BY NAM, A PIONEERS UK MISSION MENTOR
Some called me a missionary, others a church planter, still others a volunteer worker, the children in the villages called me “teacher”.
Whichever hat they saw me wearing, I was there because I wanted to make God known in the places where he is least known. Spending the last 4 years in Isaan, Northeast Thailand had been the coming together of dreams and preparation for the prior 6 years.
I spent my days learning the tonal Thai language, teaching English to school children and oral Bible stories to villagers, prayer walking, praying for and sharing love with patients in a cancer hospital. I was passionate to see the driest soils ploughed up and sowed with seeds of God’s word. Every seed scattered was a source of joy, whether or not I saw an immediate result. I knew this was a work of years, not months. I was in for the long haul.
Yet the time came when everything in me seemed torn. It seemed like God was signalling the close of one season and the beginning of another, back in the UK. It was far from easy, but through months of seeking God, I had a sense that it really was time to return for a period. I struggled then, as I do now, with questions about the future that God didn’t provide answers to. But this February, I returned to the UK with 2 suitcases, having sold or given away everything else. I’d said my goodbyes well and left with many hugs and many tears.
Back ‘home’, the past 5 months have been a re-settling. It seemed God had everything planned, and I felt His hand in so many grace gifts – a time that could have been fraught with grief, conflicted emotions and pain has been painted with joy over and above all those. God has opened so many doors to me that only He could open: work, connections with Thai people locally, places of rest and life-giving relationships. One of these was the opportunity to continue serving with Pioneers UK as a Missions Mobiliser.
As part of this role I recently helped facilitate our Mission: Next orientation weekend. It was a time of stirring up zeal. To give a taster of the innovation and flexibility that characterise Pioneers, we watched video snapshots of how Pioneers teams around the world interpret ‘living out loud’, being contextual yet counter-cultural; accessible yet distinctive. We entered the subculture of skaters in Southeast Asia, and the church planting efforts by sacrificial families in remote Chad and closed Pakistan. When my Thai team’s video was played, it brought my two worlds crashing together and I was in pieces.
At that moment, I questioned this new start again for the thousandth time. Transition stress comes to us all with each new start. Although my personality seems to be well suited to the many and frequent transitions I’ve experienced (21 house moves; 7 country moves), major transitions take a toll. New starts are exciting, but angst isn’t. My passion for the unreached is as great as ever, my desire is for the day when all have an opportunity to hear, when worship rises to Creator God from every language and colour, age and ethnicity. I long to be a part of that – that greatest goal that any of us could give ourselves for, that great ingathering into the Kingdom of God, whatever the cost.
Yet I am just as sure that there is a season for everything, and sense God’s pleasure on this season of returning to my home culture. I know Him personally – this is not some contrived theological argument to make things okay, this is the deep seated peace that transcends my unanswered questions and frequently mixed emotions; this peace that passes understanding, it is real.
He tells me to trust my choice, too. He seems to be a great fan of this free-will thing. While I may wrangle and wrestle over the fear that I may somehow ‘miss it’ (the ‘it’ of His Will, or my Calling, as if it was a single red line through the tangle of choices that is life), Father seems to value my relationship with Him in this over and above anything I do for Him.
Never minimising the importance of a real faith that is lived out by works, He is rather calling me back simply to hear His heart first. And His heart is love. Loving acceptance of who I am, my desires, my choices.
“Live in the present,” He urges gently, insistently. “You hanker after your rose-tinted memories, or live in your dreams and fears of what may be next and after that and after that. But what about this moment? This, now, here, is precious to Me.” He knows my heart is to serve Him, to do for Him, to win for Him. But, He pushes deeper, “Will you be more excited about being with Me than doing things for Me?”
What about the need for harvesters? What about the unreached millions? He knows them each by name. He is passionate for each heart. Whatever part each of us play in His Story, He is pleased. Right now, for me this means praying zealously for those He has laid on my heart; sharing my passion with the Church and helping those who are also responding to His invitation to build the Kingdom, as they take steps to where He is leading.
But as pleased as He is with this, I believe He is already pleased before we begin. We are His children! Will we be abandoned in worship to Him, snatch glimpses of Him through our busy today and just enjoy His presence? Anything else is the outflow of that worship. And so I am re-learning Pioneers’ first core value – the value of passion for God, here, today.