In recent years I have begun to have the desire to be able to grow and maintain flowers. I have always suffered from the dreaded disease, "black-thumbitis". After a recent move I decided I was going to give it another go. I lived in an apartments with 5 tiny balconies (this is common where we live). I wanted as many balconies as possible to be spilling over with healthy blooms but I also have always dreamed of having some kind of flower that would climb and intertwine itself around some surface of my house. For the last year and a half I had managed to keep almost all my plants alive, a personal best for me! However, I had yet to see my big goal of intertwining blooms come true. This was something I had desired, worked for and anticipated. I saw the beginnings and potential in certain plants but none had made the leap.
7 years ago my husband and I boarded a plane with 22 bags and flew over the pond to the little country that has been our home for the last many years. We were young and full of vision. However clueless about how to work and be effective in this heathen land who knew virtually nothing about Christ or his sacrifice and love for them. We trudged on through many months and evn a year or two or thee of confusion and learning. We yearned to see people come to Christ. We were deeply burdened to see a church planted and grounded to be a lighthouse for many years to come. But we knew as little about this culture as I did about planting flowers!
We heard a lot of things by a lot of people about how to be successful but what began to be clear after some time was this, "The BIBLE works everywhere! And, knowledge and understanding comes from ministering and loving! And faithfulness is the key." So we dug in. We dug into the Bible and we kept our eyes peeled to minister and witness to anyone the Lord allowed. After we spent time with some of the Nationals and began understanding better how little they knew about Christ we poured over the Bible with new eyes; The eyes of someone who thought sin was killing an insect, the eyes of someone who thought there was hundreds of lifetimes for each person, the eyes of someone who believed in millions of gods, the eyes of someone whose god has never listened or heard them, the eyes of someone who had barely known true love and acceptance in their life.
What did we find? We found the same salvation plan. We found the same stories of Christ. We found all that we had ever known and been taught BUT we learned to remember more of the details and doctrine of what those passages possessed and how to teach it in depth to someone who needed it at a simplistic level. We didn't find a new path, we didn't find that Christ and the Bible wouldn't work in a heathen land. What we found was that, we as the witnesser must know more than 5 verses and the bullet points of salvation. We had to KNOW our Bible and we had to be able to take that knowledge, bath it in prayer and give it in the simple manner it was intended and beyond anything else TRUST that Christ was doing a work in their hearts. TRUST the verses that say that His "...word is a sword", that "...His word will not return void", that it is " ...not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect." Through the truth and wisdom of the Bible God made so many things clear and the fruit began to come.
So we plugged on. Truth was clear but converts were still slow. For many realization and understanding came but pull of family and cultured triumphed. There were low times and discouragement rose its ugly head on a frequent basis but God from the beginning taught us to find joy in him not in our perceived success or the complete fulfillment of our mission but in Him. We learned to not seek joy in fame, glamour or prestige but in the knowledge that He was near and we were close beyond following to the best of our ability. We began to find joy in more than just souls saved and ministry triumphs, although those were precious and sweet. We learned to find joy in his ever faithful provision, love and guidance. We found joy in praying for moments to insert the gospel whenever possible and seeing God dump so many in our laps. We found joy in the baby steps people took towards salvation. We found joy in those who had accepted Christ toddling toward spiritual maturity. We found joy in daily answered prayer as he guided and provided for us in this challenging land. We found that joy could be had amidst trials, challenges and innumerable frustrations. Because those things don't change the Lord! And in Him is where real joy can always be found.
After a year and a half God lead my husband to start Himal Baptist Church. We were still so new. We still had so much to learn but God said, "Quit giving excuses and Do it!". So we plunged in. We plunged into services. While so many days were just us and another missionary the ground work was being set. Just as I went to the nursery and bought my baby plants that I had to take home and DAILY water and care for to blossom. The watering and planting was happening. For the next five years we watered and planted and watered and planted and watered and planted. You get the idea. There was a lot of watering and planting. Joyous and miraculous salvations came and the church was started but would it grow? Would it remain? Would it one day independently go on for Christ and the community?
We didn't know the answers to all the questions but we trucked on. We poured our hearts and lives into those few we had. We witnessed, discipled, loved, trained and prayed. We sat with them, prayed with them and not to mention the constant language learning marathon. Being with them, loving them, explaining the Bible to them, teach them to read and depend on the Bible for themselves is where our true culture understanding came from. As we served with them it began clearer and clearer how to better serve them. The wonderful circle of life that books can't give. They brought their problems to Christ and we prayed over them and they saw Him answer and provide! They saw He was the greatest provider and comforter! Their faith grew. People began to not only be faithful and reach out on their own to their community. They were owning this church. They were owning their Christianity. It wasn't fully dependent on us anymore. They were taking positions in the church and serving. They weren't just toddling anymore many were maturing and walking on their own. The dream was happening! It didn't feel fulfilled but the potential and beginnings were there.
Just around the 7 year mark we were on a short vacation getting rested and refueled when God began to shake up our hearts and lives. He began to move and work in my husbands heart about needing to take the next step in our ministry. The dreaded thought came banging on our hearts, were we done in Nepal??? The answer began to slowly develop that we were but doubts banged on our hearts.
"We just started seeing progress"
"We were just getting truly fluent in the language"
"We were independently running the church without national assistance."
"Our kids loved it there and can communicate in the language."
Our flowers were beginning to bloom. What would they do without us???
But as the Lord does, he continued to urge us to trust Him and not give space to the doubts that the Devil loves to use to keep us from growth. So we conintued to pray and trust the Lord for guidance. As He always does he gave clarity and confidence that now was the time to move to the next step. Now was the time to start our next church for the people we are called to but it wasn't down the road or an hour away in the next town. It was all the way across the globe in the booming city of Toronto. This kind of news is life shaking and takes time to settle into your heart. All we have ever known in ministry is our little country in Southeast Asia.
But in faith we flew back to back up our bags and sell everything we have owned for the last years. Every part of this section of our life would need to be put up for sale and sold to one of the fifty or sixty people that would trail through our Home in the next five weeks. From the sheets, to the furniture, towels and toys; all but the most precious had to go. As we arrived back at our house we walked through to check on everything. I walked out on my bedroom balcony to see the unbelievable!! My dream and goal had happened. In my abscence, my fledgling flowers had taken over the bannister and had intertwined intself many times over in the rails of the balcony. I couldn't believe my eyes. In this moment of wonder and excitement was a pang of sadness. My goal had come true but only for me to have to leave it behind. As silly as it sounds, I was sad. Would it live on? Would anyone care what it had taken to get it to this point? Was it worth it? And at the same time the painful correlation this flower had to my own life popped into my mind.
Just like those flowers blooming and climbing, our dream of building a faithful church had come. It was there tip toeing on the edge of independence but blooming as it did. Our life's work, Our heart; was about to be left behind. Would it live on? Would anyone care what it took to get to this point? Was it worth it? Unlike the flower, I knew someone did care. The Lord. He is ever watchful of all of his children; The shepherd and the sheep. He would care for each of us if we all continued to follow his leading. It may hurt, it may take some adjustment, it may not be what we had in mind but it will be beautiful and bring the Lord glory if we trusted Him each step and follow in faith to the next step.
Why do we have to leave when things begin to bloom? Why can't we be comfortable and enjoy the beauty? Because God has a mission. He has a wonderful plan for our growth and the furtherance of the gospel and we get to be a part of it. If we are willing we can see it bloom all over the world and not just in one small corner.
So with a tearful goodbye, we say farewell to Asia as our home. Although we will visit frequently, we trust and boldly take the next step of faith and growth. Please pray with us as we proceed. Let us all press in in the faith!