Psalm 40: I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
3 He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
and put their trust in him.
As I look back to this year in Chiang Mai, I am so grateful. God brought my family here in response to my cry as I wallowed in the ‘slimy pit, the mud and the mire’. I am not referring to the building site I worked on last summer, which I enjoyed, but to a depression of soul after the failures and sorrows of the previous years.
Here in Chiang Mai, which is now ‘home.’ God has set my feet on a rock and given me a firm place to stand. When everything is shaking, I can stand on that which is unshakeable. When what we stand on shakes and is mobilized then we are immobilized. But though the whole world shakes, all the time, God is an unchanging rock.
God has given me a dream job. I am part of his mission here in Asia teaching missionary kids and enabling their parents to continue to undertake their medical ministries, their anti trafficking, and anti slavery work, church planting, prison ministries, translation work and all kinds of sensitive ministries in this part of Asia. The school exists to enable parents to be confident of their children’s education. So many missionaries leave the field in other parts of the world in order to return the their home countries for the sake of education. Its great to be part of that kingdom work the outcome of which will be: ‘ many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in Him.’
Teaching here is a joy. The students are both respectful, resourceful and are learning to think critically. I have so enjoyed watching lots of movies and analyzing them. We have had many debates on predestination, eschatology, the significance of various individuals in history and as a class sponsor of the Sophomore year (grade 10/ year 11) I have reveled in being part of a supremely well organized murder mystery pirate party. Yesterday I took a pasting from them during a massive dodge brawl on the tennis courts!
It hasn’t all been plain sailing here but we have all had our horizons broadened and will be more equipped for ministry in the future, wherever we are led. Though at times, they have been very challenging, the children have done very well to adapt. They have all done well academically and Sam and Lois particularly have excelled in sports.
Next weekend we return to the UK to Ann’s parents house for eight weeks. We will be speaking at 5 different churches and visiting family and friends. We are all looking forward to the cool weather, to watching TV and playing in the garden. Yet, many missionaries have told us that home visits are not easy times for the family. Please pray that we can chill out and refuel. Last summer we did not get a break at all. The children finished one school year, only to start another almost immediately. They have done very well but are very tired.
This weekend will be our last opportunity to meet as a house church. The church will change beyond recognition after next week as half the church transition to new ministries and new opportunities overseas. Among those leaving are 5 seniors. The Coe twins will move to the UK to start university and the three Americans will move to the States, also to begin college.
I am preaching this week on the blessing God instructed the priests to pronounce at the end of each tabernacle service:
24 ‘“‘The Lord bless you
and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord turn his face towards you
and give you peace.’”27 ‘So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.’
Although we have found some Americans here to have some obscure practices and theology, there is a culture here of affirming and blessing. To bless means to delight in and to expensively commit to another’s good. One remarkable facet of this blessing is the line: ‘ . . . the Lord make his face to shine on you.’ Previously Moses had been told that nobody can see the Lord’s face and live. The turning of the Lord’s face is a poetic way of describing his smile: his close relational presence. This blessing was announced at the end of the service after all the animal sacrifices for sin had taken place. Thus the Israelites were taught that we can know God’s smile and presence when our sin has been atoned for. The priestly sacrifices couldn’t actually remove sin but were a picture of what Christ came to do in his ultimate wrath bearing sacrifice. Because of Christ’s sacrifice we can know his smile. Because he bore the curse we receive the blessing. Whatever happens next nothing can separate us from the love and the blessing of God.