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.