What does love look like? It’s a question we have been asking amid challenges we have faced during the global pandemic. Love looks like something. What does it look like in our context? Love looks like stopping while driving a motorbike home in the rain to ask if a young lady walking needs a ride home. Love looks like taking her to her friend’s house for a quick moment and then to her home. Love looks like telling her about Jesus when she propositions you.
That rainy November night when we first met Nan, Jade displayed the love of Christ to her and started us on a journey of love that would take us more than 7,584 kilometers to express the love of God. The next day, Jade, Matt, Yai Tim and I all went to her home and shared with her about Jesus. Nan told us that day she had always believed there was a God who made the world, ever since she was a little girl, even when her mom told her there wasn’t a God. Nan prayed that day to invite Jesus into her life. She started coming to church and Bible study, and even went on an outreach with us around Christmas. It soon became evident, however, that Nan was struggling with addiction to drugs and unhealthy relationships. She said she wanted to be free, so we found a Christian drug rehab center that accepted women. It wasn’t easy to find. There was just one. 17 hours away by car, in a small town in the Chiang Rai province.
But you know, love looks like something. Love looks like Matt driving up the Chiang Rai to check out the rehab center before sending Nan. Love looks like making multiple trips into the city to help Nan prepare to go. Love looks like boarding a train with her up North, renting a car and driving her 166 kilometers, some of which was through hairpin turn upon hairpin turn mountainous roads, in hopes that she would find freedom and restoration from years of the ravages of sin and Satan. Before we boarded the train she said she had lied to us about other things before, but she didn’t lie about wanting to get free from drugs. She asked us if the grace of God was enough to make a bad person someone good and said she hoped she could learn what was good so she could teach others to walk in a good way. When we got to the center, we spent a little time settling her in before driving the 166 kilometers back through windy roads to the city of Chiang Mai to board a train to go back home.
Well… leaving drugs and an addicted, co-dependent lifestyle isn’t easy. Not even 24 hours after we got home, Matt got a call from the recovery center asking us to come get Nan. She had snuck out to get cigarettes. Matt was able to talk to her and the center gave her another chance but the next day, we got another call. She had snuck out again. Making the 18+ hour trip up to the North isn’t easy. We asked for a little time. The next day, we got a call saying that if we didn’t go get her they would put her on a bus home. Since we didn’t feel we could trust her to make it home, we packed a bag and jumped in the car and drove through the night. We didn’t have a plan B. The good news is God did. We reached out to some friends. They prayed. They scrambled. They helped us make connections. Not even twenty minutes before we were to pick her up in Chiang Rai, we spoke with a Thai pastor who was planning prior to the pandemic to open a Teen Challenge. He said it wasn’t open, but that if our girl was really committed to freedom, she could stay there with his staff and a couple of gals who were seeking healing from other issues in their lives. It didn’t sound too promising. But it was only twenty minutes from where we picked up Nan, so we decided to check it out.
They speak Thai (the first center spoke less Thai than they had let on and did the devotions, prayer and worship in Chinese). They have work they can teach her to do. There isn’t a lot of structure, nor is there really a lot of money to support her. But she had hope. When we first saw her that seemed lost. She slept better her first night there than she had at the other place. And after less than a full day she already had a stronger connection with the people there than she did at the other place. We bought her nicotine gum to help take the edge off while she breaks free from her addictions. We stayed in the North for a couple of days to see how it would go. It all seemed to be going well, so we said goodbye and headed home through the night. A day after we got home, Matt got a call that she had walked out with a bag of things and hadn’t been back. She is still in Chiang Rai, as far as we can tell, finding work, and running. But even if she makes her bed in the depths, He is there. And we, along with others in the church community, showed her what love looks like.
This story is a hard one to write because we always want someone to accept love extended. And when they don’t, it causes us pain because love is costly. It takes time, energy, money, and emotional resources. But the Father is with us in this pain. As I write this it is Good Friday. On that day love looked like the Father yielding His Son, His only Son as a sacrifice for sin. Love looks like Jesus, receiving the whipping that we deserved. Love looks like Jesus, bearing the sins of the World. Love looks like Jesus giving up his life in the most painful of deaths, that we might experience His life. His love makes ours look weak. And His love is still relentlessly pursuing. But humanity has the choice if we will accept or reject this love, just like Nan has the choice as to if she will accept or reject our love. The good news is, her story isn’t finished yet. Please keep praying for Nan. She is the Father’s diamond and if she will yield her life, she can experience His new life.
When love looks like something, it has the potential to impact the whole community. Nan’s family has seen a display of love through us and their hearts are softening to the gospel. Nan’s friend, Oh, has also reached out to us asking if we can help her get free from her drug addiction. Pray for these ones as well that the love of God would be displayed to them.