A harvest in the hard places
Posted on February 7, 2019 by Jon Trotter
Workers in Asia and Europe share stories of potential harvests in difficult soil, and of immense needs. Is God inviting you to serve?
A muddy dirt track leads to a Rohingya family’s home. They are a stateless people in Myanmar who have been persecuted, with many escaping into refugee camps in a neighboring country. Photo courtesy of Ann
Two million persecuted, stateless souls: opportunities among the Rohingya
By Ann, a worker in South Asia (name changed)
Jesus exhorted his disciples to open their eyes and see the fields! I found it hard to look up and see the fields as I plowed through deep yellow mud on my way to visit a Rohingya family. They had found haven in a neighboring country some years ago. They settled, bought land, and tried to become Bengali. Their situation is far brighter than those who have come more recently as a result of the brazen and brutal ethnic cleansing going on across the border in Myanmar. Villages burned, women raped, two million people sent scrambling.
With one hand I held my toddler, with the other, my flip-flops. My bag was slung heavily over my shoulder. I wondered, “If I slip in the mud, will my hosts give me new clothes to wear or will I go home wet?” My worries suddenly evaporated in the hot sun; the giggles got me. Our hosts stood at their gate, cheering us on, saying that the worst of the mud was almost over!
After a good wash off, greetings, and a tour of their brick home, our hosts set to making coconut noodles for us. My older son took his camera to look for birds in their garden. “Lord, what is your desire for this lovely family?” Aware of the vulnerability of their situation, they don’t even say the word Rohingya. To do so would land them into the refugee camps just three miles away.
After enjoying the sweets, the ladies asked me questions and naturally conversation turned to the gospel. “Why does being good not get us to heaven? Is anyone ever good enough? What does is mean that God is just and loving? And why did Jesus have to die on the cross?” The women came closer, spoke more animatedly; they followed my words with sighs and questions. The conversation took all my years of language study, knowledge of the Quran, and insights of other wiser workers. It was utterly fulfilling to share of Jesus. We left with promises to return. The ladies said that they would read and think about all that was said.
Squashing through mud on the way back, I looked about at the tiny valley between the hills, the fields so very fertile. “Who will come harvest here? Who will put in the years of work necessary to communicate the gospel in way that woos their hearts? These two million state-less people are looking for a place to belong. Who will show them what that belonging looks like and tell them about the King who welcomes them as beloved citizens in his forever Kingdom?”
Pray: Ask the Lord to send workers to devote themselves to the two million Rohingya, who have yet to access to the scriptures in their own language.
Go: Teachers, medical workers, and community development workers are all needed. Consider if your skills enable God to use you in this context.
Glimmers from the land of rice
By Mark Schoenhals and Bethany Horst, workers in Thailand
“If there is a lesson to learn, it is that we must ask God for the eyes of faith when looking at bleak circumstances. We must pray for and expect miracles.” —Bethany Tobin
Last week an elderly believer told Mark of a dream in which she saw the rice fields ripe with a bountiful harvest. The harvest was so good that even though there were many workers, the work was just too much. This grandmother’s back ached and her heart was pained as she stood and looked at the fields, wishing that more of the harvest could be brought in. We and others in this region can testify that we have been seeing sparks of the reality of this vision. The harvest truly is plentiful. There just are not enough workers to reach the more than 99% of the population who do not yet know Jesus.
The needs here in Thailand, as with every place in the world, are intimidating. Thailand was just rated the number one place in the world for wealth inequality. Sexual brokenness, alcohol abuse, drug addiction and neglect are things we see around us in the lives of families every day. To see stable leaders with the character to sustain ministry emerging from this context of profound dysfunction is no small thing. We see many falter and fail.
But the harvest is indeed ripe. Last week, a neighbor, a woman whose husband recently found us and proclaimed his desire for freedom from alcohol, said to Bethany, weeping, “If you hadn’t come, nothing would ever have changed for me.”
Specifically, Life Enrichment Church is asking for workers to come and help develop teachers and programs to reach the lost generation of children, youth, and young adults. This involves breaking into the muddiness of dysfunctional family and social structures; it means working to unmask injustice. It requires spiritual eyes and stamina to see God’s Kingdom coming, transforming a people, one person at a time.
Looking out of our windows on these warm afternoon, we see the stubble of rice fields and drying stalks under a blue sky. While harvesting rice, our town residents also pulled in another kind of harvest – locust-like bugs that were spawning and enjoying the ripening grain. We were surprised to find that the toasted or fried bugs paired perfectly with spicy papaya salad and sticky rice!
As we think about Isaan people harvesting the very bugs that were eating their rice crop, we can’t but ask, “Lord, is this a picture of what you are doing here? Will you turn our wounds into testimony and this brokenness into bread that tells of your power and presence? Lord, who will you call to come and join in the harvest in Isaan, Thailand?”
Pray: Ask God to call people to step forward into this long-term call.
Give: Invest in long-term workers who are already serving here.
Go: Explore a call by participating in a short-term assignment:
- Serve in Bangkok—immerse yourself in a 9-12 month team experience, language and cultural learning, missional discipleship and community engagement on the city outskirts. (This can be preparation for longer-term assignment with the young adults of Life Enrichment Church.)
- Serve as a child care/homeschool helper in the home of a worker family. (Up to one year; 2 positions open)
Seeds sprouting on rocky ground
By Steve and Laura Campbell, workers in Montenegro
In a prayer meeting recently, one person had a vision of harvest coming, of the gospel about to break loose; and yet, there was a lack of disciple-makers. Evidently, the Lord is answering our prayers, by not only sending workers, but by moving Montenegrins to encounter Jesus, despite having no one to connect with them! We have heard—since September—five separate accounts of evangelicals coming across a Montenegrin who is a believer in Jesus, but who has not known that there are options other than the Orthodox Church.
The testimonies sound similarly fantastic, something along these lines: “I started to think about God and found a Bible. I started to read and got more interested, so I made searches on the internet and found sermons. Then I read more of the Bible, and now I know Jesus as my Lord and Savior.”
Pray: Join Steve and Laura in praying that workers would meet up with these “people of peace” within whom God has already been working.