There isn’t a place in the world I wouldn’t want to go, at least once. I don’t say this in a bragging way, it’s just the way I feel. Not sure why. I guess I like the idea of seeing new places and meeting new people. With this in mind, I was happy to make my first ever trip to Asia a few weeks ago.
The way I tend to do travel, and decide where to go, is probably not that unusual, tho I haven’t discussed it at length with others, and didn’t get the idea from observing some other person. It’s on the basis of relationships that I decide where to go. Clearly the Lord can prompt us to go to places where we don’t know anyone. For the most part, that hasn’t been the way it’s worked with me.
In the beginning of my travels in missions, I was accompanying others on trips they were taking, supporting them and having minimal contribution. After this time, I began to train and take teams on missions, as a part of a school that had a small missions focus. When I completed my time with the school after four years, I continued to do similar things, as I do to this day, tho the form has matured a bit.
Caleb and Tracy Lorensen, and their teammate Samara, arrived in Thailand four plus years ago. They were sent from their congregation in Omaha, and had a good deal of preparation in advance. They have some solid folks behind them, which I know has contributed to their stability, even in the face of some significant opposition. I am proud to call them friends, and have been standing with them over that time, in faith, that the Lord’s intent would be realized in their efforts, and in the area (and people) that the Lord has sent them to. It’s not a given, and anyone who has relevant experiences will know what I mean.
Caleb and I have known each other since the early 2000s, and were a part of a missions training pilot course in 2005. He and I had instant rapport and I thank God for the relationship we have. He is a real encouragement to me and represents well a generation younger than myself. I met Tracy before the two of them were married, on Caleb’s introduction, and she stayed with our family for a few days in 2006. It’s been good to get to know her as well, and to see their love and family grow.
Since the Lorensens arrived in Thailand, I have been hoping to get there to see them, even did a little planning and pencilled in some dates, but those things failed to come together. I was able to get some time with them last year as they were stateside for their first break from the field after three years. That was a blessing.
Earlier this year I felt a bump from the Lord about Thailand. As I prayed into it some, it seemed important… and the feeling persisted. I took this as leadership from the Lord, not only about going, but that the timing was important. Even tho it may take a significant amount of time to know the significance of this trip, i don’t think we should make light of such things, even if we don’t initially know all the details about how it will come together and how the obstacles standing in the way of such things will be overcome.
With the help of a friend who works for an international airline, I was able to get my round trip ticket to go for something like half price. This was helpful, and was part of what needed to fall in place to make the trip possible.
What can I say, it’s a long trip. Due to some delays, my travel time going was about 36 hours. One layover ended up being a little longer than expected, and I hardly slept for 48 hours. As you might imagine, that can be tough. That part did help with sleeping once I did arrive, and I have to say thanks to Caleb and Tracy, as I was in near zombie form when the grabbed me from the airport on that Thursday evening.
I was able to spend five nights with them, spend some quality time in conversation, meet some of their friends, and see some of the countryside. Thailand is a beautiful place, and, I think it is also a hard place for people who are involved in the enterprise of the gospel. Thai culture is a homespun mix of Buddhism, animism, and is a monarchist society. The king of Thailand, eighty some years old, passed away on the day I landed in country. That gave the time something of a surreal essence.
After climbing waterfalls, riding local public transportation, meetings with home church, dinner with Thai friends and a good bit of time with the family and team, my time in Thailand was complete. I am not sure if it was the lack of sleep on the approach that made it so, but it felt a little insular… like I had tunnel vision. That may have just been something that the Lord was doing, not sure. I stayed with the family, and spent most of my time with them, which was the reason I went in the first place. So that part was as it should have been. But, I also felt a little disconnected from the environment around me. Maybe I will understand that better over time.
The landscape reminded me quite a lot of Nicaragua. Tropical, warm, and very agrarian. Another thing about the context was the temples. They were everywhere. It reminded me of churches in the South… eerily so. The temples were very elaborate, there were idols so frequently sited as to appear random, and motorcycles / scooters / mopeds seemed to outnumber cars three or more to one. One thing also that was curious to me, all the Thais seemed to have a stone-like appearance as the passed on their motorbikes, each one with the same form, and their bodies seemed perfectly motionless. That surprised me every day, and never got old.
I made a new friend who gave me some good advice about Thailand… he’s been in the country for a dozen years or so as a missionary. I think he’s seen a lot of good and some not so good things from foreigners over his time there. I took it as a learning opportunity and listened closely to what he said. It will shape my approach and future plans for Thailand.
I want to ask you to pray for my friends there. Pray that the Lord will give them the next steps, complete with clarity and provision. We all know how it feels to be in-between. Not a good place to linger. Ask the Lord to help them to get into their long term purpose there, and to become fruitful in the land of their sojourning. I really appreciate it, and I know they will too. In fact, let’s ask together, right now:
Father, help us, all of us, to become fruitful in the land of our sojourning. Help our lives to bring you pleasure, and give us courage to do the things you are calling us to do. Help us to meet and connect with the people that are key to the path and work you are putting us on and into, and help us make the most of the time you have given us upon this earth. It’s in Jesus’ name we pray, and we thank You for hearing us, and for acting on our behalf and our request in ways that only you can.
PS – Checkout the leadership perspective of Caleb, Tracy and Samara in upcoming Leadership Moment Podcast episodes! Here are some photos and videos from the trip… some just for fun!