language -- God's love speaks cross-culturally. I'll have to see the pictures to know more about it, and when I get them, I'll share them with you.
I also heard some heart tugging stories from the jail ministry visits. In one jail, Chris (my wife) tole me there was a lady about 9 months pregnant. I can't even type that without tearing up. I think she said the expectation was that there would be a doctor coming to check on her, but I doubt she will leave after she gives birth. In the other jail, while the team was there, the prisoners dragged a female prisoner out from the cells to the guards because she was having a respiratory attack of some sort. Some of the people in the jail were trying to get her to take her inhaler, but she was (as I understand it) unconscious at this time. Some of the local missionaries took the lady to the hospital and I think I heard that she woke up on the way there.
The other challenge this week has been the challenge of change for those leaving Thailand and those staying behind. We are the last team that Southern Cross will host here in Thailand as they prepare to move their ministry. The real struggle has been seeing the longing in the hearts of those staying behind -- both Thai nationals and American missionaries who have worked with/for Southern Cross for so long. Chris said she certainly saw the tears in Alex's eyes as he told the team good bye from the orphanage last night and I had a discussion with Enoch on Wednesday night where he said he would continue the ministry on his own even if there were not packets to hand out. He figured if there were no packets, then he could go all the way out to where the Chinese congregate waiting to get to the restaurant rather than being confined on the steps of the building as we are now.
Please be in prayer for so many things:
- The Southern cross team members, both those who are moving and those who are staying behind.
- For this trip to put a permanent mark on the lives of those who have come.
- For us to keep our eyes open and never think that ministry and/or missions is confined to a distant land or a specific people group.
God is so merciful and we are so spoiled.