We have arrived in Bangkok! We are in a hotel under strict quarantine for a week. (This was just recently reduced, for those who are vaccinated, from two weeks, so we are very grateful for that). Many thanks to those who prayed for safe travels. I (Lisa) actually enjoyed the flights for the most part. In particular, I sensed God encouraging me through the stories of two women who trusted God in amazing ways in their missional journeys in Asia. The first was Jackie Pullinger (above, left). I listened to Nicky and Pippa Gumbel's conversation with her on the flight. You may have heard of her courageous work with persons addicted to drugs in what was for many years a very dangerous part of Hong Kong, the Walled City. What I had never heard was how she discerned her calling. She knew God was calling her to Asia but God had not given her more specifics than that. So, she waited in England to hear more, getting turned down with various mission agencies. A vicar had this odd suggestion: just get on a boat headed for Asia, one which stops at many ports. Be prayerful throughout the voyage, and get out when God tells you to. She did, and at the second-to-last stop heard a very clear call to Hong Kong. I loved this story because it puts our past year, and our somewhat odd decision to come to Thailand, in perspective. It can feel like a speculative venture since we simply do not know when borders to Malaysia will open up, but Jackie's pastor sensed she would hear God better by leaving home and getting closer to her perceived calling, and we hope and trust that the same will be true for us. The podcast is here: https://www.alpha.org/blog/leadership-conversations-with-nicky-gumbel-podcast-jackie-pullinger
The second woman whose story is inspiring me these days is Gladys Aylward. I read much of her gripping autobiography on the flights. She felt called to China, but was rejected by missions agencies and lacked money for a ship passage there, in the 1930s. Determined to get there, she took a train across Europe and Russia, suffering cold, hunger, train tracks blocked by warring soldiers, etc. But God did so much good through her life and witness when she got there, saving the lives of many orphans and converting many people. It puts our minor setbacks of the past year in perspective to read of all that she endured, and again, challenges me to have greater faith for what might be ahead. I highly recommend this short book: https://www.amazon.com/Gladys-Aylward-Little-Woman/dp/0802429866
These women are fueling faith within me and reminding me to be patient with the minor inconveniences of our quarantine. We chose one of the cheaper quarantine packages; thus our hotel is a somewhat older building, and the food is fairly simple. But, we have a long balcony and a living room as well as our bedroom, which will help this week as we each teach sessions.Rich will continue to teach in India, China, and Moldova, and I will be doing asynchronous teaching for St Paul's Theological College in Malaysia, and for Fuller. We both hope as well to make progress on writing projects. Beyond that, I am attempting to learn some Thai letters (there are 76...) and phrases. We are cycling through our four games, and so far continue to enjoy each other's company. In the coming weeks, please pray for health, the ability to connect with folks doing good work here, and, of course, for the borders of Malaysia to open up to us in God's timing.
With love, hope, and gratitude, Rich and Lisa
Dear Friends, If you don’t have time to read the encouraging story below, the top-line is that we received our Thai Visas and will be arriving in Bangkok Saturday night, April 17th, to begin a two-week strict mandated quarantine. Praise God and please pray as we discuss below. But I do encourage you to read the following powerful story, a reflection on 2 Kings 6.
“Alas, master! It was borrowed!” 2 Kings 6:5
I love the quirky story of the borrowed axehead in 2 Kings 6. This hapless young prophet is the patron saint of all those who lose their keys or their rings and who pray to the LORD for their recovery. Does the creator God of the universe care about our lost keys? Apparently he does. Still, it is an odd miracle at a time when miracles were rare, even for Elisha. Many lepers remained lepers, many dead sons remained dead, and many lost things remained lost. But here, when Elisha makes the axehead float, God shows mercy to Elisha’s young padawan and gives hope to all of us who have avoided minor calamities when we call out to God for help to recover a lost item, however precious or mundane.
The remainder of 2 Kings 6 shows that often the work of God is unseen. The king of Aram, knowing that Elisha is his enemy’s secret weapon, sneaks up on him in the middle of the night with an overwhelming armed force. Elisha is calm when it appears, but his servant, responding using the exact same phrase as the trainee prophet in the previous story, cries out in alarm at the urgent threat facing them. “Alas, Master!”
Elisha remains calm because he knows he is doing what he is supposed to be doing. He is trusting in his Lord. So he can see the imposing heavenly army on his side and fears no threat. But it is surprising that, seeing the armies of the Lord, he doesn’t assume they are there to slaughter his enemies. Instead, his divine perspective gives him the courage to walk up to the opposing army and offer to lead them to the “man that they seek”. They are blinded by the Lord and go on with Elisha as he walks them right into the walls of Samaria, to be completely surrounded by Israel’s troops with weapons.
The king of Israel assumes that he should kill his enemy’s troops, as he has them in his power. But Elisha once again, knowing his team has the military advantage, does not assume that advantage is given in order to use it for death and destruction, but rather he teaches the king to use it to pursue peace: welcome the army, feast them as friends, and they will become so! And that is what they do.
Elisha is the main character in this story, but two characters can serve as models when we face overwhelming odds or confusing circumstances:
But the forces with us are greater than those against us. God can use the divergence of our plans to carry out His Plan, while we can only see the next step. We asked recently for prayer for our Thai visas, and we received them, amazingly since it seemed that the consulate was scrutinizing and demanding, signaling a decision to decline to issue them. So God has left the door open to move ahead, and we believe that we will not be ashamed or endangered, but led to friends we have not yet met. God’s purposes for us and plans for our ministry will unfold over time.
Rich and Lisa Lamb