Saturday, February 26, 2011

Thank You

If you check my blog anywhere near as often as my mother you will have noticed that I removed my last "financial update" post. I felt that was necessary because the information contained in it has become grossly inaccurate over the last few days.
I believe I speak truly when I say that one of the greatest joys of the last six months has been seeing how God has provided a network of support for me when I needed it most. I already knew that you were all great people but I have really seen God shining through you in the last few months. I've been learning a lot about family through this journey and the fact that when Jesus died on the cross He restored right relationship not only with our Father but also with each other. It's amazing to see that when God called me out to do something new He provided every bit of support that I would need along the way. (Often "just in the nick of time".) I truly could not have done this without all your prayers and support. I was so spiritually protected and covered even in some of the intensely oppressive environments that I was in. I cannot thank you enough for your intercession on my behalf. You have aligned yourself with the heart of Jesus by praying and petitioning on my behalf. (I've been learning a lot more about intercession as well. Mind blowing stuff that.) Jesus said that if you receive a prophet because he is a prophet then you will receive a prophet's reward. I don't think it's too much of a stretch to say that if you have supported this poor, young "missionary" through these foundational steps in his journey then you are certainly entitled to your reward. With all that is in me I thank you and bless you. Your obedience to God is inspiring to me. Truly.

These last two weeks after outreach have been difficult. I've felt a bit like Elijah coming down off the mountain at times. (Though to a lesser degree on both ends, obviously.) Today is one of the first days that I can truly say that I am excited for what God has next. I still don't necessarily know what that is... but hope is rising out of the weariness. His mercies are new every morning.

Thank you for standing with me. I think it was C.S. Lewis who said something along the lines of "if I have seen farther than the rest it is because I stood on the shoulders of giants."

"For if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward."

Saturday, February 19, 2011

It Is Finished

Debrief week:

We arrived safely back in New Zealand on Saturday, February 12th, just before supper time. All of our travels went smoothly. We even made it through VERY thorough New Zealand customs with all of our souvenirs. Thank you for your prayers.
We had Sunday to recover and readjust to the time zone before getting right back to work on Monday morning. We had a very full "re-entry" week. We generally refer to this time as "debrief" week but actually that was mostly taken care of at the end of our outreaches and this week has been much more focused on looking forward to what is ahead and creating a healthy atmosphere for everyone to begin transitioning into whatever God has for them next. It looked much like our lecture phase time, with daily work duties, worship, intercession and jostling for seconds on Courtney's cooking. We had few lectures and many small group discussions. A lot of room was left for resolving conflict and bringing restoration to any relationships that have been damaged over the course of the school. It was a good week.

Grad celebration:

Friday was our graduation celebration. We began with a final time of corporate worship and dancing before the Lord together. Then we spent most of the morning having an affirmation time for the students. Each outreach leader began by speaking some sort of blessing or encouragement to their students and then everyone else was given a chance to add something as well. It was a really special time and I was glad for one more chance to give an "official" blessing to each of my students and brag about them publicly. (Kind of like how Jesus brags about us before the angels... but slightly less awesome.) After lunch we staff spent most of the afternoon doing grad preparations. It's a real joy to see how well we can all work together when we're all serving the Lord and not ourselves. (It's so efficient!) The staff of the next school, that's starting in a few weeks, kindly volunteered to serve the banquet for us so we had most of the evening off to relax and enjoy the program which was FULL of many thank yous, encouragements and exhortations. We ended off the night with some rowdy square dancing and then most people stayed up until the wee hours of the morning to say goodbye to Becky as she left for the airport.
It was a great wrap-up to our time here and I'm so proud of all the students for the growth we have seen in them and for persevering until the end.

Future plans:

It's Sunday afternoon now and this weekend has been filled with many goodbyes and there are still more to come over the next few days. Our staff team has a final few days of debrief (and cleaning) before we go our separate ways. I will be hanging around New Zealand for about ten days afterward (for some much needed rest and quiet) and then after a couple nights in Sydney I will be heading... well, I don't know yet... as far as LA at least.
This is a difficult transition time for me. I have been pouring myself out into this DTS for the last six months. I believe that I have really given it everything that I have and I gave thought to very little else along the way. Now suddenly it's over and the rest of life has come rushing upon me all at once. I'm not the sort of fellow to get stressed out easily but there are a lot of important decisions that I need to be making over the next days, weeks and months. Your prayers are appreciated.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Run with perseverance the race marked out for you

The finish line is in sight. At this point it is impossible to avoid saying or hearing something about "sprinting to the finish" or "keeping your eyes fixed on the prize" or "finishing well" every day. It's about as cliched as you can get but that's actually what we're striving to do in our last several days here in Thailand.
My last update was from Ko Pha Ngan. Since then we made a quick visa run to Malaysia and then spent about eight days on Ton Sai beach, in the Railay area. This was our final week of ministry and it really came to a climax quite well. Our school leader, Denver, dropped by for four nights on his scheduled "pastoral visit". He joined right in with us for team meetings, intercession, worship and ministry times. He also made a point of chatting with each of us 1-on-1 and making sure we're all doing all right. (Apparently we are! Hurray!) His visit was a breath of fresh air and just one of the many things that made this a great week. I also got a chance to hang out with my friend Kaison, from last year's DTS, one evening. He has spent the last seven months or so trying to begin a long-term ministry to backpackers and climbers in this area of Thailand. It was a real joy to reconnect with him and pray blessing over his ministry. (It's not easy to get started from scratch but God has been giving him some really cool opportunities.)
I think I can safely say that this was our most fruitful week of ministry. (Or at least, the most visibly so.) Ton Sai is an amazing community (I wish I had more time to tell you all about it) and it's almost impossible to avoid having meaningful conversations with people each day. At one meal we shared a table with 16 people that we had met over the last several days. That is NOT normal in a traveling community. The amount of people that were drawn to us, and in some ways became part of our family, was nothing short of remarkable.
I'll try to share a couple of highlights.... One of my favourite days was when we took David, Amie and Emily kayaking. It was a great way to get one person engaged in conversation for two hours at a time with no option of escape! (There aren't too many places to go on the open ocean.) Another method that worked well here was having "Jesus meditation" on the beach in the evenings. We invited a few people to join us in reading a passage of scripture and then waiting in silence for God to bring revelation of it's meaning. This turned into a great conversation starter with David, a fledgling Buddhist, and turned into an opportunity to pray for healing over Daniel, a Malaysian guy who's a bit of a "mystical" Muslim.
Our time in Ton Sai was very unique. Even now as I think back over the week there are at least a dozen people who immediately spring to mind as significant and break my heart with the desire to see them come to know Jesus as Lord. To have one or two people a week that you connect with deeply is incredible... to have so many is almost unbearable. This goodbye was the first one that was actually a little bit difficult for me. Perhaps this won't be the last time I visit Ton Sai's shores.
We are now on the island of Ko Phi Phi. Today we are taking a much needed Sabbath day. For the next two days we will be having our team outreach debrief time. The purpose of this time is to aid the students in processing through everything that has happened on outreach. We will focus mainly on what God has taught us, how we've drawn nearer to Him, how we've experienced Him working through us and then giving Him thanks for all these things. This is also a chance to come to grips with any disappointments and resolve any conflicts. It's important to seal off this time well so that we can really move into the next stage that God has for us. I appreciate your prayers.
On Feb 9 we begin traveling back to Bangkok where we will meet up with the other two Thailand teams for a final day of worship, intercession and blessing Thailand before boarding our plane back to New Zealand.
Give thanks to the LORD, our God and King. His steadfast love endures forever.