The eye-opening reality of being sent, from everywhere to everywhere

Posted on January 7, 2012 by VMMissions Staff

As the boat cut through the grey water of Lake Toba, the stiff breeze slapped our faces awake. It was 7:00 am and the volcanic sides of the Northern Sumatran crater were still shrouded in morning mists. It occurred to me that my two Thai friends might need that chilling wind in their faces to remind them that they weren’t dreaming. How could it be that they were here, soaking in this spectacular sight? Who could imagine that they, two farm women, would spend a week in Sumatra, rubbing shoulders with enthusiastic believers from 15 different countries? With confidence, clarity, and conviction, Joy and Mother Khong had shared the vision they carry for what God wants to do through them as church in Northeast Thailand. The men listened to them! What an honor!

This was our first opportunity to be part of the “International Missions Association,” an affiliation of friends who carry threads of missional connection with each other and with recently retired EMM president, Richard Showalter. Mother Khong disarmed everyone with her ready hugs. She abandoned the reserved Thai “wai,” insisting on her preference for the affectionate American practice. I was delighted to see these ladies acquiesce so deftly to cultural challenges in our Indonesian host family. Without any sign of complaint, they ate the breakfast that was provided (milk and toast) while our hosts ate rice and fried fish in the kitchen. Halfway through the week, they managed to politely communicate that they would be more than happy to eat the “regular fare.” Happy indeed; they detest milk!

It was an eye-opening week for me. I learned that the Sumatran Mennonite churches are known for being loving communities who care about reaching out. The logistics of this international meeting had been handled almost entirely by young adults who are being trained in outreach and service within the churches. One after another, these young adults shared with us their sense of call to serve cross-culturally. For ten years, Lianta, to her parent’s chagrin, has treasured a call to be God’s witness in Tibet. They say, “Why don’t you let us find you a husband?” Mae, who recently returned from serving among Indonesian workers in Hong Kong, has a heart for Muslims in northern China. Ria served in Ache and is now turning her eyes to North India. We met a young man who greeted us in halting Lao; he has been studying language in Vientiane, and is trusting God to keep the door open for him there. Another couple questioned me about Cambodia. “How can we serve?” they asked.

I can hardly wrap my head around the irony that God calls these passionate young people, themselves from one of the largest concentrations of the world’s least reached, to go…somewhere else! Is this madness? And is there a method to this madness?

The madness, I realize, is what is called “missional impulse.” Far more than youthful imagination, it is something that originates in the very heart of God who sees the brokenness of the world he made, who hears the anguished cries of complaint, who responds by coming as love personified, and who draws us into the story by sending us out with a brave invitation meant for everyone the world over: to look to Jesus for salvation.

As to the method? It is beyond what my small human mind can appreciate. There’s nothing pragmatic or popular about this sense of being sent. It will express itself here, there and everywhere; apparently, healthy followers of Jesus all suffer the same disturbing malady! I found myself asking, “What can I learn from this picture? How can I welcome and cooperate with this wonderful confusion?”

As we headed home across the lake that morning, to the wonder of the other sleepy-eyed passengers, my Thai friends were unabashedly singing out their praise in perfect synchrony with the exceptional beauty surrounding us:

Do come! Do come! Take hold of Jesus!
This One of unsurpassed value
He gave His very life for us
Committing His spirit to the Father
Whenever we feel alone or abandoned
He is there to help
He’s not slow to respond.*

(* translated from Thai)



The gathered group in Indonesia, representing 15 nations. Can you find me and the Thai women (note: Joy is showing her Thai manners by sitting on the floor!) Photos by Javier Soler



Joy and Mother Khong giving thanks for the meal they are about to receive in this crowded Sumatran restaurant.

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