Walking the Labyrinth
I’ll be honest. I’ve never particularly liked labyrinths. I’ve walked them on a few Christian retreats, dutifully meandering my way to the center, grousing under my breath the whole way that this could clearly be done more efficiently. I’ve been sorely tempted to hop over the lines to get to the center faster. I wish I were the sort of person who thought deep thoughts and met God in profound ways while walking labyrinths, but the reality is they usually just try my patience.
However, since our lives have come to resemble a labyrinth played out over time, I have been compelled to ponder the invitations that come to holier walkers of them than me. Labyrinths invite us to savor and enjoy the journey. They compel us to cultivate patience and to trust that progress is being made even when the path involves lengthy detours. They also push us to clarify what is at the center, what our hoped-for destination is. If I define the goal of our current journey as, “getting a long-term visa to live in Malaysia,” I will view the season in which we find ourselves as a frustrating detour away from it. But, if the goal is abiding in Jesus while serving church leaders in South and South East Asia, then we are continuing to move toward that, even from our current, unexpected perch in Massachusetts. So, I will seek to practice trust, cultivate patience, and enjoy the journey. Read on for where our recent meanderings have taken us and where we hope to go.
Ninety Days in Malaysia: We are so grateful for the time we were able to be in Malaysia! We were able to have long talks over meals with colleagues with whom we’ve been working for nearly two years from a distance, and with students we’ve been teaching via Zoom. We got to know some of the amazing leaders of Alpha Asia Pacific and of Holy Trinity Bukit Bintang, the church where we worshiped in downtown Kuala Lumpur. God provided abundantly for us at every turn, from housing to health to enjoyment of Malaysia’s food. We feel much more hopeful about a path to a long-term visa, though the process will take several months. For now, we only have the 90-day tourist visa option, and we don’t know how many times we can use that. We are confident we can go once more that way, and we want to make those days count, so we are waiting to return until the start of the fall term, in mid-August.
Two Months in the US: We returned to New Mexico at the end of our visa to attend our Paraclete Mission Group biannual conference, a welcome time of fellowship and reflection. Then we headed to Durham, NC to reconnect with Lisa’s mom and our daughter and son-in-law. They hosted us generously, but both of them work from home so staying there for more than a few days doesn’t really work, since we are both teaching quite a bit. May—June is a common time for 5-week intensives in Asian schools, and between us we are teaching four of them.
Rich is teaching for Biblical Leadership for Bible College of Malaysia and Pauline Epistles for Alpha Omega International College. We are co-teaching a practical course, the Ministry Development Research Project with St. Paul’s Theological College. This course teaches students to critically evaluate a ministry as it currently exists, conduct extensive research into how it could be strengthened, read relevant literature, and reflect theologically on the process. I am teaching Homiletics for the Bible College of Malaysia. Rich continues to teach non-formal Bible courses for pastors in various parts of India.
We are so grateful for the gift of a home on the East Coast from which to do that teaching. As we said yes to several teaching commitments for this season, we prayed to be able to do so from a good time zone, not really knowing what would emerge. We love California and Californians, but 7 PM classes in Malaysia are 4 AM in CA, whereas they are a more doable 7 AM from the East Coast. So, we were delighted by the offer of generous friends to spend about five weeks in Massachusetts in their summer cottage before they spend their summer here. Mid-June, we’ll make one more visit to our North Carolina family and then head to India.
Seven Weeks in India: (June 27—August 15) As Rich has taught myriad Bible studies over the past two years, he has become more and more convinced of the value of an inductive, collaborative learning process. But he has hit an interesting impasse. He knows how to lead inductive processes, but he suspects that what is subsequently transmitted to others is the deductive distillation of what he has taught. (Sadly, his “cultural informants,” the translators and convenors of these groups, confirm his suspicions.) It is hard to overcome years of inculcation in a deductive or even rote teaching style. He believes that meta-level “training about training” in person could help these leaders to press past that barrier, equipping them to bring more transformative learning experiences to those they lead, and his partners in India are eager for this. We are also both eager to meet the men and women he has come to know and care about through many hours of shared learning online. I will prepare some sessions on inductive and narrative-based learning in preaching and on how preaching can help the church to heal as it emerges from the pandemic. We both will seek to care for and encourage leaders who are serving in very challenging circumstances. While I will admit that India has always intimidated me and that at first this idea sounded like another huge detour, God has worked in my heart a gladness for this journey, and I find myself very much looking forward to our time there.
Ukraine Update: Ukraine is like the backpack that I wear as I walk the labyrinth—of course it is nothing in weight compared to those who live there, but Rich and I do carry the suffering of dear friends there wherever we go, and its welfare is never far from our thoughts and prayers. Many of you have kindly asked about our partners there. They are all fairly safe, many having relocated to Western cities such as L’viv or Ivano-Frankivsk. We are incredibly inspired by their faithfulness, as they continue to serve the many students who have also fled west and the many internally displaced refugees who are either settling there or resting there on their way to Poland, Moldova, and elsewhere. Rich has led several Bible studies recently for the Moldova IFES team and been inspired by their tireless work on behalf of the thousands of refugees who have fled to Moldova. You can read more about the work and welfare of the Ukrainian staff team here.
Please pray for us:
We’re grateful as always for your gifts and prayers that make our ministry possible.
With love, Lisa and Rich
Rich and Lisa Lamb