Four years ago?! What?
I remember it like it was yesterday. It was just a few months earlier that I decided to sign up for this Serve Asia internship called Sattha International. It was a one-month mission trip in Thailand, using football to build relationships with the Thai people and share the gospel.
I grew up in the church but never really knew a lot about mission. What was mission even? It was a term I used to hear from older people in my church in Belgium. But to me, it was nothing more than this vague concept.
Little did I know that I would step into this “mission world” a few years later and discover mission was actually something understandable, colorful and beautiful, something I could be a part of.
I was in my first year of college, and I wasn’t quite sure if this was really what I wanted to do… I asked God and that same week I got a flyer in my mailbox with an advertisement about Sattha International. It said: “Looking for sporty youths to come and join our soccer team in Thailand.” Soccer? I was interested. I played soccer myself and so this offer sounded very attractive. I prayed about it and, still with a bit of a scared heart, I decided to sign up and see what would happen.
It didn’t take long and the next thing I knew I had I received an email back from the office that I was accepted.
A few months later I found myself standing at the airport, ready to take off to Thailand.
Suddenly this fear came over me. I found myself questioning everything… What was I doing? I was so nervous, my heart was beating so fast that I couldn’t help but cry out loud when I had to say goodbye to my family. What the heck was I even thinking? Going to this far away country all by myself? Not knowing anything or anyone. I’d never even been on an airplane before… I barely spoke a word of English… This was just a big disaster.
I tried to keep myself together as I said goodbye and passed through security, telling myself to be strong and that it would be fine. It hit me so hard. This was the biggest step I had ever taken, and it was into the unknown. All kinds of uncertainties and questions started to attack my thoughts. This was a step of faith where only God could have taken me…
God, please help me! I couldn’t do anything else than to cry out to him. After all, it was just me and him now…
I found my gate and I could finally sit down and release the travel stress I was feeling. As I was sitting there all alone I got a text from my brother. He encouraged me and cheered me on! Then I heard a voice on the intercom: “Passengers may now start boarding.” So I took my boarding pass and went on the hunt for my seat. I had the middle seat. On the left a Frenchman and on the right a Thai.
We greeted each other and funnily enough, we started chatting. It turned out he lived in Bangkok. As we were talking, I realized that my English speaking wasn’t all a big disaster. It was very basic, yes, but I could at least help myself out.
From that moment on, God’s presence was so evident. Like he was saying: “Don’t worry child, I’ve got you! I see you and I go with you. There is no need to be fearful. I am right here. I will take care of you and hold you by your hand. My peace is all you need, for in your weakness, I can be strong”. And indeed at that moment I felt at complete peace. He was taking care of me and I knew he had a plan.
In the next month, I felt his presence closer than I ever did before. I ended up with the most amazing team, surrounded by beautiful smiles of all those small children and made lifelong friendships. But most of all, I got to meet Jesus on a very personal level. On this trip, he became so real to me. Closer than a friend. Although I went to serve the Thai people, I felt I was the one who was served. And not just by anyone, no, by the creator of the universe! He called me his own and was revealing himself to me. Inviting me into his presence and into a lifelong adventure together.
Through my experience in Thailand, what I had heard from others about mission became now a reality. Just the head knowledge about missions wasn’t enough for me. It left me untouched. I had thought it was somehow this special calling for only those who were strong enough to leave everything behind and move to a far-off land. My idea about missions wasn’t really accurate, I had no idea. Now I realize, we are all called to be missionaries. We are all called to be a part of the great commission to share the good news of Jesus with the world. Whether that is overseas or just the town you grew up in. It doesn’t matter where it is because God can use us everywhere. It is not hard to find people. Your co-worker might need Jesus as much as the orphan child does in the slums.
Back then I didn’t understand. I needed something more. It’s the same as with my relationship with Jesus. I can know a lot about him. I can know all the historical facts and dates and be inspired by the way he lived his life, I can even see him as an inspiration for my own life, but does that mean I personally know him? Does that mean I have a close relationship with him? Mmm… There is a difference between knowing about someone, mainly with the head, or really knowing with the heart. And so it was with missions as well.
For me, something had to sink deeper. From the head to the heart. I needed experiential knowledge. It’s the encounter that transforms us. It’s the very personal touch with Jesus that leaves us speechless. It was the love of God that brought me to tears, knowing I was sinful and needed a savior. It was the smile on those Thai children’s faces that brought a change in my heart.
With head knowledge alone, I would never have left my couch. But through a personal touch of God’s perfect love for me, I jumped out of my seat full of joy and excitement. Why? Because this love was worth it all. Others needed to experience this abundance and freedom that is offered in Jesus Christ.
Now I look back four years later, and I am still so grateful that I took that step in faith and went. A whole new journey opened up for me and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Let’s do it again Jesus! Where to next?
Serve Asia Worker