Sunday, May 07, 2006

Moving on up

What a week it's been! I'm not sure that I can fully describe this recent conference to you, other than to say that it was like drinking from the fire hydrant. Don't worry, I am not deceived into thinking that I am "all better" because of the last five days, but several things did happen that are going to make a significant impact on the coming months.

The most important thing was that I heard from God in a very real way. It has been a looong desert period, but this week, through the Gospels in particular, Jesus made Himself and His heart known to me again. I was challenged on many levels through our guest speaker, and it was refreshing to receive again the promises that God has given.

Another thing that was such a delight to my soul was to worship together with 200 other people. We spent significant time each day just praying together, giving testimony of God's goodness in our lives, and singing and dancing before Him. It's been a while, and I think that it did more for my spirit than I can really express.

Also, it was wonderful to be in the presence of many who have faithfully gone before me. One woman, Ann, has been in Thailand for 42 years and this summer is finishing the Mien Bible translation. Eating several meals with her was a highlight. Another man (my small group leader) was in prison in SE Asia for his faith, and is returning to the country where he was taken captive. AND, he's praising God all along the way. There are countless others who make up "the great cloud of witnesses" and I just drank in their wisdom and experience and their great affection for our Beloved.

It was wild!

So, I imagine that this is my last blog before moving to my final destination... hard to believe.

Friday, April 28, 2006

North-bound

I arrived this morning in Chiang Mai, bright and early. AND, I had a new experience while flying today - I threw up on the plane. I have no idea why it happened (it wasn't a bumpy flight at all) but it was totally crazy! So, that is my "new thing" for the day. Who would have guessed?

This is my third trip to Chiang Mai, and each time I become a bit more familiar with it. It's very foreigner-friendly, which I appreciate, and we have a nice guesthome here, which I appreciate as well. I'm here for the weekend to help prepare for next week's big conference (nearly 300 people with the kiddos), which I will be attending May 2-7. It should be a good time to reconnect with some friends I made in 2004, as well as to learn more about what exactly I'll be doing in Asia, other than language study, and to grow in my understanding of how everything operates around here.

As my tour of Asia is coming quickly to a close, it's hard to think that nearly 6 weeks have gone by since I flew to Singapore. And it's even harder to think that in 2 weeks I'm going to settle into a city that will most likely be home - at least for the next 2 years of language study. Surreal is the closest word I can find to express what's going on inside of me. There is a sense of desperation within me, a sense of feeling trapped in my commitment... probably much do to my post-modern thinking. :) Regardless, I really do feel as though I'm taking the plunge into the unknown and it is terrifying more than it is exciting. Asking God for a lot of grace to continue to push ahead, as each battle seems more difficult than the last. I keep wondering why I can't just "snap" out of this, and then I am comforted by a woman who, for 3 years, hated the country she was serving, questioned why God has sent her there, and persevered through a long three year desert spiritually. And then truth comes to my heart and to my spirit - there is no quick fix for the things I'm experiencing. It takes tears and sweat and a lot of time on my knees. "He who sows in tears will reap in joy." Psalm 126

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Bye-Bye Bangkok

My time in Bangkok is nearly over... in about 12 hours I'll hop on a plane and make my way north towards Chiang Mai. Hopefully there I'll be able to send out a "real" update - we haven't had internet access at our Guest Home here. :( Things are going all right, and God is bringing comfort... I do ask you to continue to PRAY!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

A Call to Prayer...

Sunday night in Singapore. Early tomorrow I am flying to Bangkok where I will spend 5 days with Serve Alumni and some workers that are with my organization. Although I do not particularly enjoy Bangkok as a city, I am excited for my third trip to Thailand because I will be with dear people and together we will enjoy God's goodness. I need to be surrounded right now by people who love God and who live for His glory alone... I need a perspective check. Today was a particularly lonely day (perhaps related to the fact that I talked with my family for 2 hours last night - it was Saturday morning and they were enjoying a pancake breakfast made by my dad. My nephew told me all about his Easter and my niece sang "I'm a little teapot" for me). I hung up the phone in tears.

There are so many times when I feel my heart cannot take any more beatings and that I can't possibly continue hurting like this for an extended period of time. The aching in my chest seems too much to bear and I wonder where God is in all of this, because I still can't sense His presence. I know that He is here with me, but it is a wretched thing to not be able to feel Him. And it feels like His timing is terrible - "God, of all the times that I have needed You, now is the most desperate, yet I cannot see You." Cognitively I am aware of the truth that His timing is perfect, but when I am sitting here in this room by myself, crying out to God and hearing nothing in response, my faith is tested. Today in church the sermon reminded us that it is okay to doubt, as long as we throw ourselves back on the feet of Christ. So, dear ones, I am asking you to pray that God would give me faith to believe Him - to know afresh His beautiful promises that seem so empty right now. I am in such an intense battle right now but I continue to go forward in confidence that you are going to join me in this horribly painful time. This is when the going gets tough in regards to faithful intercession... my departure is not as new and fresh and exciting any more BUT it is now that I most need you because it is an uphill battle, brothers and sisters.

I love you and I am thankful for each of you that takes the time to read this and to pray for God's grace in my life.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Sibu Island



Oh man is my skin a bright shade of reddish-pink... thankfully toned down from the painful looking reddish-purple that it was a few days ago. I discovered on my trip to Malaysia that it is possible to get very very sunburned in the shade. Yes, it's true... my body rarely saw the sun, yet my skin is somehow several obscene shades of red and pink and purple.

In spite of the crazy hot sun, Yvonne and I had a lovely holiday in Malaysia. We went to a little island called Sibu for 5 days. And when I say little, I mean little. We could walk almost the whole island in about 10 minutes (maybe less if it weren't for the heat!). How do I describe our time on Sibu? There is just one resort - creatively named Sibu Island Resort. When we landed at the dock (or jetty as they call it here), there was live tropical music with an entire line of people waiting to greet us, including someone dressed as a dolphin. Quite bizarre and very funny.

Upon recovering from our grand introduction to the island, we made our way to our room and from there quickly found our way to the beach. Lovely, minus the particularly large quantity of jelly fish. We read and napped and enjoyed the beauty of God's creation surrounding us - palm trees, water that changed from blue to green and back to blue again, wild life, a gentle breeze. It was on Day 2 that the sun attacked my body, piercing the protection I had foolishly deemed sufficient. Live and learn. The rest of my holiday was spent seeking shade and coolness, wherever I might find it. Involuntarily I became nocturnal, making my way out of the bungalow around sunset, enjoying what was left of the day.

It may sound like a flop of a vacation, but really, it was not as bad as it seemed. I was able to have some *real* down time - to allow my mind to simply stop thinking and processing and analyzing, to refrain from trying to figure out the next 20 years of my life, and to just rest. I finished the book of Isaiah, I read some Henri Nouwen and enjoyed a wonderful novel called "Life of Pi." I didn't think about the future and all of the unknowns awaiting me, I didn't wonder how I'm going to make it through language study... I just enjoyed *being* and it was quite nice. There were no major revelations or spiritual breakthroughs... I simply found solace in being in the presence of my Beloved, whatever I was doing.

A couple of highlights for me: 1 - being with Yvonne. Oh my goodness, we laughed so much (later she told me that she hasn't laughed like that since being in Asia), and we talked about life and how much fun it is going to be when I finally move into our apartment. 2 - reading just to read. I entered the world of a 15 year old Indian boy named Pi and survived the Pacific Ocean with him for 200+ days. Thrilling. 3 - being near the water. There is something life-giving in being near the open water, to hear the waves and enjoy the smell of salt water. It is a gift. 4 - hanging out with an international community. I have new friends from Portugal, Germany and Malaysia who are unique and beautiful and who make me laugh. 5 - the food. Good night is Malaysian food incredible - and yes, John, I did enjoy roti! 6 - a massage on the beach!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Floodgates Opened

This week the doubts have begun to flood in from a new source. Not a source that I haven't experienced in the past, but a source that I haven't thought about in quite a while... My Inadequacies. We've been going through sessions on worldview and language and I've been soaking up the reality that there are at least 10 or 11 nationalities represented in this room. How in the world is this supposed to make sense to all of us in a way that we can really appropriate it in our fields of service. I am slightly overwhelmed at the task ahead, in part because I was so focused on actually *getting here* that I had forgotten what I was going to do upon arrival. So, as we are entrenched in discussions on velar fricatives and the impact that globalization has had on generation gaps throughout Asia, I throw myself again at the feet of my Beloved and cry out for grace to cover me.

I'm realizing again and again that the road ahead of me is *not* an easy one... it isn't because I couldn't hack it in the "real world" that I ended up in Asia for the next four years. Instead, it is because I have been marked by my Creator for something very specific: to be Jesus Christ to those who have no idea what He looks like. It is not an easy thing - in fact I think it is the exact opposite - I think it is the most difficult thing I can imagine. To penetrate centuries of darkness, countless years of spiritual deception, decades of a controlling government, poverty, oppression and illiteracy (and to think of doing so in my third or fourth language among people with an eastern worldview who are resistant to "western imperialism")- this is not for those who couldn't "make it" in the real world. This is for those who are marked by weakness and frailty - that we might be utterly dependent upon the One who has called us His own... To see God's church raised up in Asia through a white girl from Wisconsin - what more proof of grace do you need?

"Therefore, as it is written, 'Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.' And I, when I came to you brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God." I Corinthians 1:31-2:5

Friday, April 07, 2006

The Unveiling...

This morning in our group devotional - God spoke to me. Phew! It was so sweet and tender and although not quite the breakthrough I had been hoping for, I believe it was a gentle precursor of what is to come. One of the staff here told a story of when he and his wife were serving in the Philippines and they sent their 10 year old daughter off to Singapore (by herself!) to study. He shared of a miraculous way in which God provided a protector for her as they unknowingly put her on a plane that received a bomb threat... and as he was sharing I became so overwhelmed with the GOODNESS of God - that His care is *perfect*, and that He is gentle and kind in relating to His children.

After the devotional we broke up into small groups to pray. Such sweet release came as Peema, Asni and I wept together - as we all felt the patience and holy love of God as we entered the throne room with united hearts. We cried aloud to our heavenly Father in our pain, and it was one of the most beautiful things I have experienced in Singapore (only rivaled by a very rainy afternoon earlier this week - I was playing volleyball with 4 of the children here - ages 9-13 - and it began to downpour... so, instead of running for cover, we spent a half hour dancing in the rain. We laughed and laughed and danced and danced. Oh it was precious!).

So, God is slowly revealing Himself to me again. All that I might magnify His worth. Today the question was posed to me - "Is your life to the praise of His glory?" By Your grace, Lord Jesus, may it be so!