Thursday, October 11, 2007

"Can these bones live?"
September 2007
Bangkok, Thailand

"We are not here to build a church but to build a body." Pastor Mark Goodey

Last week we took a mission trip to Kutching, Borneo with our Bible College students Sandon, Jar, and Boom to visit our new neighbors, Pastor Mark Goodey, his wife, Sandrine, and their daughter, Sarah. We spent four days walking up and down the streets of Kutching, sitting in the Coffee Bean poring over maps of Borneo, creaking over floors in a bamboo longhouse, and singing and shouting "Lift Jesus Higher" while jumping on benches with village children. We were a little amazed to be so relaxed and carefree, our personal life and fellowship with Christ pouring into one another, fellowshipping in a Life that goes beyond language barriers. As Jar said, "It's not what we do that is most important, but it is my fellowship with God. If He isn’t in the center, we can't do anything."

On Saturday, we traveled to Bau, a town 60 kilometers outside of Kutching where Pastor Goodey would like to start a Bible study. Our plan was to visit Daniel, the chief of a village community there whom Pastor Goodey knows, and then if we had time to visit his village. On the bus, we start talking with a young woman sitting behind us. Her name is Constance; she works at the Hilton and takes this bus home everyday. We tell her that we are Christians and that we are going to a village to tell people about Jesus. "Where is the village?" "We don't know!" "How will you get there from the bus?" "Oh, we don't know!"

After forty minutes, we start wondering if we have passed our stop and ask Constance if she can let us know when we get close to the village. A few minutes later after a quick cell phone conversation, she tells us that she will get off with us and that her friend will meet us at the bus stop and take us wherever we need to go.

We step off the bus and I ask her where she lives, hoping she has not gone too much out of her way. "Oh, right over there," she says and points beyond some stores. "Oh, wow… you're so close." We meet Constance's aunt who works at the bus station, and a few of her friends, and then her friend, Dino, pulls up in a lime green compact car that reminds me of a box on wheels. Pastor Goodey tells him that we have come to visit Daniel, "You know he is a village chief, he wears glasses and is about this tall." "Oh is his hair like this?" he smoothes his hair back with his hand. "Um, I don't remember, but his wife is Sophie." "Oh, he is my uncle," Dino says, and he offers to drive half of us to Daniel's house in his lime green boxcar.

We spend an hour visiting Daniel and his wife, Sophie, in their living room. Dino and Constance stay with us. They are all Christians but do not know much about a living relationship with God.

We get ready to leave. We have fifteen minutes to run to the village for a quick look and then catch our bus home. I notice Jar and Boom standing in the doorway of a room next to the kitchen. Jar motions to me to come over to see Vincent. "Vincent? Who's Vincent?" "He's their son." "Son? They have son?" "Yes. Ten years ago he was in car accident that left him paralyzed."

I peek inside the doorway. Vincent is sprawled unmoving in a lawn chair, pieces of cloth tied around his arms and chest to the metal of the chair to keep him from sliding off. There is a jagged dent at his hairline and a black gash where an eye used to be. His one good eye is unfocused but he seems to be listening to our voices.

Sophie tells us that she been taking care of him day and night for ten years. We ask if we can talk to him and she says yes, but that he has so much brain damage that he does not understand or respond to anything.

I walk over and touch his arm. "Hi Vincent," I gently rub his shoulder and his knees jerk up. I say, "God is good" and his leg and arm muscles tremble, his lips move, and he says "amen." "Where is Jesus? Is He in your heart?" He nods his head and moves his right hand slightly to point to his heart. "We can talk to God anytime. He is always there." He nods his head, his body shutters, and he softly says, "Amen."

Pastor Goodey comes in and prays, quietly standing over him one hand rubbing his arm. We sing "This is the Day that the Lord has Made" and Vincent's mouth forms each word, we hear him singing with us. Pastor Goody sits next to him and speaks for a few minutes about how we can cast all our burdens on the Lord, and we listen quietly, sensing Christ in heaven and on earth, as one body, moving and loving people.

Bones, rattling, shaking, and trembling
"So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and suddenly a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to bone." Ezekiel 37:7

On the last day, before I left for the airport, I walked around Kutching, excited to be alone in a city where everyone is so open and friendly, and speaks English. In Bangkok, it takes thirty minutes of explaining the gospel through a translator - after they have said they are not interested - before you get a good sense of whether someone is really open or not.

But even Buddhists are more open here, I found, at a small gift shop talking to the owner, Yen. She asks if she believes in God will He help her win the lottery. "No," I say, "but He will give you what you really need. Himself." "Hmmm"….her eyes get a little squinty as she thinks about that.

I go to pay for my wooden cat, and tell her God loves her without limit. "We stop loving and change our minds, but even if your boyfriend stops loving you and leaves you, God will not." "Really? Without limit?" She nods her head and is quiet. "Wow. I want to believe but I can't yet. I need time."

When I am finally sitting in the airport in Kuala Lumpur waiting for my flight back to Bangkok, I think about how God has ordered our steps, the people we have met, and of how we sat in a Chinese noodle shop with some of the Goodey's contacts, Hansen, Lidia, and Vincent (who works at the noodle shop) feeling like we had known each other forever. And how by the time we left the shop that night we were all friends. And how Vincent invited the Goodey's to his home on Saturday and he was disappointed that we had to return to Bangkok before then. I thought of his questions like, "When I do bad things I feel guilty. How do I get rid of my guilt?" And I imagined dry bones, rattling, shaking, and trembling, beginning to come together into one body in Borneo.

Dry bones live
Boom, a second year Bible College student, shared a testimony about her trip to Borneo last week. "Before I went to Borneo, I didn’t know God would provide for us. But God provided everything, tickets and money, a way for us to walk; He even prepared my thoughts through Bible School and preaching. In Intro to Missions class, I learned about the call of God, how we receive and respond to it individually. But I was afraid of responding to that call. I was afraid of everything about the trip, but if I fellowship with the natural thoughts in my mind, it will separate me from fellowship with God. God was with me and He is enough. If I can go to Borneo by faith, anyone can."

We think of our twenty-five Bible College students in Bangkok and see an exceedingly great army, just beginning to stand on its feet, awakened and roused to people in places like Borneo, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Burma. Dry bones really do live. Christ breathes His life into us and manifests Himself on the earth through His body. We are many members moving forward together as one living, sin hating, being. A fervent, blazing fire flashes in and among us. Demons run. We carry the world in our heart and nothing can stop us.

Friday, July 06, 2007

God is Blessing Bangkok

Revelation 5:9 "And now they sing a new song, saying, You are worthy…for You were slain, and with Your blood You purchased men unto God from every tribe and language and people and nation."

Thank you all for your prayers. More than ever, we sense the Hand of God, His direction and movement, in our assembly and in our personal lives. God is pouring out a blessing here that we can hardly contain.

A Pastor Scibbelli Look-Alike and a Divine Appointment
Last month during graduation, Ramkhumheang University was bursting with thousands of family members and friends of graduates who had traveled to Bangkok from the countryside. A group of us were soul winning among the throng when we saw a Thai man who looked just like Pastor Scibbelli. Ryan got so excited at seeing his hero he knows only through ABD and internet services, he said, "I have never seen Pastor Scibbelli but when I do I am going to run up to him and touch him and say, you are real!"

A little later, we introduced ourselves to two middle aged women sitting at an outdoor table. One of the women mentioned that her daughter lives in Hungary and works at a massage parlor. When we asked her if she knows Ildi (our much-loved Hungarian sister who has served with us for many years) she said, "Oh Yes, Ildi is the one who found my daughter her job in Hungary." When we asked if they were interested in having a personal relationship with Christ, they both said, "Yes, we would, how we do that?" After they prayed to receive Christ, we discovered that they are the sister and sister-in-law of Pastor Scibbelli's look-a-like.

Linh grew up in Communist Vietnam in a family of atheists. She had never heard about God until a Christian witnessed to her here while attending university. She finally accepted Christ with Ryan three years ago and has been a part of our body and Bible School ever since. Last month, Linh graduated from ABAC University and her family came to Bangkok, not knowing that Linh had become a Christian. She brought them to Sunday service and they were overwhelmed with the love of Christ and to be surrounded by people who so obviously care about their daughter. They left service beaming and remarked how we all have such a "happy spirit."

Linh returned with her family to Vietnam a few weeks ago, but watches services from Baltimore over the internet at her home. Services are her lifeline. She emailed us this week and said, "I miss the fellowship in Christ, the truth of the Word of God, the joy, the challenge, and the spirit of God with us in evangelism so much…The truth, the Word of God is so important and precious to me now. It is the only thing that helps me fight against Satanic projections."

Katie's English Class
My sister Katie is visiting for four months and is a great source of encouragement and life for us. She has started English classes for the Thai speakers in our church who desire to communicate their new life, their thoughts about God, and His Word.

Aek is a former monk who used to be so high up in the monkhood, he had a license to preach. Now, he is one of our most diligent Thai Bible School students. We see him constantly poring over his Bible, comparing his English Bible to his Thai translation. He did not want to learn English until he realized that his Thai Bible has quite a few translation errors and that there are no Bible study tools in Thai. Now, Katie is having a hard time fulfilling his hunger for English Bible vocabulary words!

Boom and Tong
Katie's English class is also an answer to Boom's prayers. She wanted very badly to take English classes at her work, but it conflicted with her decision to attend Bible School at night. She chose Bible School over English and now takes Katie's English class on the weekends.

Boom's friend, Tong, became a Christian eight months ago and Aek has been teaching him the fundamentals of Christianity through our New Believer's Discovery Program. After their first lesson a few months ago, Tong, told Aek through tears, "I used to think that believing in God was foolish, now I see that I have been the foolish one." Tong has been drawn to the life in the body and is also a full time Bible College student now.

Tong and Boom both work at World Vision, a Christian organization here in Thailand, and share everything they learn in Bible School with their co-workers. They are learning to speak and live with conviction, backing up what they believe with Scripture. Boom recently told us that she does not care about how she feels anymore, right now she just want to know the truth. Last week, a Christian co-worker said to them, "If truth offends people, it is better not to speak it. Christians need to unite together with Muslims for there to be peace in Thailand. The only way to witness to a Muslim is to go around the issue; you cannot tell them that Jesus is the Son of God. They will kill you." Boom said, "Then let them kill me, I want to speak the truth."

It's Worth It
Today, it hit me again how deceptive Buddhism is as we spoke with a young man at Ramhkhumheang University. He, with great conviction, described Buddhism as an endless cycle of birth and rebirth. "I am either suffering for my own sins, or trying to be good enough to come back to earth in another, better form." But when he finished, we sensed the presence of God, and with that presence, a boldness, and power to speak the truth. "Jesus Christ paid for your sins; you do not have to suffer for them anymore. Jesus died to make you free."

After soul winning, Jar, Ryan, Sandon, Katie and I found ourselves talking about the past five years here, about how often our labor has been by faith with no visible results, but how the hand of God ministers and moves, and how God can use a word spoken to somebody today, even years later. And we walked home thinking of this reality, that one day we will see that it has been worth it, because there will be people from every tribe and nation in heaven, and we will be singing a new song together, to Him who sits on throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever.