"My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind." - James 1:2-6
To begin an Exposure Trip update with this passage in James might make it look like our stay in Bangkok must have unfortunately gone haywire at the end of day two. But it's quite the opposite! Though we have been thrown a couple of small curveballs, the past two days have been such an awesome beginning to our short stay here.
Yesterday, we taught our first English class with CRU Bangkok to around 40 Thai university students, and the students have been wonderful to work with. They have been so hospitable and helpful as our team has continued to immerse ourselves in the culture, and they are looking forward to coming back tomorrow and learning more. Even though it's only day two, I have been encouraged by seeing God move in this community. I was encouraged by one student, a fellow Christian, when she asked if I could pray for our meal – a meal that we ate in a public setting (in a primarily Buddhist culture) with six other non-believing students. An experience as simple as this has given me hope and courage to continue to share God with these students.
In addition, the team at CRU Bangkok has been so welcoming, and their service to us and the Thai students are true examples of fruitful work. I've enjoyed getting to know them through our meetings, worship, and classes, and I look forward to getting to know them better. We've only known them for a short time, but there is already a sense of camaraderie and family when we're with them. This truly could only happen through Christ, as He transcends linguistic and cultural barriers.
At this point, you may be wondering why I referenced James at the beginning of this blog post. If I'm going to be honest about how awesome this trip has been so far, it's only fair that I share what has been personally challenging for me as well.
When we took off for our trip about 72 hours ago, I began to question my own adequacy to be a part of the team; I began to fear living in a new culture for two weeks. My desire to be a part of the mission began to dissipate, and I believed that my decision to come to Thailand was a mistake.
Yesterday, I began our team devotional and there was one particular biblical passage that both convicted and encouraged me. This passage is Acts 9:1-15, where Jesus intervenes in Paul's (then called Saul) life on the road to Damascus. After Jesus asks why Saul is persecuting Him, declaring Himself as Jesus to Saul, He then instructs him to "get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do" (Acts 9:6).
Jesus does not explain to Saul why he must go into the city, nor does Jesus tell Saul what the outcome will be if Saul obeys. Instead, He calls Saul to an act of obedience and faith. Though my team's and my circumstances are undeniably different than Saul's, I am reminded that God has called us to an act of obedience and faith in coming to Bangkok. I have been able to find rest in Him, for His plans are better than mine. It's not because of me and my own abilities that I am in Bangkok, but it is because of Him. When we have trials, it's because we are being refined.
God has been faithful and provided for our team to come to Thailand. He has a reason for us here, and I pray that we continue to pursue Him in all we do as we serve alongside CRU Bangkok. Challenges are still ahead, and there are still moments where my doubts still creep in. But I can say with confidence that I'm excited to see what God has in store for us during the remainder of our two weeks here. Thank you for all your continual support through prayer! We'll see you soon.
~ Samuel M.