Call to Prayer: Sowing Seeds in the Dust
Posted on September 11, 2023 by Jon Trotter
It’s a lot easier to pray when we’re buoyed by seeing tangible results! And yet, so often, the results we seek are not immediate, nor the kind of results we imagined.
The good news of Jesus has been proclaimed in Thailand for nearly 200 years. Many gospel seeds have been sown. Many prayers have been prayed. Many lives have been poured out for the sake of the gospel in this nation. And at present, less than 1% of the population are followers of Jesus. In Isaan, the northeast region of Thailand where we serve, it is estimated that only 0.2% of the population is Christian.
So when I pray for Isaan, though I have hope, it is often easy to have pretty low expectations for the results.
VMMissions worker Steve Horst led the prayer team and LEC members in worship, including singing “How Great Thou Art” in Thai and English simultaneously. Photo courtesy of Sarah Schoenhals
Last fall, a prayer and vision team from VMMissions, Eastern Mennonite Missions, and the Philippines joined us in Isaan for about a week. As we prayed online together leading up to this trip, one person shared a devotional on the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 17: “Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops” (James 5:17-18 NIV).
The devotional writer observed, “This implies that the farmers were willing to sow seeds in the dust while there was no rain, believing that one day the rain would come.” (Lectio 365, October 18, 2022). This image encouraged the prayer team to press on, through prayer, even when tangible results aren’t yet clear, believing that God will still produce a crop in his way and time.
Once the team was on-site in Isaan, we had opportunities to pray together with Life Enrichment Church (LEC), with whom our family serves. Encouraged by teaching from Michael Hershey on listening in prayer, we took time to be quiet and listen to God before heading out for some on-location prayer times with LEC.
After quietly listening, we shared the words, images and feelings the Lord brought to mind. One LEC leader shared a mental picture that emerged for him, of dry fields where things began to grow. During a prayer drive one of the missionary kids similarly shared the idea that came to her mind: rain pouring down on dry ground to make seeds grow—and the rain was God’s love. Neither the LEC leader nor the missionary child had been a part of the team’s previous prayer time, nor did they know about the dry ground image that had so impressed us. God was speaking the same thing to different ones of us!
Mission workers in Thailand and some members of the prayer team planted a tree at the end of the trip as a symbol of hope for what God is going to grow. Photo courtesy of Sarah Schoenhals.
As we returned from one of our prayer drives with LEC, God again surprised us when it began to rain…during a time of year when there is usually no rain, and a rainbow appeared.
I resonate with the conclusion of the devotional writer: “Prayer sometimes can feel like this—as if I’m sowing seeds in the dust. Physically, it feels as if nothing is happening, but in fact that’s not the case spiritually. I want to have seeds in the ground when the rain comes.” We give thanks for the work God is doing in Isaan, both seen and unseen. Join us in persevering in prayer for God’s kingdom to come, God’s will to be done, in Isaan—and whatever places the Lord lays on your heart—as it is in heaven.