“Missions doesn’t change them as much as it changes you,” Jeremiah told me over a cup of Higher Grounds coffee one cold day in January a couple of years ago. I wasn’t convinced. I went to Thailand with lofty dreams of changing the nation, or at least the city of Pattaya, one life at a time. I expected that Jesus would use me to make a big impact on them.
And He did. Tourists encountered Jesus. Ladyboys were loved into a place of greater wholeness. Children were kissed and cuddled and affirmed in their identity. Prostitutes met Grace. My life got wrecked.
For six months, I saw there was another way. God had a means of drawing people to Himself that was so far superior to what I had known before. He’d whisper his kindness to the broken and shout it to the hard-hearted. Once they came to Him, He was able to work out their salvation… they didn’t need to examine themselves to see what needed to change. The Holy One who gave them His righteousness was faithful to walk them into holiness manifesting in their lives. Gently. In His timing. In His way. He did it all with or without me. Sometimes in spite of me. He didn’t really need me like I thought He did. No… He chose me as a partner in ministry just because He wanted to share it with me. He wanted me to know the bliss of partnering with Him in joy.
Prayer meetings became a time of dreaming with Him. Each Friday, I’d walk Soi 6 and see His dreams for the people and the street. He’d show me the beauty that was hiding beneath the surface and declare beauty – as though all the ugliness had already melted away. It was as though He didn’t see the dark at all… He saw only lovely.
Corporate prayer was a partnership of joy… people came because they wanted to pray. No one made them pray or said that they should. Each person would lift their voice to the Lord together in prayer… no single voice resounded louder in the heavens than another and so no single voice resounded louder on earth than another.
Church was a place of sweet fellowship. People came just as they were and no one demanded that they change but loved them patiently until they wanted to. Prostitutes would share testimonies of God giving them clients. No one was shocked by their naiveté, but thanked God for the provision with them, while trusting that God would work out the kinks. Break dancers would spin on their heads during worship, as if that was the most acceptable form of worship there could be. Kids would run around laughing and shrieking during worship and the message. Prostitutes would cry. Ladyboys would raise their hands in abandonment to Jesus. And we would all feel His pleasure.
And then someone dared to put words around this crazy grace that I had been encountering. She talked about how we were crucified with Christ. Where we He died, we died. When He was buried, we were buried. When He rose, we rose with Him. Where He is seated at the right hand of the Father, is right were we are seated. And all that He’d been putting on display suddenly made sense. And I was wrecked because Grace had been made manifest.
It’s been seven months since I’ve come home now. Grace is slowly being made more manifest in my heart. It’s turned everything upside down and inside out. I understand the cross in a whole new light now and it’s beginning to impact how I see everything. I guess my acquaintance Jeremiah was like his namesake, the prophet, after all. Missions made a mark on me. It opened my eyes to see that it was all about grace all along. The saints were home before we started.
I was home before I started.