Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Sunday, September 11, 2016

God and Pizza

What in the world does God have to do with pizza?? 

You may be thinking - 'yeah I thanked God for that delicious meat lovers trio I demolished the other week' or 'boy I sure do wish the Lord would make pepperonis rain from the sky everyday!'

Well this pizza connection is a little different...

See the other week I was in a local pizza eatery in Thailand with a friend (yes there IS pizza in Thailand lol) and we were trying to order food. We wanted to see if we could switch or substitute a menu item for another. Neither of us knew the word switch or substitute in Thai so I tried to show the waitress the word on google translate (which by the way is an often incorrect translation), but to no avail. In the midst of our struggling attempts to communicate with our waitress, in walks a woman who approaches our table and asks (in English) if we need help ordering something. We answer: "Yes!" We then proceed to explain to her what we are trying to do and she then speaks to the waitress in Thai. 

We ended up not being able to switch the items but instead got a better deal out of the situation. 

I proceeded to conversate with the graciously helpful woman who turned out to be Christian. She and her husband were living in the same town. So we exchanged information and connected that same week again at a picnic with a few other believers. I got to meet and conversate at a more intimate level with some Thai Christians around my age and was invited to attend what I found to be an amazingly passionate church. 

It turns out the woman was a missionary from Indonesia here with her husband serving in Thailand since 2009. Over the next few weeks I got to experience and participate with their ministry and capture the beautiful fellowship and ministry of this group of people. 

So although my initial plans to participate in ministry turned sour (with the previous organization), I got a second chance to experience what I came to experience in Thailand. God did not bring me this far only to leave me :) God's plans are not ours, God's ways are not ours...but I am learning to remain steadfast and they will be revealed. 

The Uglier the Vegetable the Better

The other day I was speaking with some missionaries from Indonesia in Thailand (more on this meeting in the "God and Pizza post) about the fruit and vegetable status here in Thailand. We were talking about the complexities of finding unadulterated food items in the markets as I mentioned to them that I had purchased bananas a couple of times from local vendors that looked ripe and good to eat only to find they were chalky and bitter once I bit into them. I told them I later found out that just because it comes from a local market doesn't mean each vendor uses organic methods of producing/harvesting their food. Actually a lot of farmers here still use pesticides and ripening agents to speed up the process of their produce to sell. The missionaries also told me that they found out that a lot of farmers won't eat the products they sell, instead they set aside their own batch of food that has not been produced with these agents. Once I heard this I thought wow! How crazy is that?! On the flipside, I could certainly understand the need to use ripening agents to have product to sell; because no product equals no money. 

As our conversation continued, they also shared more about the culture and the need for everything to "look beautiful;" especially on the outside. Even though its' insides may not reflect the outer appearance. I told them I could relate to this, because this is how it is back in the states. 

They shared with me that back in Indonesia, specifically where they are from, the vegetables don't "look pretty" but people gravitate towards them and eat them because they are good to eat. Additionally, they educated me on a bit of agriculture and said that actually the uglier the vegetable or fruit the closer it is to its' pure state of harvesting (I.e. It was most likely harvested organically without pesticides or chemical agents). As soon as they shared this with me a spiritual revelation hit me like a ton of bricks. "WHOA!! I said..do you see the spiritual connection there?" I said out loud. They paused for a quick second to think about it then laughed as they agreed with me. 

I thought to myself...wow...how close is this physical example to the process/journey of our lives. We spend so much artificial effort trying to make everything about us and around us look beautiful and we reject (refuse to eat) anything that is not pretty about us. Don't get me wrong I think we should make efforts to change the negative hindrances about us, but what I'm saying is- actually- the more those ugly things about us surface (instead of keeping them buried or ignored) the closer we are and will get to our purest harvesting. 

If a life ends "beautifully" in our eyes...yet it has been tampered with disingenuous agents such as unapologetic thievery, greed and dishonesty...how beautiful is it really? Yet this same life looks different to God and (to others) if those same ugly traits have gone through God's organic harvesting process. A life cultivated by God's process will be one that may not "look pretty" on the outside (all the time)...but will be- as God has made everything beautiful in its time (Ecc 3:11) and from the Divine perspective there is no ugliness in the events in our lives...when we give our lives over to God's refinement process. 

By God's grace we will be selected as delicious vegetables "ready" to participate in the eternal feast of joy, love and life with Christ.

I hope the next time you pick up a vegetable from the supermarket or garden you take a moment to reflect on this :) 




Saturday, August 13, 2016

How big is 1%?

Before I came to Thailand, I was told that the country was 95% Buddihst 4% Muslim and 1% Christian.  1%?! I thought....yowzers! Just how many people does that really mean? In America, we know the numbers and we see the churches on every corner. But what does 1% look like in a country dominated by another belief system? (some could argue America is similarly dominated by another belief system...but you get my point) ....Well as I've come to discover...these 1-percenters are actually a bit more prevelant than I had imagined. I've been to quite a few places throughout the country and each time that I have explored, I've stumbled across a Christian church or organization of some sort (I.e. School). It has happened more frequently than I had anticipated and in places that I did not expect to find such a place. Granted, the ratio of wat to church is still 30 to 1, I'm still surprised as to what that number really looks like in person. I guess I was anticipating to only run into a remnant of believers in only one pocket of the country, but I've come to find that they are pockets of believers in many places. So the next time you hear 1%- don't underestimate the actual value of this number.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

So you want to be a missionary abroad?

As I prepared to finish seminary, I desperately wanted a chance to live abroad. I knew I didn't 
want to immediately look for work in the states or find a job at a church. So, I had begun 
researching opportunities abroad. The easiest and most talked about opportunities to find 
work are teaching English. So I did just that and I applied and got accepted for a position in South Korea. I was very excited about the opportunity to take a break from the States, travel and potentially 
save money for the return. As I neared the end of the year, another opportunity was presented 
to me through my seminary which not only incorporated teaching English but had a ministry 
component to it. I would have the opportunity to be a campus minister at a University in a 
predominantly minority Christian country. If I'm being honest I struggled with the decision to 
pursue this opportunity simply for financial reasons. I would be getting paid a fourth of what I 
could make in South Korea. And the sale of saving money abroad really gave me a struggle 
when it came to making a decision. BUT after much prayer, meditation, some fasting and minor 
consulting w/ a few close friends- I opted for the other country (Thailand). 

As I arrived to begin 'ministering' with the organization that I signed with, there were several series of events that for lack of better words 'threw me under the rug.' To make a very long story short, I was pretty much placed in a position/location far away from what I was promised and was unable to get the organization to make right what was wrong. So I was forced with a decision to stay or leave. It was a tough decision, because I was unsure if this was 'a test' and I was supposed to stay and persevere through it. After much prayer and seeking, I felt at peace to leave the situation. I was completely bummed about not getting the opportunity to 'minister' and do what I initially thought I was going to be able to do. 

Despite this change of events, I pressed forward and decided to stay in Thailand and continue teaching English with another organization. As I traveled about, I would encounter so many moments that I could have never set up as a 'minister.' I was simply going about life and would encounter God at work and would merely be aware of it and/or would participate with the Lord by verbally sharing with the person I was engaging. Take the blog post "God and pizza" or "Todays small but GREAT reminder" for example. Or another example is a local restaurant owner/yoga teacher who I befriended and through our talks we ended up conversing about Christianity and her exposure to it as a child. We talked about a few Bible stories and she shared about her awareness of Jesus. 

Also, in my work as a teacher I encountered several co-workers where through daily living I was simply able to 'walk out my faith' by the way that I treated them and interacted with them. I would share my life, my views/thoughts, and experiences and this was a simple way to 'minister' to them. 

I say all this to say that so many times we have these lofty ideas about where or how we are going to 'minister' or share the gospel, and we think it is solely up to us. We say things like 'if I don't go, then no one will ever hear about God or Jesus.' Don't get me wrong, I still believe we should go when we feel led to go someone; but I think having the mindset that you alone are the sole acting pioneer force to make someone aware or expose them to the gospel should be re-considered. God has already revealed God's self to all creation including humanity (Romans 1:20/Habakkuk 2:14/Titus 2:11). We are simply a part of the story. If you are someone who desires to be a missionary either locally or abroad, I believe it is wise to keep this idea at the forefront and center of your mind, spirit and actions. Not only will it aid in overcoming unforeseen difficulties, but it will also help you to be more mindfully loving towards others and God. Not pushing our own agendas, but enjoying Gods' - wherever and however it takes you :)