March 2019 Update
It's been awhile since I have written an update, so I felt like it was time to write one for those of you who pray for us regularly. Here are some highlights of what our life looks like these days as we are living and working in Bangkok, and some ways you can join us in prayer.
Where we spend most of our time is with brothers and sisters at Lifepoint Bangkok. We have had relationships at this church for several years. Now, not only are we close to many people there, but our sister, Kwan, whom we have known since she lived in Tennessee with us before she was a believer, is also a member there, as well as Sprite, who some of you will remember that I used to disciple one-on-one for a few years in Chiang Rai.
Lifepoint Bangkok was started by a church in Smyrna, TN with the same name. They have been through some big transitions in the past few years, but the church just welcomed a new lead pastor this month. Please pray for him and his family as well, as they get settled in.
I have had the privilege to translate on Sunday mornings (from Thai to English) and lead our Thai small group several times over the last few months. This month, on the 31st, I will also have my first chance to preach in Thai, and Liz will translate for me into English. We have never tried anything like this, so it will be an interesting experiment. Either way, it's going to be awesome because I was assigned to preach about substitutionary atonement for my first Thai sermon.
God has led us to some great mentors here in Bangkok who have not only been helping teach us Thai, but who have experience church planting several times here in Thailand. Some of you will remember that I got connected with a man named Ake back in November and he taught me until recently when he decided to move up north. After that, a pastor named Tim took over for him and started teaching me, and then his wife started teaching Liz. (Even though Liz has lived in Thailand most of her life, she hasn't studied Thai formally in a long time.)
These have been great relationships, because Pastor Tim has not only been teaching me how to disciple others in Thai, but he is also helping me learn through example how to plant and lead a church that is more "Thai" than the bilingual churches we have been in for the past few years.
Just this past week, Pastor Tim and his wife invited Liz and I to a weekend retreat with their church, and we were both invited to share our testimonies during the camp. For me, this was my first time ever to stand in front of a large group with a microphone and speak Thai for about 15 minutes without reading. This was a benchmark moment for me to see how these past 3 years of learning this language have paid off. By God's amazing grace, I received a lot of positive feedback, including someone even asking, "How does he speak Thai that well in less than 3 years?" The answer, of course, is God and God's people helping me along the way. Pastor Tim also invited me to a church planting seminar with their network of churches next month that I am really excited about.
One of the other activities I have found myself really excited about and enjoying lately has been teaching Thai. I was asked by a coworker friend at BCIS if I could try to teach him my methods for learning Thai. At first, I was hesitant because I am not a native speaker, but the more I thought about it the more I realized that BECAUSE I am not a native speaker, and because I am one of few people in the world who learned Thai as an adult rather than as a kid, I might actually have something unique to offer that even native speakers don't have. So, for the past few weeks, I have started working with with him. So far, it has gone really well, and things have been clicking for him much faster than they did for me at the beginning. We'll never know if that's because I'm a good teacher or he is a better student than me ;) Either way, pray for Teekay, that he will have perseverance to keep learning and that God will use him as he is more and more able to communicate with Thai people in their heart language.
This update is turning out to be longer than I expected it to be when I sat down to write it, but I didn't want to close without saying something about the healing process that has been happening in my heart since we came here. I can't say that this whole time has been great, because there have been a lot of times when I felt depressed for weeks, but I had to just grin and bear it, walking through every day as normal. I expected that. You don't lose 3 close family members in the same year-- two unexpectedly and tragically-- without having some lasting emotional scars. I would feel like a psychopath if I didn't.
However, if this time has shown me anything, it's that God will get me through it in His time; even if that process means months of battling feelings of depression. Through this process, my patience level has grown in ways I could have never imagined. Little things that used to bother me often seem so insignificant now. I am more cognizant of that which is most important in this world, and I am less likely to waste my limited emotional energy on things I cannot control.
When I look at my life now, it looks so different than what I expected even a few years ago. John Piper once said something that has resonated with this season of life so deeply: "Occasionally, weep deeply over the life that you hoped would be. Grieve the losses. Feel the pain. Then wash your face, trust God, and embrace the life that he’s given you." That's where I am now emotionally; I have wept deeply and now I am walking in gratitude for what God has given me now in my life. And I am ready to embrace the life that, although I did not expect, He had written down in his book before time began.