Spent the Summer Serving in Siam
สวัสดีคะ! At the start of the summer, Jay + I journeyed with two friends from our church and their baby to Bangkok, Thailand. We spent six weeks connecting with families partnered with our church, getting a feel for their long-term missionary/church planting life overseas, and serving them in whatever ways that we could. This experience has not only deepened relationships, but has given us deeper understandings of the global mission of God.
Views of Missions
During our time here, we read articles + listened to podcasts on topics such as Thai church history and missions as a whole, then met together to discuss those. We also spent the summer reading No Shortcut to Success by Matt Rhodes, which gives an overview of where missions has gone wrong in recent years — away from slow, intentional church building + disciple making, to a desire for speed + exponential growth that oversteps crucial pieces in that process — and also provides a more robust, healthy, and Biblical approach to missions. This idea + issue is at the heart of everything we did over the summer + everything we hope to do going forward; We aim to be faithful servants that hold closely to the standard of the Bible rather than the standards of man.
Along with that, the various readings, experiences, conversations, studying that Jay + I have done over the past 6 weeks have also grown our own views of missions + what that means for us as One. Growing up, Jay’s view of missions was bare-bones, inaccurate, and pessimistic. Essentially, he was told that everyone was called to “go” (not stay at home where you have been raised) + “going” meant living among a tribe in the desert and sharing the Gospel. While this left a bitter taste in his mouth (because it’s not sinful to be a faithful follower of Christ + church member in a small town of South Carolina, for example), this wrongly-portrayed idea of missions was oddly appealing to me — I would love to be planted in a random place in the world to learn about their language + culture, and tell them about mine + my God. However, my view of missions was also inaccurate in that I viewed this as being a solo endeavor, and I could hop around to different countries as I + time saw fit. In fact, it was quite self-centered rather than others-centered. Over the past year of us dating + discussing these things, reading + listening to resources, and now embarking on this trip (being backed by our home church’s and Reaching & Teaching’s missiology), we have a much clearer + healthier understanding. A missionary’s task can be defined as relocating cross-culturally to spread Christ’s kingdom by preaching the Word of God, discipling believers, and planting healthy churches. Missions is slow, intentional, life-long work with people. Missions is more than evangelizing the lost, but also encompasses discipleship, teaching + training, serving the church, learning the language + culture. (Now, I will make a caveat here and say that the term “missions” or “missionary” has gotten too broad to the point of losing its essence + value, and there is a more specific, nuanced definition that applies to who a “missionary” is; But for brevity + clarity among my audience here, we will stick with those terms).
Taken altogether, this time has helped to clarify for Jay + I what it would look like for us to participate in the work of God. And to be honest, we’re still very open-minded + open-handed in terms of what that may look like, which I think is a good place to be. We ask that you would pray for us in the many steps, decisions, years that lie ahead of us; that no matter where or how, we would be willing, obedient, and faithful to whatever the Lord leads us in.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
What We Did This Summer
If you did not already know this fun fact, Jay + I lost our passports, wallets, etc. on the connecting flight between Munich and Vienna, so we were stuck in Vienna for a week! This means that the two of us technically only had five weeks in Bangkok, so what did we do during this time??
The main goal of our trip was to experience what life is like for a long-term missionary/church planter overseas, and also to be an encouragement + service to them while there. We spent many meals with the core church-planting team getting to know them, asking lots of questions, observing their daily/weekly routines, babysitting their kids while they went out or did work. We also met with several people in the “church” (they are not yet planted, but Lord-willing will be at the end of August) to hear their testimonies, how the Lord has brought them to Bangkok, and encouraged them with generosity + intentionality. A lot of our first few weeks were also a process of getting used to life in a new cultural context — grocery shopping, doing laundry, taking public transportation, ordering food, etc. These were different experiences than back home + a bit of an adjustment, but fortunately Jay + I never quite experienced culture shock (except the shock we had at the lack of vegetables at restaurants in Thailand compared to our expectation!). Some other things we did throughout the week included:
I was asked near the end of our time in Bangkok how I would summarize the trip in 3 words. Without thinking much, I immediately responded: Sweaty, Spicy, Sweet. Sweaty is most definitely accurate for the weather in Bangkok, and we weren’t even there at the hottest time of the year! It wasn’t “hot” necessarily by temperatures compared elsewhere, it was just very sweaty (the humidity)! Spicy characterizes the traditional Thai cuisine with red chiles + hot curries. Some favorites (traditional + street food) for Jay + I include pad thai, various stir fries with egg, papaya salad, banana/egg roti, and mango sticky rice. Sweet describes our time of fellowship + relationship-building among other believers across the globe. It blew my mind to not only meet + be encouraged by like-minded believers whom we were connected with via our church + other partnerships, but to even cross paths with a Thai Christian who was saved by God, holds to the same truths + teachings as we, and has been searching for like-minded brothers + sisters amidst a land of Buddhism. There is so much that the Lord is doing in this area — and this is only what we can see! If only we knew where all His hands touch + what all His plans were. I trust + pray that the Lord would use this trip not only as a good time of learning and sanctification, but that it would be used as a continual reminder to pursue the lost + broken, encourage our brothers + sisters both close and afar, and dive deeper in love, knowledge, likeness of Christ every day.
For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD