Several years ago, an amazing family from our church uprooted and moved to Thailand where they began a ministry. Their ministry is now thriving and a group of us traveled to serve with them in Pattaya.
Last week, my team shared about our mission trip with our church.
Well, they shared. I'm less of a talker, more of a writer. #introvertsunite
So instead, I wore my bright orange t-shirt with Chinese characters on it in solidarity, and I listened. I listened again to the stories and powerful encounters that we experienced together, halfway around the world. It stirred up all those emotions and memories again, and the Lord told me it was time to finish this draft I began when we first got home. A significant experience like this deserves to be remembered and shared.
This city (and nation) of so much heartache and yet so much potential is on my mind daily. I'm not just saying that...it all haunts me. If you've ever been on a mission trip outside the US, you know how strange it is to assimilate back into American culture. Like for example, I can now flush toilet paper instead of putting in the trash can (gross), and I also don't have to pay to use a public restroom. Now, I come home to my (average by American standards) house and without even realizing it, I'm counting how many children from the slums would have a bed to sleep on here instead of the floor. Seeing exorbitant waste of money and resources around me makes me feel upset and physically ill. I think about these sweet, precious people DAILY.
I can't unsee what I've seen. It's going to be with me forever.
I can't unsee the terrible living conditions and filth of the slums. The 200 empty-eyed prostitutes lined up on one street (not exaggerating)? I can't erase that memory. I'll never forget about the precious Chinese students who have risked e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. by coming to faith in Christ. Nor can I leave behind the pure joy on the kids' faces when we gave them something as basic as a new pair of flip flops. That's the kind of stuff that sticks with you.
Our message was simple and straightforward to the people and tourists of Pattaya: the One True God (an important distinction in a Buddhist-saturated culture) loves and cherishes you in the most extravagant way. This is a shocking truth to them, not something they've grown up hearing like we have in America. This message of love can literally stop them in their tracks - I experienced it for myself while handing out Bibles one night. Speaking one of the three Chinese phrases I knew, I said simply "Jesus loves you" to the group of 20-25 people passing by. They all stopped and gathered around me, reaching out eagerly to take a Bible from my hands. Every single person wanted a Bible that spoke of this amazing love. That was a powerful moment for me. God's love is powerful.
When I think back on what Thailand taught me, a scroll of images and memories run through my mind. Too many to count, and recount, here. Heart shifts that are difficult to even express. It's almost overwhelming to revisit all of it.
Do you know the David Crowder song that says "Earth has no sorrow that heaven can't heal?"
That's what I learned - all of my experiences, sights, and encounters strung together into words that make up one simple sentence - Earth has NO sorrow that God can't heal.
All of the junk that these people endure and live in and have become accustomed to - my God can take care of it. Every last bit of it. The darkness, the sickness, the worship of idols, the corruption, the human trafficking, the children with no childhood, the desperate need of a Savior - none of it is too much for my God to handle.
He makes all things new.
ALL THINGS. I love when God simplifies the ideas that we complicate. There is nothing that He cannot heal. It's true for the people of Pattaya. It's true for you. That thing that you believe is too much? Too dark? Too ugly? .....Says who? Don't believe that lie. It doesn't scare God. Give it to Him and He will make good on His promise to make all things new. I'm telling you, He will heal it.
My ultimate prayer going into this trip was for there to be a lasting impact made, and God didn't fall short. He never does. Right now, on the other side of this world, there is a Chinese girl with a Bible in her hands (probably her first one, ever) that she received one night on holiday in Thailand. That's why we go - to show up as Christ's hands and feet. He does the rest. God is busy bringing hope to Asia.
I'm so honored I got to be a part of it.
Come out of sadness
From wherever you’ve been
Come broken hearted
Let rescue begin
Come find your mercy
Oh sinner come kneel
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can’t heal
So lay down your burdens
Lay down your shame
All who are broken
Lift up your face
Oh wanderer come home
You’re not too far
So lay down your hurt
Lay down your heart
Come as you are
There’s hope for the hopeless
And all those who’ve strayed
Come sit at the table
Come taste the grace
There’s rest for the weary
Rest that endures
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can’t cure.