Thursday, July 13, 2006

Mathew 7:14 "Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it."

Recently we have been thinking about the Bema Seat; when our lives are over and we stand before God, what will remain? And we have been thinking about the One who is like fullers' soap, stripping us of everything and exposing our motives down to the root, and the refiner's fire, and all the gold that remains, pure and eternal.

As I prepare to return to Baltimore for the summer, I have been thinking about this past year, and all the gold and glory that remain. I look at Ryan, or Jar, or Jeab, or Aek, or Pastor Walsh and there is a hint of a smile, like we all share a big secret that no one else understands, because we've found a treasure hidden in a field, and this narrow little gate that leads to life.

Fruit that remains

Aek

Before Aek became a believer one year ago, he was a Buddhist monk with a license to preach. For two years as a monk, he tried to get rid of his sins through meditation. He is now one of our most fervent Bible College students who not only knows that he is forgiven, but has a great love for studying the Bible, soul winning, and helping us in any way he can, from preparing tracts for outreach to mopping the floor and arranging chairs before services.

Last Sunday morning, a very nervous Aek, wearing a crisp white shirt and one of Pastor Walsh's red ties, preached his first introduction. It was powerful and to the point, from Ephesians 1, about all the spiritual blessings we have in Christ.

Ryan

Ryan, from Madras , India , met us three years ago while studying at Assumption University here in Bangkok . Soon after that, he decided to leave his university to attend our Bible College full time. In February, he married our faithful secretary and translator, Jar, and it is our great joy to watch their marriage as it is separated for a purpose. Ryan is also a full time team member and twice a month leads an outreach and Bible study in Mahachai, a fishing village two hours from Bangkok . God's hand on his life is evident as he leads and speaks in gentleness, conviction, and truth.

Jeab

Jeab says her greatest prayer in her life has been to know God more, and that God answered that prayer when she met us three years ago. She is now a full time Bible College student and team member. Every so often, she tells me how she is still amazed, sitting in a Bible College class or a service; because she never dreamed there could be anywhere in the world where she could hear a message this clear or that she could know God this deeply.

Like most of our disciples, she is the only Christian in a Buddhist family. Recently, her father told her that she should start thinking about finding a good job and making a good life for herself like her brothers. "You mean like the man in the north of Thailand who won six million baht in the lottery, bought a new house, two new cars, and was killed along with his family in the flood this week?" Her father was speechless.

Milk

Milk recently graduated from Ramkhumheang University . She has endured persecution from her parents for her decision to stay in Bangkok and go to Bible College . But recently, she went home and was able to share with them. It was the first time her father listened without fighting. She told them, "Your money and honor will not last, one day you will stand before God, and he will not accept your merit or good works. You can buy a VIP ticket right now and be with me in heaven." When she finished, her parents were so stunned, they didn't know what to say.

A few weeks ago, Jeab and I walked with Milk through Seacon Square as Milk searched for a job. After each door, her face became a little more crestfallen until finally she said, "Everyplace I look, I would have to work on Sundays and the hours are so late I wouldn't be able to go to Bible School ." But later, eating papaya salad together she told us that she used to put so much confidence in herself, her bachelor's degree, her education, her parents, but now she can only have confidence in God.

A few highlights from the past few months

We are in a van on our way back from Mahachai. Belinda and I are singing worship songs so loudly and off key that the rest of the passengers must think we are crazy. But none of us care because we are so full of joy at the conversations we have had and the two people who have prayed with us to receive Christ. And because Aum, a new believer we met through our Christmas outreach, has come soul winning with us for the first time. He has said how amazing it is seeing God speak through us to those who have no hope and that this has been the most exciting night of his life.

We are soulwinning at Ramkhumheang University , I hand a tract to a young woman named Gift who says she has been interested in Christianity for a long time. Sunday she comes to church and prays to receive Christ after the service. She tells us that she used to stop and worship every idol she passed, but now she just feels she doesn't want to do that anymore.

I go to the gym and meet a young woman named Muay. She tells me she wants to have a foreigner friend so I say "Oh… well…I'll be your friend." I end up playing basketball with her until ten at night, make twenty new friends, and discover a new opportunity to reach Thai people.

I'm watching an Applied Bible Doctrine class with Jar and taking notes so she can translate them to the class later. It is an ABD recorded ten years ago and Pastor Stevens is preaching the same message I've heard ever since I can remember, one that cuts and makes alive. At night in Bible College , I watch Aek, Gift, and Milk take pages and pages of notes as Jar translates and I think here are Thais and Vietnamese, Indians, and an Australian, who have not chosen the easy way, but are being discipled in a message that could impact the world.

Thank you for your prayers, please continue to pray for:

• We have made many new contacts over the past few months, either people who are interested in learning more about Christ or those who have prayed to receive Christ, but follow up and discipleship is very difficult here. Please pray God would give us creative ideas to reach them

Friday, March 24, 2006

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. I Corinthians 3:6

Deepest thanks to all the saints who continue to pray for the work here in Bangkok. We are encouraged and a little awed by Gods work in and among us. The frustration of laboring in the land of smiles can overwhelm us at times because it seems as if the gospel rarely gets much deeper than an ever-smiling facade. But over the holidays, we kept thinking of the privilege of laboring in a country where people have never heard the real meaning of Christmas. And this left us feeling that being thousands of miles away from the natural warmth and comfort of home was unimportant, because of the treasures God has given us here; those things have become so unimportant.


Aek.
Ten new visitors came to our special evangelical Christmas service but the highlight of the evening was when Aek, who accepted Christ five months ago, shared his testimony. Last year, he decided he would escape sin by becoming a monk. He thought keeping the Buddhist rules would stop him from sinning. He would close his eyes to meditate but when he opened them, he was still in the same place. It was like I was drowning, he says, But God didnt throw me a book to teach me to swim. He gave me His hand and said if I would only believe, He would save me. Now I believe that the blood of Christ has cleansed my past sins. Now, I fear God. Being a Christian is not a simple, sabai, sabai life. God is love and He is also righteous.


Tukata.
God prepared one new visitor, Tukata, for salvation through a dream. She explained to us that one year ago she dreamed she was walking along a long white road and came to a river: on one side was a Buddhist temple with many people wearing black and on the other side were many white crosses and a Christian church. She rowed a boat across the river to the temple but when she tried to climb over the wall of the temple to get inside, it was too difficult. She wanted to go back across the river because she felt like she really belonged on the other side with the church, but she was too exhausted to row or swim. Then she heard her boyfriends voice (who is a Christian) saying, Its by faith. Suddenly the river became just a trickle of water and she walked over. She woke up and realized she needed to make a decision.
Tukata has been praying for a year, ever since her dream, that someone would come and teach her the Bible. Before Christmas, she saw some carolers singing in front of our church. For the next few weeks, she kept thinking how she needed to go to that church. She finally came to our special service, raised her hand to accept Christ, and has been coming ever since.


Decisions that go against culture.
Recently one of our precious disciples graduated from Ramkhumheang University and her father has been pressuring her to return to her hometown to work and marry his unbelieving friend. Buddhist culture is often a hurdle in discipleship; parents expect their children to obey and financially support them their whole lives. But two weeks ago, this young woman shared a testimony that left us rejoicing at how the Word of God has become rooted in her heart, much deeper than culture.
I lost so much this year. Before, I was so occupied with myself. I didnt spend any time in the Bible. I was searching to fulfill my own desires. Then God took away those idols in my life. Now I know God has called me to be in Bible School. I realize now that being a Christian without doctrine is so dangerous because we have nothing to sustain us in lifes trials. It seems like we know God, but really we dont know His true character. The love of the Body is so precious. I made a decision not to follow my father and return to my hometown but to continue in Gods promises with the Body of Christ here in Bangkok.
A week later, because of this decision, her father completely cut her out of the family, saying that she could not be his daughter anymore, and legally removed her from his will. But then, we rejoiced again in what could not be shaken, when she told us through a cloud of emotion, This is like what we learned in Bible School in Matthew where God brings separation in families because of the gospel. Before I didnt know the presence of God, but now God draws me near and shows me the promises He has for me. Whenever I want to turn back I cant because Jesus is back there prodding me forward.


Sowing precious seeds.
Saturday night fifteen of us walk to Ramkhumheang University for outreach. Thirty students in their shorts and sweatpants are running around a fifteen-foot high statue of King Rama V. A student tells us that if you do twenty laps, Rama V promises you will pass your exam. And we know Rama V has been dead for one hundred years, and we ask if it really works and he replies, Oh yes, definitely!
Other students remove their shoes in front of a golden Buddha. Placing a burning incense stick between their hands, each one kneels, and then bows his face to the asphalt.
Standing apart, Riitta, our visitor from Finland, Karelia, and I talk to a young woman and after explaining the gospel for thirty minutes through broken Thai and English, she says, But, Im Buddhist.

Thats o.k.! Jesus died for Buddhists too. Anyone can receive Him.

After outreach, back at the church, we sit and talk about all the great conversations we have had. Ryan, Jar, then Belinda, then Gift talked to three young men who wanted to pray to receive Christ but decided they needed to hear more first. Pastor Walsh shocked a man on the street because Pastor Walsh was the fourth Christian this man has met and he recently had a dream about Christians praying for his sick mother. Then Riitta says, This is so wonderful. There is the same spirit of joy and freedom here as in our Greater Grace church in Finland. And after an hour we leave, and the scent of joy and victory lingers with us, lingers as we fall asleep thinking of all those students, still kneeling and still running.

Thank you for continuing to pray for:
  • Our soul winning and follow up at Ramkhumheang University.
  • Newest disciples Tukata, Aum, and Bee.
  • Our church registration.