Above: Nepal New Covenant College Principal, Dean and Board Members in Malaysia as they consider how to serve some of the nearly 800,000 Nepalis living in Malaysia through NNCC’s Online Degree Programs. Rich and I will return to Nepal to teach at NNCC in February 2024.
“I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. Do not be like a horse or mule, without understanding, whose temper must be curbed with bit and bridle, else it will not stay near you.” Psalm 32: 8-9
Dear Friends (from Lisa),
“Would you be interested in teaching a course on Asian Christian Ethics?” The email caught me off guard. I replied that I was hesitant given that I am neither Asian nor an ethicist! Was it even ethical to say yes, given that our goal in being here is to equip others to preach and teach, not replace qualified Asians who can do so? Shouldn’t the land be scoured to find an Asian and/or a properly trained ethicist? My academic friend assured me that I was not replacing an Asian given some other goals for the course, and that she was confident in my awareness of and sensitivity to Asian culture. These kind words were a gift to me after living in this part of the world for nearly two years, stumbling at times in our cross-cultural efforts, but working hard to listen and learn.
But was it an Invitation? We get a good number of invitations here as our relational network has expanded, and we are deeply aware of our finitude and thus the need to choose well and seek God’s guidance. I’ve come to distinguish between lower-case invitations and Invitations that, as best we can discern, are from God. Those Invitations seem to be marked by a few features: first, they are ultimately about equipping and multiplying rather than simply a one-off addition to an ongoing ministry here. Second, they are Invitations to us—to grow, to learn, to stretch ourselves in some new way. They cause a spark of gladness and eagerness.
For Rich, who has a large body of content at the ready, this often takes the form of a new context, such as the class he recently taught for Burmese pastors living in Kuala Lumpur, or the chance to take his training to a remote corner of Nepal. For me, after prayerful consideration and an initial dive into books with titles like, not surprisingly, Asian Christian Ethics (Aldrin Peῆamora and Bernard Wong, eds), articles on Confucianism, and a refresher on words learned in courses long ago like deontology and consequentialism, I have decided that I can be an adequate guide for this group of M.Th. students, and that I will learn a lot in the process. This course is not until spring, so I have time to get up to speed. I’m on the lookout for Asian guest lecturers for a few sessions, and each student will host an hour on an aspect of ethics in Asia. I am honored and humbled to be given this opportunity to stretch and grow.
I wonder if there is a similar area for you—a place where you are discerning the best use of your resources? You may be pondering whether a request to serve on a committee or board or as a mentor is a distraction from your vocation or a new dimension of it. Perhaps you’ve recently heard a disappointing “No” and you’re looking for the Invitation from God within that. Discernment is not easy. We are struck often by the faithfulness of those who read our letters and who support our work here. We know that you, like us, are often seeking God’s guidance amidst ᷈complex situations. I am encouraged by the promise in Psalm 32 that God is eager for us to “stay near him,” and is actively engaged in counseling and instructing us and opening good paths for us. May it be so for you.
What’s ahead for us and how can you be praying?
Soon, on December 1, I will fly to North Carolina to see my mom. I have discerned that I need to commit to a rhythm of a minimum of two visits a year to her at this stage in her life, and it is my joy to do so. (I will of course enjoy also seeing our daughter and son-in-law!) The same day, Rich will head to India to serve rural pastors in Orissa state but will return a week later so he can attend an event here in KL that will publicize the printing of his recent book here in Malaysia. Please pray for health and stamina as our respective trips bring different challenges: many more time zones for me, and more rugged conditions for Rich.
We have other travel ahead in the new year, with more invitations (Invitations?) to India than we can say yes to, and one to Nepal in February. While travel is a part of our work, on a day-to-day basis we are more often engaged in the mundane but good work of grading, preparing a sermon for a school chapel service, or encouraging a passel of young preachers as they preached their very first sermons, as I did last week. Pray for wisdom and kindness as we teach.
Finally, we are sure you already join us in praying for peace in Ukraine, Israel, and throughout the Middle East.
As always, we are grateful for each of you, and we wish our American friends a Happy Thanksgiving this week! I was a bit startled to have a new friend here blithely invite me to lunch on Thursday (as if it were just any other day!), and replied, “Only if you’ll indulge this American and let us take a moment to share what we’re grateful for.” As vegetarians, we haven’t had a big turkey feast in a few years, but we made some stuffing, sweet potatoes, and green beans for dinner and we gave thanks from afar for many good gifts, chief among them the people that, through their love, prayers and support, make our ministry in Asia possible! We love hearing from you as well, so if you have two minutes to send a brief update, please do. And if you send out holiday family letters, please make ours electronic! Thanks so much.
Rich and Lisa
Below: Rich’s recent sequence of 7 videos on verbal tools of influence to be a “gentle, humble influencer.” Click on the image to view the sequence in YouTube, or visit this link to find Gentle Exhortation.
Rich and Lisa Lamb