What is the same about building a building and the life of a new missionary?
Over the last couple of years it has been interesting to observe the similarities of the building process of the new Lopburi Learning Centre and the lives of new missionaries.
The process for both started with prayer, allowing God to inspire and lead and exploring how this thing could come into being.
The next step in both was the all-important preparatory work. For new missionaries this may be training, partnership development and other practical preparations. For the building process it was designing the building, obtaining permissions from the relevant authorities, putting out to tender and choosing a contractor.
And then the day that everyone was waiting for arrived! The breaking of the ground for the building and stepping out of the plane onto Thai soil for the new missionary. The day for both where this actually became a reality.
But then, much of the initial phase happened underground and unseen. For the new worker there is learning about Thai culture, how to live in Thailand and putting in a solid base in understanding and using Thai language. Many hours are spent bending their mouths and tongues to make shapes and sounds that they have never made before in order to have clear and accurate pronunciation. Many hours spent learning vocabulary lists in order to be able to use the appropriate words. For the building process it was when the builders dug deep into the ground to lay the foundations. The part of the building that is never seen but without which the building would collapse.
And then, the building started to emerge above ground. Initially just the key parts of the structure. But it could be seen. The excitement that was felt as you could see it taking shape and being able to imagine what it would look like when it was completed can parallel the experience of a new worker as they understand something without having to ask for it to be repeated or when they are able to share something using the correct words and sentence structure and are understood by the Thais that they are speaking with.
With each phase of the building a new detail was added. The roof, the windows, the electrics, the plumbing. This reflects each layer that goes into a new missionary learning to live and minister in Thailand. That new layer of informal vocabulary, understanding and using a Thai idiom, doing something in a Thai way becoming the natural way to do that thing.
And then came the day that all had been waiting for. The first day of classes in the new building. The new Lopburi Learning Centre was ready for use. There was an excitement and thrill as language helpers went into their new classrooms and as learners chose their desks in the study rooms. There was the joy of the first classes in the new building and then a new rhythm of life and learning becoming routine. And then, for the new missionary the day that they have been preparing for has arrived. The day when they move to another part of the country where they will be living and ministering for the foreseeable future. There is a joy as they make contacts in their new communities and are able to converse in Thai and get to know their new Thai friends. There is a joy as they are able to share on a spiritual level with both seekers and believers. There is a joy in seeing people growing in their understanding of God and in their walk with God.`