Tuesday, September 9, 2008
As drops of rain begin to pelt my face, I breathe a sigh of relief. The welcome shower cuts through the burning heat as we walk between two villages in eastern Thailand, searching for the sick, the lame, and the broken.
My husband Sawang and I have left the ministry base in Sriracha, Thailand, to trek through these dusty back roads with a local pastor for one purpose: to see the Kingdom of God push back the oppression holding the villagers in bondage.
As the drops of rain turn into a monsoon in seconds, my thoughts turn towards the video camera in my hand and I run for cover. But cover in these parts is hard to come by, and we run clear to the next village to find shelter under the tin roof of a local shop.
I can hardly imagine living in a place like this full-time: the houses are nothing but a few wooden slabs with sqat toilets and a bucket of water over the head for a shower. As we head back to the church, I thank God for Pastor Nui, once a successful shop owner, now the witness for Christ in this poverty-stricken region. Nui has given up her business, and her former ambitions, to obey the will of God and be His servant in Non Dang Village. Nui told me the primary reason for her surrendered life is because Jesus healed her of AIDS. Several years ago Nui's husband died of the disease, and as she lay dying in a hospital bed a missionary came and prayed for her. She was healed and has the report to prove it.
Nui met Victory apostolic leader Boonden Witchaipa soon after her healing, and has been with Victory ever since. Boonden's boot-camp training program helped Nui grow in the Word and in her relationship with God, preparing her for the life of sacrifice that has followed. After a short stint in a nicer church, Boonden asked Nui to pastor in Non Dang, far from the comforts of home.
For the past four months, Nui and a helper have been preaching the gospel from hut to hut in this village and in neighboring La Lun. Since Thailand's national religion is Buddhism, her task hasn't been easy. Nui said the only way people are giving their lives to Jesus is when He heals them. I've heard this said about places all over Asia. As Sawang and I ministered from hut to hut with her , we came across several people who reported God had indeed restored them to health. One man who could barely walk has fully recovered; another who was severely brain damaged by drugs talked to us while he cooked dinner. A girl known to the whole village for shouting at everyone and stripping naked, was delivered and is a changed person.
Yet the process of growing in revelation is slow. Just as it was in Jesus' day, a healing doesn't automatically make a disciple. But it does make people more open to the gospel.
On our first Sunday in Non Dang Victory Church, seven people showed up. All of them were new believers, who had limited knowledge of the gospel. I took the opportunity to share who Jesus is and what He came to do: grant forgiveness, give freedom, and produce faithfulness in us. After the preaching we prayed for several who wanted to surrender completely to the Lordship of Jesus, and for others who still don't have a clue who Jesus is and just wanted healing.
After the service pastor Nui shared her desire to see 30 people born-again and plugged into the church by year's end. Not very big by some standards, but her task in this region is great. She must pioneer the way for the gospel in a place steeped in poverty and deep-rooted superstition, where people struggle so much to survive this life, that they don't have time to care about the next one.
But Nui is committed: this is what challenges me the most. Nui is not moved by numbers or success, but by the Spirit of God. And Nui is here for the long-term. Her desire is to see Non Dang Victory church as the head church in this region, planting new churches all over Eastern Thailand.