June 30, 2016 - Thailand
I’m finally back in the place where my heart was forever changed a few years ago.
Changed by what I saw, by what I experienced, by the beautiful people I met. Changed by the darkness I felt upon flying into the city, by the spiritual battleground surrounding the many temples and sex-prostituted streets. Changed by the love I received from my hosts and the women who are dying to be known and loved—by anyone, by someone, by Jesus. By the smiles from the street food vendors, and the unique and arroy mak mak (very delicious!) food they served us. I am forever changed by the way God broke my heart for these people who culturally and physically are very different from me - yet these people who, just like me, are broken and in need of a love that transforms lives beyond our wildest dreams. Because that’s what Jesus has done for me and I have hope he can do for anyone who is willing to receive it. I’m just a messenger here to proclaim that he is real through my very presence and actions because words wont get me very far. I barely know any Thai besides how to say, “I’m full.” And “Where is the bathroom?” The people I will encounter will likely not know very much English either.
I didn’t come bearing much besides three pairs of pants and four shirts. We were given a packing list so minimal it almost forces us to be reliant on our hosts. But that’s the whole point. I’m a privileged White American fashion design major. I have more than enough clothes; I don’t need anything from anyone. I don’t need help. I’m perfectly capable and able bodied. I’m independent to a fault! I have more than I’ll ever need in my life. Let me help others in their need. That’s what the Gospel is all about, right? That’s what we do on mission trips, right? We go. We do. We help. We fix. We preach. We pray. We pass out Bibles. And what do we receive in return? A sense of a job well done? Accomplishment? Pride? One more thing we can add to our resume? How does doing these things change us as people who are called to be in relationships with people? Relationships are a give AND take. Are we truly in relationship with someone if all we do is give?
No. I don’t think so.
And that’s why - despite my many complaints of only getting to bring three pairs of pants and four shirts for two whole months - we limit ourselves. Limit our belongings, our resources, and our independence. We limit ourselves so that we can also rely on those we came to serve. So they can serve us too - with an extra pair of pants or a shirt, by providing us with a meal or a place to stay.
I’m reminded of when Jesus sent out the 72 disciples to go heal people, cast out demons, and proclaim the good news. But instead of an extensive packing list, Jesus told them to take nothing for their journey except a walking stick and sandals. No food, no bag, no money, not even a change of clothes! Would you go on a missions trip with nothing? This was a missions trip without credit cards, matching team shirts, water filtration systems, and cellphones. Jesus knew how important it was for the disciples to strip themselves of the insular power of money, food, and extra clothes. Scott Bessenecker writes in The New Friars, “Their profound neediness was a gift, a gift that would force them to depend on the Father whom Jesus talked about and upon the generosity of the townspeople to who Jesus was sending them. Voluntary poverty was the best way Jesus knew how to move his followers into the arms of God and bind them to the needy people who would welcome them.”
And that is my hope for the next 5 weeks - that I can rely on my Thai hosts, and they on me. Together we can learn from each other what it means to love and fear God. I’ve left my wardrobe behind, which is pretty much my identity. I come bearing my three pairs of pants and my four shirts. I come bearing my cross. I don’t know what God has for me, my students, and the people we will come into relationship, but whatever it is, I know it will be good.
Written by Susie