Several months ago, I introduced you to David and Katie Czapala who led a short-term mission team to Thailand in July. I originally posted about them here and here. Katie wrote about their experience. Here’s a chance for you to read from someone else’s perspective who has a burden for global missions.
Take it away, Katie…
I have been mulling over different ideas and lessons that I learned while preparing for, going to, and coming back from our most recent missions trip to Thailand. There were many, and I am still going through some of them, but in order to help me process (and to let everyone be more a part of the journey), I have decided on a trilogy. We need good stories to have a beginning, middle, and an end. While our trip to Thailand is more of a piece of a puzzle than a complete story, a trilogy it will be. Besides, most good tales end as a trilogy (ahem, Indiana Jones).
Thailand Trilogy: Part One – In the Dark
As I write this, the term “in the dark” has so many connotations. There were the mental challenges our team faced as none of us had ever been to Thailand, and we were completely lost when it came to communication. Not only could we not fake our way through half-sentences (like we do in Spanish-speaking countries), we couldn’t begin to read anything around us. Street-signs, cautions, helpful guidance, and even the ever-so-friendly Thai people were of little help when communication isn’t possible.
When we arrived at the crazy-busy Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport after a 25 hour flight (it’s really not as bad as it sounds), we had a little trouble finding our pick-up. So I whipped out my book, full of wisdom needed for our impending trip, and dialed a phone number. After the first ring, it dawned on me – “what if the person answering doesn’t speak my language?”
How often do we truly find ourselves in circumstances that we can’t communicate with others? Not just unable to get our point across, but truly in the dark when reading or speaking to people. It’s a scary place to be. You have to trust complete strangers, which is not an easy thing for individualistic, self-sufficient Americans. But over and over again, I saw that this is where God wanted us.
He wasn’t just asking us to trust strangers, but to trust Him. Whether it was raising support money, building a group of strangers into a team, or going on a trip that was WAY less scheduled and coordinated than I personally care for, the entire process was one continuous lesson in trusting God more than myself.
I learned two things being in the dark: 1. You can’t begin to fully trust God until you are completely out of your comfort zone and unable to do for yourself. Oh, we can do our half-trusting, with 3 back-up plans, attempt to walk on water, but until we get out of the boat and have no choice but to trust God, we can’t begin to see the amazing things He has planned for us. 2. The end of ourselves is the beginning of God. When we let go of our delusion of control, knowing that He has greater things planned for our lives than we could possibly imagine, we find a freedom that comes in trust.
Finally, we were, at times, surrounded by spiritual darkness. And I loved it.
One night, we had an opportunity to go on a prayer walk in two different red light districts. Here, there were lady-boys, uneducated women, and children, broken and hopeless, believing the lie that the only thing they were worth was the baht they could get for the untold physical acts they would perform.
It was heart-breaking and infuriating. It was draining and helpless. But as we neared the end of the walk, at the top of one of the worst districts in Bangkok, I felt a peace and a gratefulness. As we prayed for the individuals there, I was overwhelmed with the opportunity that God have given us that most would never get or want.
This is reality – that most of the world lives with little to no education, little to no money, and little to no hope in the future that only comes from Jesus Christ. Most of the world lives in a darkness and an oppression that we will never know. But we live in our own darkness, a self-induced blackout that stems from eyes shut tightly, content to focus inward and keep the light and hope to ourselves for fear of a million different lies. And we convince ourselves that wherever we are and whatever we are doing is good enough. Good enough to get into heaven, good enough to live a comfortable life, good enough to get by.
The biggest lesson I learned in Thailand is that I don’t want good enough. I want all of God. I don’t want safe, content, or comfortable. I want to be in the middle of darkness, out of control, with no hope but God. Please, God, let me go into the darkness. Let me take your light to the darkest places. Let me take your hope to those that are barely hanging on. Let me take your strength to those that have none left.
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