As the window draws closer to a close on 2011, I reflect on a challenging year while I enjoy a season of blessing at this time.
The year began with our return to Thailand for our 2nd term of service, after a wonderful furlough time in Australia. On the flight over as I listened to God, He said to me we would experience change, challenges and new things in this term. That has certainly being the case!
February to April - 'settling back in and new fruit'
After working 'flat out like a lizard drinking' to get paperwork in for our new work permit, visa and Samut Prakan branch office of our Foundation, God directed us back to live in the same neighbourhood which we had left 6 months beforehand. We praised God to see that the new believers (in our local slum community) from earlier last year were still following Jesus and growing. We marveled at the Grace of God in then bringing more people to follow Jesus , together with His abundant provision for our needs.
May to August - 'hitting a wall'
I 'hit a wall' with the contraction of Dengue Fever in early May, which put me out of the action for at least one month. As I lay everyday in my bed, too exhausted to even walk down the stairs I reflected on the Grace and Sovereignty of God for me - that this ministry is not about what I do, but it is about HOW God works in His timing and for His Glory. As I cried for release from the intense back and stomach pains and begged God to take me either back to Australia or to Heaven, His quiet still voice spoke and reminded me why He had called me here to Thailand. I remained depressed, however, for a few months.
Work in our larger slum community also 'hit a wall' and we even toyed with the idea of throwing the work in this community away. I was tired and depressed, not only from Dengue Fever but from the heat and humidity and the fresh new discouragements in the ministry. After complaining to God He challenged me to 'run with the horses' in much the same way as He challenged Jeremiah in Jeremiah 12:5. God then showed me to persist by still providing encouragement for us in the fruit from our local slum community (different community from the larger discouraging community mentioned above). He also used an overseas friend on Facebook (whom I have never met face to face to encourage me with these words "I know you long to be full speed. I also know Isaiah 40:31 is woven tightly into the fabric of your soul" .... God was calling me to rest and retreat more in Him.
Picture - labour of love: building a new house for a Believer in the larger slum community after it was eaten by termites
September to mid October - 'consolidation and new direction'
I began to feel the worst of Dengue was now behind me. God took me into a retreat period when I spent a few weeks seeking His Face on future direction in my life and ministry - first at a leadership training retreat and then on a personal retreat in the lead-up to my 50th birthday. During this time I also completed my autobiography "Saved from the Fowler's Snare", which I am praying about releasing next year.
God produced more fruit in the ministry and started to consolidate the house church plant in our local slum community to provide encouragement for our souls.
late October to now - 'a season of blessing'
God poured His blessing out by gifting me with my first grandchild (a son to Karis and Noom) - 6 days before my 50th birthday! This fulfilled a promise God gave me at the age of 18 years old, that I would be a grandparent before I reached 50 years.
God also spoke clearly into the ministry with a new direction of discipling and training the emerging group of new Thai believers with our vision to reach all Slum Communities in Samut Prakan with the Good News. Again, we saw more new fruit as God brought people to Himself. Despite the immense challenges training new leaders was presenting, God began clearly leading in this way!
Despite the horrific damage caused by the Great Flood of 2011, God used this occasion to bless the Thai church by giving them an opportunity to be the 'hands and feet of Jesus'. We were very blessed by the generosity from friends back in Australia to our Flood Relief Fund.
One of the greatest blessings of all was the opportunity God has now given for Jen and I to have all our kids in the same country for 2 and a half weeks. Tim arrives today (12 December). We have been blessed thoroughly to have Matt with us since early November. We then plan to travel with our sons to Ubon to be with Karis and Noom and our grandson (Eliyah Sartugan), as we share the first family Christmas together for 3 years.
The New Year 2012 - ?
We don't know what God will do next year or where He will take us in His Sovereignty (Psalm 115:3). We are prepared for a ride, however, along this journey of life and ministry that He has for us. Whatever that is, He is by our side encouraging, building and taking us to new heights as we echo the words of the prophet in Habakkuk 3:19 "the Sovereign Lord is my Strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to go on the heights" :-)
Bless you all for a merry Christmas and happy New Year :-)