As I mentioned earlier (about 9 weeks ago?) I had the amazing opportunity to go on a mission trip to Bangkok, Thailand through InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF). And I wanted to share a bit of my time there with y’all.
My time there was very joyful, challenging and inspiring. My eyes were opened to the true, gracious, caring and loving heavenly Father. God is working – everywhere around the world even here! And we have the choice to see and to believe or not.
This is my host family in Thailand and we lived in the church with them. Our host mom, P’Plar – she’s up top holding the baby – is the pastor who moved into this slum community because God wanted her to. She reaches out to kids and youth because she really believes that if they are transformed then their families will also be transformed. And the transformation is very evident in the kids and youth she’s been working with for years now. Actually all the kids in the picture are not her own, she’s single and most of the kids are Cambodian refugee orphans. She literally takes in kids who need care and love into her home and provides for them physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
In Thailand all children are allowed to go to school no matter what their ethnicity is. But the local schools wouldn’t let Cambodian or other refugee children come so our host mom using her social work degree fought hard for the kids so that they could go. She would meet with government officials and school directors and finally they were allowed to go. She’s an inspiration to me because she uses everything God has given her – her education, finances, home, time, and love – for the poor and marginalized of Bangkok. Because that’s what Jesus did during his ministry here on earth. He lived life with the poor and marginalized – the tax collectors, prostitutes, homeless, and orphans – that’s what we call incarnational ministry.
These are some of the kids that we got to spend time with and love on. They look like normal happy kids but when my host mom told me about their families I was really shocked. Drugs and alcohol are very prevalent in this community. Parents abandon their kids because of addictions to drugs and alcohol. The karaoke bars there are not the karaoke places we know here it is a place where they sell women. And these women have kids who are neglected, abused and fatherless. It was all really hard for me to take in and I was overwhelmed, confused, sad, and angry. These beautiful little children did not have a choice in who their parents would be or where they would live. In that moment I questioned whether Jesus was really the good news for all. Did I believe that Jesus is the everlasting hope even in situations as broken as these? Is God really good and does he care for these beautiful children?
Thailand is more than 90% Buddhist so most of its institutions are Buddhist-based. Our team also helped out at the local Buddhist nursery and elementary school. One day we were getting the toddlers ready so they could take their afternoon nap. I was patting a baby on her back and I decided to sing ‘Jesus loves me/Jesus loves you’ to her. And as I kept singing this song over and over again everything I had seen and heard – it was all too much. I was on the verge of crying because I wanted these kids to really understand that Jesus loves you. I kept thinking – do you understand what I am singing to you? Jesus freaking loves you! I wanted to tell them: you will not end up like your parents if you know Jesus. You can be set free from this earthly hell if you believe in Jesus Christ. But I don’t speak very much Thai and they don’t speak any English. All I could do was keep singing to them Jesus loves you and hope that God was stirring something in their hearts that someday they would hear about Jesus and know and believe.
The community that I lived in is beautiful but it is also so very broken. It seems like evil continues to grow and that there is more despair than hope. During the time I was wrestling about whether God was really good and if he really cared – I got to read Psalm 92:7-8. It says, “that though the wicked spring up like grass and all evildoers flourish, they will be destroyed for ever. But you, Lord, are for ever exalted.”
The world was not intended to be this way – broken and messed up. Parents aren’t supposed to abandon their children; children should not grow up in karaoke bars next to sex, drugs and alcohol; human beings should not be living next to sewage water in run-down shacks – God did not intend for the world to be like this. He created the world and us and he said that it was good. But he also gave us a choice – to serve him or ourselves. And we chose ourselves. Our sin, greed and selfishness caused more brokenness. But like Psalm 92 says, “evil will be destroyed forever. The Lord will forever be exalted.” Jesus has already overcome evil by his resurrection that is the everlasting hope we have to share with others. And God is inviting us to join him in bringing the kingdom here on this earth. That’s what missions is – to be good news to your friends, co-workers, family, neighbors, and to the world.