“But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” 2 Corinthians 11:3
I’m standing in line at the security checkpoint at Baltimore Washington International airport waiting to board my flight back to Bangkok. I wave goodbye to my mother. She waves, turns, and walks away; her back disappears among the crowd of people.
I turn around too. I’m thinking, Jesus, You are invisible. You were crucified and the disciples really felt like You had left them forever. I can’t hold on to what is familiar to me anymore. I feel my passport and ticket in one hand and am profoundly aware of His Presence inside me. It’s perfectly still and at rest and yet something in His voice is paradoxically moving forward. If I live too close to the surface of life, the outline of His face disappears.
A Weekend in Bangkok
Friday night: prayer baskets
It’s Friday night and I’m sitting at a table with Gift inside Noom’s coffee shop, eating my usual curry chicken and rice before our prayer meeting. Gift is struggling to tell me something she learned in Bible school this week.
She points to the ceiling and says, “We pray to …to….God…and He…”
She cups her hand around her ear. “…hear us…”
Her face lights up. Her voice rises. “…and God help our brother….and sister….in Christ.”
She takes a deep breath. “Prayer is like…is like when the….when the…..disciple…the disciple….”
She stops to think about the next word and then suddenly jumps off her chair and starts pulling the air with both hands.
“PULL!” I yell.
“Yes!” She thrusts her finger up in the air.
“….Paulo up in a ….in a…” She’s pulling and her face is strained now.
“BASKET!” I yell.
“Perfectly.” I say.
Saturday afternoon: gospel feet
Saturday afternoon we are sitting inside Noom’s coffee shop again. Noom is standing with his Bible open, ready to share a devotion before outreach. It has been nine months since he opened his coffee shop next door to our church and nine months since he prayed to receive Christ. Whenever we see him he is either making coffee or sitting at his table, head down, poring over his Bible.
He reads from 2 Corinthians 5. Arm stands next to him to translate from Thai to English. “We were separated from God but now we have been reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. Now we are going on outreach to tell Thai people they can be reconciled to the Father through His Son, Jesus Christ.”
“The gospel is on our…on our…” Noom lifts his foot and points to it. Arm looks a little puzzled and then says, “…foot…on our… FEET! The gospel is on our FEET!”
It’s awesome to watch Noom’s life being transformed. As a Buddhist his life flowed along according to its own karma but now he is beginning to base his life on absolutes and to develop deep convictions in the Word of God. These few simple words, with this heart, in this vessel, have the power to change eternal destinies, to turn an entire country upside down.
Saturday night: a conversation with Ryan
After outreach, we are walking down Happy Soi. I’m talking to Ryan about our upcoming mission trip to the province of Maesod, Thailand in January. Ryan is saying that he knows a way to reach every Burmese person in Maesod with the gospel. He has found a website where a soundtrack of the gospel spoken in Burmese can be downloaded.
“We can buy loudspeakers and go block by block…” He says.
“…and village to village…” I say.
“…Yes….and marketplace to marketplace and blast the gospel in Burmese. At the same time we can pass out picture tracts specially designed for illiterate people that I found online.”
“That’s awesome, Ryan! And we have those 300 Burmese gospels of John…” My voice trails off a little because I’ve started to connect all those tracts and Bibles with all those people.
“And we can separate into groups….”
“Yes!” I’m seeing outlines of Burmese faces.
“….to blitz the area more effectively. And when we visit in a few weeks we can visit more of these UN schools and ask for permission to preach the gospel there…..”
“...Yes...” Faces have taken on color and have connected with memories.
Our conversation fades and dies away but it’s ok. We are more conscious of something stirring in the heart. I’ve forgotten that Ryan or the rest of the group are there, that I’m walking, or that Happy Soi or time exists at all.
I’m in Maesod. I’m walking with Ryan and Lek down a dirt path, through a field, and down another dirt path where we find an unexpected village. Yellow-powdered faced women lie on bamboo mats inside tin roofed huts. Their babies sleep next to them.
“Come! Come to the church! We are having a meeting over there.” We point and wave towards the church over the hill.
A half hour later I’m looking out the window of the church and these same women are walking over the rise. They walk one after another in a perfect line, their backs ram rod straight. They have changed into their best faded sarongs, their babies slung on their hips. A few of them walk with their forearms tilted up, carrying their faded, cracked leather purses on their elbows.
A few minutes later, I’m speaking to three of them through a translator, “The God who created you, loved you so much that He sent His only Son, Jesus, to pay for your sins.”
Their eyes glisten. They shake their heads and say, “Really?” We’ve never heard this before.”
Sunday morning: coffee, simplicity & clarity of heart
Its Sunday morning after service and Tukata and Boom are volunteering in Noom’s coffee shop while Noom is in Gospels class. Tukata is grinding coffee in a cappuccino brewing machine. There is a high pitched whir. Steam shoots up and dissipates into the air. Boom is squeezing limes by hand. Her face is strained because she is putting all her force into pushing down on them. They are all business wearing blue Pokémon aprons over their Sunday clothes.
I’m watching them thinking, these people are amazing. They are here because they want to be here, doing what they do because they want to, because Christ has captured and drawn their hearts to do it. There is something about this Spirit; it’s so clean and restful. Together, we are carried along by it.