Despite being in a small church, we’re so blessed to be supporting a handful of missionaries. Ever since I was 17, I made an effort to go for a mission trip at least once a year. As time passed, I began to question my intentions in going on short-term mission trips – was it to benefit my spiritual journey and reputation? To experience a spiritual high? Am I truly chasing after the heart of the Lord? It was only recently when I went back to Thailand on my second Serve Asia trip with Sattha that I learnt about the contrast between making converts versus making disciples, the importance of building relationships with the local churches and missionaries and also of adjusting to the culture and language of the country before extending our hands.
In the April of 2015, during a Christian fellowship session at university, there was an announcement about a 3-week sports missions trip called Sattha to Central Thailand. I remembered feeling as though the Spirit was tugging on my heart to say yes. After nights of prayers and contemplation I decided to sign up. However in the weeks before the trip, and even during the first few days I began to regret my decision to go.
“I can’t play football; I’m here alone and there’s so many people on the team..what if I can’t get along with them? I can’t even speak Thai…”
But things took an unexpected turn when I turned to God and presented to Him my worries, loneliness and inadequacy. Although the language barrier was a major struggle, it taught me to trust that He’s able even when the situation seems otherwise. I can recall a hot afternoon where we were at a school, the ladies in the team and I were sitting on the bleachers while supporting our Sattha football players as well as the home team. A quiet girl sat beside me, in contrast to the rest of the students who were cheering their lungs out, and I handed her a tract. Not knowing exactly what to do next, I hand-signalled her to read it out loud. Moments after she had read the tract, an image of a child praying on the last page caught her attention. Afterwards, our conversation consisted of a poor attempt at charades, and my lack of confidence that the non-verbal testimony I gave would be of any use to her. What happened next came like lightning – unexpected and alarming, she had agreed to be prayed for and wanted to know who Jesus is. Seconds after praying for her, a huge downpour came and everyone had to be evacuated. We were told that the rain hadn’t come for months and Thailand was experiencing a harsh dry season that year, and after the rain subsided, the school felt grateful as they believed that the Sattha International Team brought the rain with us. And that gave us a wonderful opportunity to share about the great God we have that brings rain and in whom belongs all glory. The incident with the young girl and the rain convinced me that it is Christ that enables us, it is through Him that we’re able to do good works, and as we serve Him, our focus shouldn’t lie solely on our ability, but our availability. For we can’t, but He can.
“Such is confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” – 2 Corinthians 3:4-6
July this year, during the last few days of my second Sattha, one of our team leaders asked a question during a time of debriefing, “If we could use one word to describe the team this year, what would it be?” And someone replied, “United”. Too often, I find myself more comfortable doing things my way and passively insisting that others should as well. Nevertheless, God loves us too much to leave us where we’re at, so as the spirit guided us in the study of Ephesians this year, I pleaded guilty and turned to God for repentance.
“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.” – Ephesians 4:1-3
Pride was the root of the problem, the very reason man turned against God, wanting to be god themselves. However, through His grace and sanctification, I’ve learnt and still am learning to bear the fruit that opposes pride itself – humility. At first, a football ministry seemed like an unlikely scenario to grasp the picture of unity, but it taught me to see things in a whole new perspective. Being involved in the sideline ministry where we prepare the tracts, are available to help or run errands when needed, and get to know the students and teachers during the matches. Furthermore, being able to witness how football itself was a tool to evangelise. As we partnered with the local churches and christians to reach out to the schools, I begin to understand why we need them as much as they need us. Someone gave a brilliant analogy – picturing us as a can opener for the local churches in Thailand to raise awareness and to create opportunities for follow-ups. Hence, it all adds up to the seriousness of having unity in the church of Christ – that we need each other, like body parts needing each other, to function, and with Christ being the head. I’ve learnt that we’re all equipped differently for a single purpose.
“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 12:12
As humans, our basic survival needs are water, air and food. When it comes to knowing God and spending time with Him, how strong of a need is that? We’ve also been taught that different people groups have different needs, which calls for different approaches in spreading the gospel and so on, so forth. Growing up in an urban context where our basic needs are met almost instantly is a complete contrast to a rural setting where food and water might be scarce. I very much appreciated the Sattha trainings we had and the nightly team meetings where we were orientated and reminded where the needs of the Thai people lie, and importantly, how we can bridge culture effectively to meet their needs and guide them in seeing the need to know Christ.
“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” – James 2:14-17
My heart is filled with extreme gratitude to Christ for the past 3 years in experiencing His blessings and teachings through short-term mission trips. In being able to know more who God is and His purpose for us; the way His Word is revealed, the significance of prayer, and the urgency of equipping workers for the harvest. The verses below have been an inspiration, and what I based this blog post on. They remind us that in all that we do, we do it for His glory. As seen in the book of Joshua, the same God in the past, present and future is being glorified, and that He’s the same King that delivers. For He is a God that keeps His promises and makes all the impossible, possible!
“At that time Joshua spoke to the Lord in the day when the Lord gave the Amorites over to the sons of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel,
“Sun, stand still at Gibeon, and moon, in the Valley of Aijalon.
And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, until the nation took vengeance on their enemies.” – Joshua 10:12-13
Recently, after coming back from my second Sattha trip, I felt that God had spoken to me in many beautiful ways during my time in Thailand, in regards to missions, serving Him as a body of Christ, humbling our hearts as we deny ourselves, and coming to Him in need. In respect to my desire to make His name known and working with children in a cross-cultural setting, I’ve made plans to take a degree in Intercultural Studies with a minor in Children’s ministry/education in a Bible College, and God-willing, I will also be able to gain some work experience before entering full-time ministry.
Written by Tricia – Serve Asia short-term worker.
Interested in finding out more about short-term sports ministry opportunities?
Search the OMF Opportunities site for other Serve Asia sports mission trips across East Asia.