For the past few days, I’ve been at a conference in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Conferences are an interesting dynamic. Usually a set of meetings focusing around a common topic helping people focus on the task at hand. This “event” is actually 3 conferences in a row. The first is the “Call To All” focussed on fulfilling the Great Commission from Matthew 28, the second, Youth With A Mission’s Asia Pacific conference, and last, YWAM Thailand’s 40th anniversary celebration.
“…go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Powerful and comforting words from the Master and a common mission statement for believers world-wide. But I have to admit, the the highlight for me has been the people attending the conference. I had no idea there would be so many close friends here or that God would say what he is saying to me through them.
How is it that you’re in Thailand and have a reunion with a group of missionaries from a small base in Oxford, New Zealand? I come with one thing in mind and God not only does that, but adds this whole other dynamic on top like an over-easy egg on a plate of fried rice with chicken-my favorite.
On a different but similar note, the other night I was sitting on the roof of the guesthouse taking a few minutes to process the day when one of the other guests came out of his room and sat down next to me. He set his pint of whiskey on the table and began with the usual, “Where are you from? Where have you been? Where are you going next? What are you doing in Thailand? Oh, is that a Christian organization? Are you a Christian?” The questions usually follow the same line until we get to that point. “Yes, I am a Christian, are you?” A few aren’t happy, some are indifferent as long as tangible needs are being met, and some say they are Christians too. This guy told me he thought it was great and that he is also a Christian.
“Well, how is your relationship with God,” I asked. It’s interesting to hear what people say to that.
“Yea, do you talk to God? Does he talk back? What about, Jesus?”
This guy had a gentle demeanor, and just asked, “What does it mean to you to talk with God? How many requests can you ask for in your prayers? Is two too many?”
Hmmm… I just told him how God reached out to me through the program of Alcoholics Anonymous and freed me of belligerent, out-of-control drinking almost 7 years ago. He was shocked. “Seven years?! No drinking the whole time?”
“No, totally possible.”
Eventually, he said told me that booze was destroying his life, that he wanted to quit, and that he knew God sent me to him. I told him that there are AA meetings here in Chiang Mai and that I would take him to one.. if he wanted. He agreed, took a huge tag off his bottle, stood up, and went back into his room.
Honestly, I have never been to a meeting here, but surely there are some, right? So I got on line and sure enough, there are tons.
The next day, he wasn’t interested. Surprise, surprise! but the thought hit me, “Why don’t you just go? It sure wouldn’t hurt you.” So I went. And sure enough, there were all these alcoholics in an old school, 1940‘s-style room slamming coffee reading from the AA literature, having a meeting revolving around a common purpose,
“Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism.”
The solution to a common problem.
I thought about that a lot. Like the conference, there’s a common vision. God reaches out to people in any way he wants. He meets people where they are and offers the solution to the problem-sin. And when he does, he wants those people to reach out to others. So it’s simpler than I make it. Instead of asking what I can do for God, why not just ask what he has already done for me and give that away?
“…Freely you have received; freely give.”