I remember dropping him off at the airport. Another friend of his and I walked into the drop-off entrance, and there, with a backdrop of airline check-in lines and baggage security check points, he said his last goodbye with a hug and a smile to each of us. Then he walked off, two suitcases in his hands and two friends in the distance.
It didn’t hit me at that moment that he would be gone for 6 months. Six months is a really long time. Six months ago I was in Thailand teaching English and writing about the center I was volunteering with. A month later I arrived back in Minnesota, and during the next five months I fulfilled another semester at North Central University.
But now everything’s changing. One of my best friends is gone. I have a new roommate. I might get a new job.
I’m losing control of my world and I don’t know how to cope. I’m sad. I’m upset. I’m confused. I’m frightened.
And here I am, crying on my couch because I’m messaging my best friend in Thailand. My phone buzzes and he sends me a message telling me about his first experience in a 7/11 convenience store. My mind flashes back 6 months ago, and there I am in a 7/11 purchasing an Oishi green tea with honey and lemon flavor because that’s what my friend and I used to do every day before we went to school to teach. It’s just a tiny detail in a summer full of memories, but it’s enough to ignite the messy emotions inside of me that I’ve bottled up for five months.
The tears start falling from my face, my eyes get puffy, and I start sniffling.
I miss my best friend already.
Yet it’s not just him I miss. It’s Thailand. He’s in the country I hold close in my heart, the country whose people I adore and whose stories I want to expose.
The Thai people are fascinating. They are amiable and kind, always willing to help a foreigner out. They are devout, strongly grounded in their Buddhist beliefs. But they are also mysterious. They sometimes cover the truth to “save face” and sometimes you never know the ugly feelings behind the smile painted on their round faces.
I think about the man at the market who helped me purchase ingredients for Pad Thai. I think about the woman at the gas station who used to fill my motorbike tank every three days for 100 Baht. I think about Mr. Yo, the taxi driver who used to drive me home from the city.
But most of all, I think about the kids at the center I taught English at. I see their beautiful smiles in my head, and I remember all the moments we spent laughing and enjoying our time together.
We used to play Chinese jump rope, badminton, and Domino’s every day after school. On weekends, we would play Capture the Flag and paint pictures with watercolors. It was a joy playing with those kids, because I learned what childlike faith is.
|These are some of the girls that I taught English to in Thailand this summer. They are all so sweet, bursting with joy, energy and curiosity to learn. I love them and miss them dearly!|
Childlike faith is simply living in the moment, taking one minute at a time, and extracting the fullness out of it.
Sometimes it’s running around with a beach ball in your hands chasing your friends, like little 6-year-old Fa did with her friends after school at the center. Sometimes it’s distributing meals to refugees who walked two hours to reach the building you are at. And sometimes it’s praying for a city of darkness in a one-room church two blocks away from a street full of bars where girls in tight clothing stand waiting to have sex so they can get money for their pimps.
Faith is finding joy, giving hope, crying out for mercy, mourning over brokenness, going on an adventure, and anything in-between. It’s not defined and it’s not planned. It’s just trusting in God and obeying him in every moment.
Even if it goes against what your heart most desires.
But why would you yield your heart to a God whose plans are different from your own? Why would you give up what’s most dear to you for the sake of obedience?
Because God gave up his dearest possession – His only Son – to save a world of sinners, including me. That’s the only reason I have to pursue God’s plans before my own, but it’s enough. And that's why I can surrender my dearest - Thailand - so God's plan's can be fulfilled.
As much as my heart yearns to go back to Thailand, I must accept God’s plan for me here in Minneapolis now.
Like Abraham sacrificing Isaac on the altar, I must sacrifice my desire to return to go back to Thailand. It’s a difficult sacrifice, and I don’t know if God will give it back to me just like He gave Isaac back to Abraham.
Either way, it is worth it. Because God is worthy. And knowing Him is the thing my heart yearns for the most, when all my other desires vanquish.
Mike Yaconelli said, “The issue of faith is seeking God’s presence, not God’s plan for my life, because there is no plan outside of my knowing Him.”
Faith tells me that it’s okay to be here. God has a purpose for me in Minneapolis during this season, even though I am not quite aware of it yet.
I can serve God in Minneapolis just as effectively as in Thailand, although the latter seems so much more extraordinary. Yet, Thailand really is no more extraordinary than Minneapolis. Every place on this earth is temporary.
I’m trying to learn that although Thailand arouses my heart more, I don’t need to be overseas to fulfill God’s call of missions on my life. He has called me here and now, to the mundane and ordinary lifestyle of an average American college student. I’m taking a class on community development, beginning my senior project, and working at a coffee shop. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s what God has called me to do.
And that’s what makes the ordinary more extraordinary than anything else. Our hearts can tempt us, but when we yield them to God, the best always comes because “to the faithful He shows Himself faithful” (Psalm 18:25).