Thailand: Sensitive Heart

  From the first step off of the plane I had an expectation, an expectation that the whole experience was going to be humbling, and that I might even feel bad for the living circumstances of the people in Thailand. I even thought to myself “What can I do for these people in poverty, these people who are suffering?” I kept engaging in big world-changing thoughts as we drove for several hours to get to the hotel we were staying at. Upon arrival at the hotel in Nan province, I immediately crashed for a good 12 hours dreaming about what the villages are going to be like.
               The sunshine began to creep through the windows at 5:30 waking me up. I stepped outside to look over the balcony, needless to say, that was the beginning of my shattering expectations. It started with the breath-taking scenery all around me, the valleys of greenery, mountains of vibrant colors, the refreshing wind gracefully caressing every inch of my body, the smell of the locally prepared food dancing in the air tantalizing my palate. A voice manifested in my head, “The adventure is just beginning, open your mind to the impossible, for I am the nature of impossible.” The only thing I could do at that point was to smile, and go with the flow.  
               8:00 rolled around, our routine of prayer and worship began, this was a time of encouragement and revelation on the day to come. At 9 A.M. we would hop in the back of the trucks and travel from village to village. The first day, we encountered a man who was called “Lah,” (that was the pronunciation in English, and it means hunter.) This man was truly a hunter; he led his whole village to Christ, and was getting up there in age. This man had a joy that was unprecedented. He had very little, his wife couldn’t walk, but he knows God is our healer. My heart began to glow, reflecting the joy and love that this man felt. I was thankful in this moment. I was thankful that I met a man with such faith in God. After our prayers, we left to eat lunch. The environment was filled with laughter from the team, and heat from the Pad Thai that soon became our obsession for this trip. “Honestly, we ate Pad Thai for the next three days straight which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing,” (Pad Thai is a thin noodle cooked with peanuts, egg, chicken, bean sprout, and a lime squeezed on top to compliment the arrangement.) After lunch, we headed to the first village, walking door to door to pray for those in need. That village is a Christian village that even had a church at the beginning of it. We prayed healing over quite a few villagers, and they claimed to be healed. After that, we went home to sleep early, because the team hadn’t yet arrived to the site.  
I awoke, to the arriving team; we were briefly introduced to people who would have a lasting impact on my life. There were four different church’s present that would form one team. Everyone brought different personalities, gifting’s, and passions to the table. God brought us together for one purpose, a purpose that would benefit his kingdom. Such a beautiful unity that would motivate, stretch, and teach me daily. After introductions, we traveled out to the school where we were heavily activated in children’s ministry. Our team did two dramas “Sin chair,” and “Contagious.” After our team went, the other team sung songs, made balloon art, and did a variety of crafts. The number of kids that attended that day was roughly ninety, ninety unique, beautiful, and happy children. These children were joyous, but lacked expression. I could feel their happiness, but they didn’t express themselves like many Americans. After that day, we ate and then had an opportunity to reflect on everything for two hours before we went to church service that evening. Sitting up in my room, I began to question myself. Fear arose in the darkness of the room, in the cold of the AC, in the silence of the room, in the lack of conversation between Geoff and I. That was the beginning of realization, the realization that I couldn’t do it alone. I began to doubt why I was there, why I was trying so hard in everything I do, why I was even preparing. At the moment of the shift of silence, there was a knock on the door. Throughout the trip, people began coming in and out of our room as if we were the center of the team. The girls would come in, along with Aaron, and even the occasional visit from Pastor Ben and Jerry. My mind would wander through these visits, I would seem engaged, but my mind and heart would be elsewhere. My first mission trip, my first encounter with powerful spiritual warfare, an actual enemy appeared that attempted to destroy everything I believed in. “NO!” My mind screamed with a victorious roar. “I will not be consumed with fear, where my heel strikes the darkness will flee, so leave my heart and don’t come back.” People would come and go, however, none knew of the spiritual battles taking place in all of our minds and hearts.
               Church was that evening, and I could feel the presence of God each time we went. Each time we were asked to pray for the people, I could see God working. He would heal those around me miraculously, cause people to fall, and move even the roughest of souls. His love blanketed everywhere we went to encourage the people. Amazing, simply amazing, nothing could stop us from sharing the good news, or so I thought. The next day, we travelled several hours to a remote village that has never heard the gospel, the village women and children welcomed us. They took us to the school, so that the children’s ministry would begin. As they did that, our teams split up to explore the village, and speak to people we would come across. It seemed from first sight, that only the broken or old remained in their homes. We searched for over an hour for people, when we finally ran across one, he was an old man. Pastor Ben used our translator, Witt, to engage him in conversation. Pastor asked if we wanted to speak, but the only thing I could do is remain quiet. Then, he said “Let’s do Rag man,” (a performance that modeled Jesus taking people’s pain as he goes to the cross, dies, and rises again.) We engaged, but the man was frightened that we would scare away the spirits, and then near the end of the performance we were interrupted by Dr. Tony “What in the heck are you guys doing?!” Pastor Ben whispered “SHHH, I’m dying on the cross dang it.” Well, that was the end of that, and we couldn’t help but to laugh at the situation. We planted a seed in that village that day by spreading the gospel to who we encountered, but it’s certainly a realization that God’s heart rejoices for the people we touch. Only God can reveal himself, so when the time is right, the Holy Spirit will open their eyes. I realized that day, that I was sometimes still frightened to share my beliefs. However, I learned not to be later on.
               On one of the last days of ministry, we traveled to a village that had never heard the gospel, the children were receptive, and I sat by Dr. Tony observing everything. I heard loud cheers from the top of the mountain, “The group up top laid hands on two men, and they were healed. One was a man who could barely move, and the other was a man who couldn’t walk at all.” While with Dr. Tony I asked him “What’s your strategy behind your conversation,” he simply smiled and said “It’s not our jobs to preach, but to love on the people; Pastor Nott will come back through to solidify what we open up, just love and pray.” My eyes were opened that day to how a mission trip should look. I learned so much just by observing everything that was happening. The next day, we got to baptize 40 people, now that was an experience I’ll never forget. To see the happiness manifesting as we brought them out of the water. I thank God for that faith building opportunity.   
               The last day, we traveled to Pastor Nott’s house to eat and celebrate our victories. They honored us with handmaid tissue boxes. They were intricately weaved with unique designs. I grew to love everyone involved on this trip, I could probably write about it all day in even greater detail, but that will come in time. In time the world will know about everything that has happened, but for now, little by little will be revealed. The people of Thailand aren’t poor, but rich with life. They are all so beautiful, and engaged in community. I am grateful for the lessons that I learned there. My heart was tainted when we arrived there, but now I understand the community, the importance of grasping every moment, the importance of love, faith, and most importantly prayer. I hope to meet them all again one day, one day when I am a seasoned missionary, someone who has seen the world, someone with influence, and wisdom to know what to do. A man of God, a man who hears from God with such sensitivity that no whisper will escape ear, the meaningful whispers of prophetic vision will be placed in my heart. That is my desire, to always walk in God’s will for my life.

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