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.

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.

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.