A calling remembered…

I remember the first time I heard (really heard) about the lost, those separated from the love of an intimate God. I was about 10 years old. There was a missionary woman speaking about an unreached people group in Irian Jaya. A land far, far away. It was then that I realized missionaries weren’t people who volunteered to go live in some overgrown field somewhere (a.k.a. the “mission field”).

I still remember asking my mom in church as a little girl, “what is the mission field?” to which she obviously answered, “It’s where missionaries go live and serve God”. God blessed me with a wild imagination as a child. I automatically assumed that missionaries were people who literally picked up and move into an overgrown large field in the middle of no where… I remember imagining really tall brown grasses and wheat. Don’t remember seeing any people in those imaginations. I never could figure out, as a child, why God would want volunteers to go live in an overgrown field. I distinctly remember praying to God, “God, I don’t understand why you want people to go live in a field. But if you want me to, I will.” Oh, the innocence and trust of children.

Anyway, back to the story… the first time I remember hearing from a real missionary about real people in a real land far, far away. I remember the urgency in her voice as she told us how this people group didn’t have a church to go to, or a Bible to read in their language, or many missionaries in their villages to go and tell them. It was the first time I remember feeling my heart break. I cried. And I was confused why there was even a need for people to still hear… why people didn’t go and tell them? At that moment, I decided there was nothing else I wanted to do with my life but go into those villages of unreached people and tell them for the first time. God planted a seed in my heart about 17 years ago on that day… a seed that has grown ever since. A seed that has been implanted and cannot be dug out. It’s in the core of who I am.

I just returned from the two week medical mission trip into the Hmong villages near the Burma border. While talking with my mom this morning, she asked a really good question: “What was the most impactful thing about your time there?” It didn’t take long to answer, because what God revealed to me on that trip was so evident.

[I was about the age of this young girl when I was called to be a missionary]

Since I was a little girl, I’d always imagined life and ministry as a missionary. In all those imaginations, I envisioned myself out in no man’s land. Blazing new trails. Cutting away thicket in the jungles. Being a pioneer. Going into uncharted territories. Going where other people didn’t want to go. Living simply and off the land, like the people. I always envisioned jungles, huts, villages, tall grass, fields. If you’ve ever seen the video documentary “Ee Taaaw!” about one missionary’s experience in a place like this, you’ll know what I imagined since I was a little girl.

Then I got to Bangkok, Thailand. A concrete jungle. The pollution became the thicket of the jungles. Not much grass here, and certainly no tall grass. No fields in this city. Just lots of concrete. Needless to say, I experienced some shell-shock when the ‘mission field’ was absolutely nothing like my imaginations or expectations had been since I was a little girl. Perhaps I was sent to the wrong place, I often wondered.

[here comes the thing God made so evident to me last week…]

The medical team went to 7 villages in 3 provinces, over near the Burma border among the Hmong people. There are about 300,000 Hmong living in Thailand with less than 1% Christian. They are unreached. And our team went into places where they had never seen foreigners. We traveled hours through the curvy mountains to get to some of these villages. Visitors don’t go to the places we went. At first, I was feeling lots of frustration with the whole idea of doing a clinic in villages like this, I’ll be honest. I felt like we were just giving out bandaids and tylenol to delay deeper pain. Then I began to see what God was doing. The purpose of the clinic was not to give out meds so much as to get people to come into the church, where we held the clinics… to meet local Christians and foreign Christians who love them.

We saw about 100 patients at each clinic, totaling over 1,000 patients for the two weeks. Nearly ever one was prayed for. Many heard about Jesus for the first time. A good handful even prayed with our Hmong workers to receive Christ! In one of the villages, especially, the field was ripe for harvest! Many were open, responsive, and interested in the Gospel, more so than the other villages. Multiple people on the team noticed this throughout the day. This village did not have a pastor. All they had was a church leader who had only been a believer for about 3 years. They have built a church (a huge step) and even a parsonage. It has sat empty for over a year. There is no pastor to come. Here is a man waiting by the field of sacrifices, where they offer cows to appease their ancestors or other spirits they fear:

During that day, especially, God reminded me of how I imagined missionary life to be since I was a little girl. And here I am, in the country God has brought me to, standing amidst a responsive, hungry, lost people group. A very hard place to live. No electricity. No ‘civilization’. Dirt floor bamboo houses. Everyone goes to work in the fields all day. A people hungry for the Lord, with no pastor or missionary to minister to them. I felt the same brokenness in those villages that I felt when I was a little girl that day He called me to go tell them. A deep brokenness in me that wanted to weep because these villages were hungry and responsive, but there is no pastor.

I’m not saying I’m called to the Hmong people. I may be. I am willing to be (even though the language scares me… it has 9 tones instead of 5)! But it was such a blessing for God to cause me to remember the seed He planted in me as a little girl, and how there are places like I had imagined, right here in Thailand. Perhaps one day I will get to minister in places like I had dreamed of… bringing the Gospel to unreached peoples and villages in the “no man lands” of Thailand.

More stories from that trip to come…


Summary in Pictures

Just finished a wonderful 2 week Vision Trip with my good friends Cat & Sam! It was definitely a vastly different experience leading the trip (as one who lives here) than the three previous mission and vision trips I’d been on here in Thailand. At the end of this trip, I did not board a plane and “go home”. Strange as it may seem, the trip didn’t feel quite as complete without a return boarding pass in my hands. Every other mission trip, I’ve been able to go back home and bring back what I saw, heard, felt, and experienced. But this time, with what my eyes have been opened to and my heart has been awakened to, I must now learn what to do with it and how to live in it. I’m not saying being a part of this Vision Trip with my friends was any less significant. Just different. A very different perspective now that I live here.

I’ve gathered a few of my favorite snapshots from the past two weeks in Cambodia and Thailand…

Our first haircut by Nhu at the AGAPE salon in Cambodia {notice the rock-star highlights, Asian style}

I haven’t visited Remember Nhu’s Haven of Hope in Cambodia since I moved here exactly one year ago. It was such a joy to be back with the girls! I loved it when the girls walked in and some of them remembered me from 2 and 3 years ago! I think back to my first visit to Cambodia… the fear and hopelessness and overwhelming burden it invoked in me. I remember how I thought there was no way I could ever live there. Yet with each trip I’ve taken to Cambodia (this was my 4th), I feel an inkling more comfortable with being there. My favorite part of going is no longer when the wheels of the plane lift off the runway on my way out. Perhaps Cambodia is growing on me. I certainly love the girls more and more…

One of my favorite moments in Cambodia was when I arrived at the Salon to pick up the girl who would take our team down to the river where a lot of our girls come from. I walked through the front door and was greeted by a beautiful young woman with a shining face. I hardly recognized her! You see, the first trip I took to Cambodia 3 years ago, I connected with two girls in particular. They literally took hold of my arm and didn’t let go. One of those girls was Gia, 13 years old. I have prayed for her ever since. Unfortunately, the last 2 times I visited Cambodia, she was busy somewhere and not at the home. We missed each other by just hours both times. But now, I’ve walked through the door and am face to face with a beautiful young woman. As soon as she caught my eye and immediately smiled ear to ear, I knew it was Gia! She was the girl to take us to the river that day. Now 16, grown up and beautiful! We enjoyed our time together and exchanged lots of hugs during the day!

The Vietnamese have a special place in my heart. Perhaps it’s because the pastor I grew up with served as a missionary among the Vietnamese and I was always intrigued by his stories and heart for this people. Perhaps it’s because Remember Nhu was birthed out of a little Vietnamese girl’s story of bondage to freedom. Perhaps it’s because God really has planted a special seed of love in the soil of my heart for the Vietnamese and He will bring it to fruition in due time. Either way, I absolutely loved being with the Vietnamese refugee kids who live along the Mekong river in Cambodia.

There is a commonly held practice among Asians, particularly in Thailand and Cambodia, whereby the caregiver will take a child to a type of witchdoctor for curing of any lingering problem or illness. During the ceremony, the child’s head is shaved (except for a few certain places) a spirit is called upon to indwell the child… to be a guardian spirit, so to say. The child is practically given over to the spirit’s control in exchange for health. On the river that day, we saw 3 babies like this. They were brought to us, by a child or their mother. How Sovereign is the God we love and serve! I was honored to have a baby brought to me, to lay my hands on them and bless them as Jesus did. It may have been my favorite moment there.

This little one just about inhaled 3 oranges …

I can’t forget this little guy. What seemed to be his grandmother pulled him up the hill to come get some fruit. The closer he came to us, the clearer I realized the marks on his fragile body and the fear through his bruised and puffy eye. As Sam got down on his level and approached him with fruit, he cowered away in fear. I’m not sure I’d ever seen that much fear in such a little person. She spoke softly and soothed him as best she could with some fruit. He voluntarily showed her the bruises on his hand, arm, elbow, and eye. He let Sam touch him gently and by the time we left, we got to see a smile. When an entire people group is forced to live, literally, as animals, we cannot even begin to imagine the horrors of a child’s life there.

In Thailand, the highlight for me was taking a group of 8 women to a Lahu village on the mountain. I enjoyed it because 1) I love going to the villages, 2) God enabled me to translate, 3) God gave us opportunities to minister. The village is approximately 3000 Lahu people with 14 new believers. One of the house fathers for a Remember Nhu home has been ministering among the villages for years. It was a blessing to be invited into the homes of two new believing families and pray over them in unison. The people would speak in Lahu to Titus, then Titus would speak in Thai to me, then I would speak in English to the team. It was my first experience doing this, and I really enjoyed it!

And ofcourse I loved having Cat and Sam here… the first ones to come from my home church! Their passion for the Lord, abandonment to His call, and heart for this ministry built me up in the spirit.

And they gave me ample opportunity for laughter and much needed fun! 🙂