Last year we had the chance to visit both Seattle and San Diego. One of my favorite parts of both of these cities was seeing the boats out on the water. I have never had the chance to be out on a sailboat, but I hope to be able to one day. It's on my bucket list along with skydiving and and learning how to ski.
The older I get the more I realize how much we are like sailboats gliding across the waters of life. We do our part to throw up the sail, but at the end of the day, the Holy Spirit has to bring the wind if we are going to go anywhere.
Hear me clearly: God is at work here in Bangkok, and more widely in Thailand, in many ways. Sometimes he doesn't do things in exactly the way we would like or in the time frame that we make for Him, but when we step back and look at how He has been working, we see that He has been doing things in our everyday lives that we may have not even noticed in the moment.
Thank you for all of you who pray for us. Even if we only get to see you once a year, or once every two years, you are a vital part of our team as we work to reach and disciple Thai people here in the nation's capital. Every time I write one of these updates, I think about Paul's words in Philippians 4:10-11,14:
"I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances... Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles."
Here are some updates, and some ways you can be praying for us and others in this season.
Additions to the Family
I know, I know. This is what you came for. Everyone is here for the baby, and poor mom and dad don't get any attention anymore ;). As you have probably seen already on Facebook or Instagram, we are pregnant with our first child. We just finished the first trimester, so we felt like it would be a good time to announce this publicly. We praise God for this opportunity to be parents and to get to raise one of His precious children. We will find out soon if it is a boy or girl (I'm voting boy, and Liz is voting girl, so we will see who wins!) Look forward to a gender reveal sometime in the next few months!
Liz has been doing well, and we have made preparations with a hospital near our home for when the baby comes in December. Liz's morning sickness has been minimal during the first trimester. She's only had a few rough days, and has only cried one time because she was craving pickles so badly and it was too late to drive 30 minutes away to buy them! If I was a better husband, I would have gone to buy them for her, but since that episode, I have tried my best to keep the fridge stocked with pickles (or at least pickle juice)!
Walk Through the Bible Seminar
Recently, we had a chance to go to a seminar called, "Walk thru the Bible" in Thai. Actually, as we discovered, it was simply "Walk Thru the Old Testament," but either way, it was a great way to spend a Saturday (before going to watch Alladin of course). We took our friends Teekay and Peach with us. For those of you who saw my last update, you will know that Teekay is currently in the process of learning Thai. I would ask for you to pray for him in this season that God would give him the perseverance he needs and spare him from the discouragement that often comes with the slow process of learning Thai.
Those who know me know that preaching and teaching the Bible are passions of mine. I first felt God's call to preach when I was 13 years old during a very powerful night of worship at an M-Fuge camp in Nashville, TN. We were singing a song called "When the Tears Fall" by a musician named Tim Hughes, and during that song, I told God he could do whatever he wanted with my life. In that moment I felt a very strong conviction that God wanted me to commit my life to studying His word and sharing it with others, especially through the medium of preaching. As a young boy in junior high, I had no idea how God would use me, and I definitely never knew I would end up serving in Thailand (at that time I didn't even know what Thailand was), but ever since that day I have devoted my life to studying God's word and God's world, in order to help bring the former into the latter.
I have been blessed in this season with a lot of great opportunities to preach and teach the Bible both in English is Thai. One way in particular that has been very special to me over the last few months has been sharing in teacher devotion at our school. One of the things I love about our school is how all the teachers get together every morning before school to sing, pray, and listen to the word together. We take turns leading, and I love to hear different people share. I also love that I get to share 2-3 times a month with this group, as I believe God has given us all a great amount of influence in the lives of hundreds of students, many of whom have not yet surrendered theirs lives to Jesus. I have received a lot of good feedback from people telling me that they really enjoy when I teach, or telling me specific things that I said that impacted them, and I always feel so encouraged by this. It is extra work to spend time putting these messages together, but for me it is totally worth it because I love to serve in this way.
I also got a chance recently to preach in Thai for the first time at Lifepoint Bangkok. Since Lifepoint has bilingual church services, Liz translated for me into English.
This is a special prayer request that I really felt led to put in this update. Pii Thookthook is a member of our church here in Bangkok, and we have known her for a few years now. She has been living with and taking care of her elderly mother for many years, and her mom just passed away. We rejoice with her that her mom was saved, and that Pii Thook doesn't grieve, "like the rest of mankind, who have no hope." (1 Thess. 4:13) But I still want to ask you to pray for her, both as she grieves, but also as she is able to use this opportunity to share the gospel with those in her family and community that are not yet believers.
On a more happy note, we were able to attend the wedding recently of our older sister in Christ, Pii Phet. Pii Phet has worked with Liz's dad for about 15 years, and I have known her for about 7. She helped us organize our wedding, and she was my first Thai teacher. God really used her as one of the people in my life that caused me to love Thai people deeply. I am so grateful for her, and pray that God will bless her in this new season her life as she moves to the U.K. with her husband.
Evangelism & Discipleship
I try to give you snapshots of special events or big-picture things that are happening all around us here in these updates. However, what you don't get to see is the "daily grind." In fact, most foreigners don't see this daily grind because even most foreigners here in Thailand don't put in the effort to understand Thai language and culture, so in a way this is the most lonely part of our jobs. Thai people often don't love other Thai people because of the ugly reality of classism that exist here, and foreigners, even Christians, very often don't love Thai people enough to sacrifice their time and emotional energy to step into their world. It is an ugly reality, but if you have ever wondered why the church hasn't grown in Thailand much in the last 180 years, now you might understand better.
That said, what our daily grind looks like is praying for opportunities to constantly point Thai people to their own mission field, and to share the gospel with non-believers. Just recently, I went to get a massage at a shop near our home. Thai massages are famous worldwide and we get the privilege of having them here for about $6.00 USD per hour ($14 for a 2-hour massage). So, if God calls you to be a missionary in Thailand, you have a way to relieve stress while you are going through three years of language training! I digress.
Back to the point at hand, after my massage, a lady that worked at the shop came up and started talking to us. We had told her that Liz is pregnant, and that that was the reason she wasn't getting a massage with me, and she wanted to come sit and visit with us for a little while. Just to give you some background, this is a single lady in her forties, who comes from the south of Thailand. According to The Joshua Project, this lady comes from a people group who are less than 1% Christian. As we started talking to this lady, she, without any prompting from us, said that the owner of the massage shop was a Christian and that she thought Christians were "cute/lovely."
I immediately saw this as an opportunity from God, so I asked her if she had ever considered becoming a Christian. She got defensive at first and said some typical phrase about how all religions are the same. But after I gently but firmly told her that I don't agree, she was open to listen to what I had to say, as I explained to her how I love Buddhist people and I am concerned because they are really convinced that they are good enough and that they don't need God. I explained to her that God loves us and wants to help us, and that he offers us life in Jesus if we will only accept it from Him. As I was talking, another Thai lady that worked at the shop came and sat down near us. She was also a Christian! I took this as a miracle, because very often the obstacle we face when witnessing to Thai people is that they don't know any other Thai people that are believers, so they can't imagine what it would even look like for them to follow Jesus as a Thai person, but here was an example sitting right in front of her of someone who was clearly still Thai, but who had surrendered her life to Jesus.
As you think about and pray for this lady, whose name is Thum, please pray that God will soften her heart. We will be back to that shop, and now that I know that there are at least 2 other Christians there, I feel confident that there are people speaking the gospel into her life. When we left, I gave her a tract that I keep in my bag for when God gives us moments like these. She was a little hesitant to take it, but I hope she sees my heart in why I want her to know Jesus. One of the beautiful things about this encounter is that I was able to say hard things to her and tell her, with all sincerity, "I love Thai people. If I didn't I would not have studied to learn Thai language this much." When you sacrifice 3 years of your free time to learn someone's language, especially when there is no economic gain tied to it, it is hard for people to argue with you when you tell them something like this. That's why we do what we do.
Thank you for being part of the team! As a bonus for this update, here is a video of Liz singing with one of the interns at Lifepoint this past weekend at a special worship night that we had. (If you are reading this on the "mobile site" you might need to switch off of mobile in order to see the video.)