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The harvest is Plentiful

by David Bae

**names in the story have been changed to preserve confidentiality

 


The doors to Southeast Asia opened again last year after a long 3- year hiatus caused by COVID19. In preparation for this year and future ministry, we reconnected with the locals and ministry partners in Thailand, vision casting, praying, and strategizing for the advancement of the Gospel in this precious region. Thailand is a strategic point for our mission work because many Christians from neighboring countries come to Thailand for seminary education, which is not provided in their home countries due to federal restrictions. Thus, Thailand is a point of convergence where we have opportunities to connect with various Christian leaders around the region to gain access to minister in regions where it is more difficult to do so without local contact. In the past years we have ministered in different places across Southeast Asia. On a positive note, close to 45 individuals from United States gave their “yes” this year for the sake of the Gospel in 3 Southeast Asian countries. I personally had the privilege to go and witness, as if for the first time again, the power and urgency of the Gospel.


Our team comprised of 21 individuals. It quickly came to our attention that the size of our team will prove to be an issue because we were headed to a region that does not condone explicit, public ministry. Group of 21 foreigners was bound to attract attention and potentially even the authorities’ attention, which will hinder our ministry efforts. Thus, we split into three smaller teams, each team constituting seven persons, to be more covert and reach more people in the region. Our team of seven traveled to a more central region of Southeast Asia to minister to the Hmong community who found their residence in rural mountain villages far distant from more developed cities and towns.


We visited 8 churches in a span of 3 or 4 days. Between each church we traveled close to an hour and sometimes more depending on the road condition and location. It was a packed week with each hour of the day being spent in ministry, traveling, eating, or sleeping with small pockets of down time (usually during travel or meals). My body was exhausted by the end, but with all sincerity I wished to remain there much longer if I could. Not because I dreaded returning to the regular rhythms of life back home. Not because I had separation anxiety from my teammates or local ministry partners with whom I built much camaraderie through the physical toils the mission field entailed. But because there was a genuine hunger and humble yearning in the people to eat of the Bread of Life. I was stricken with much burden when I saw the sheep without shepherds to feed them. The laborers were nowhere close to enough relative to the harvest that was at hand. We throw the term, “hunger,” around a lot in our evangelistic circles; however, I want to propose that the hunger that I have seen in United States is pitiful and at best lukewarm compared to that of the farmers whom I had the privilege to meet during my time here. They are truly as a deer that panteth for the water; their soul longeth after the one as such. It is no surprise that one of their beloved worship songs is “As the Deer.” They truly embody the spirit of the song.


I recall the first day of ministry. Many complications arose that ultimately prevented our team from going to the church we were scheduled to go to. Our local ministry partner used his quick wit to connect us with a new church closer by where we had the opportunity to host the first service. Our team was dropped off at the foot of a small hill, which we needed to climb to get to the church. The path was muddy and narrow; thus, we had to make the journey on foot. Once we reached the top and were directed into a small house, we were greeted with a warm yet shy welcome from the locals who were waiting for us. The group was small and intimate, maybe 15 to 18 people, mostly youth. We proceeded with our program and had a bit of time after to talk with the locals present at the service. I asked the translator who the pastor was because I wanted to greet him and thank him for allowing our team to come and minister. The translator, to my request, replied that he was not present because he was tending to a different church elsewhere, but in the meantime Sarah was serving as the surrogate leader. He directed me towards Sarah who was sitting on a chair with a gentle smile across her face and conversing with the children beside her. She had an apparent disability around her ankle, which appeared to be twisted and deformed. She stood up with a limp when she saw me approaching her, and she gently took my hand as I extended my hand to her for a handshake. She was middle-aged and had a very delicate yet firm demeanor. We had a brief conversation through which I found out that she was without a home, despised by her family for her faith, using her income to support the church and go to bible school, and had been helping the pastor as one of the leaders for the last 3 to 5 years. The pastor served in three different churches due to lack of pastors around the region; thus, Sarah was appointed to shepherd the flock for many months throughout each year.


My heart burned hearing her story. Women are not respected or seen as leaders in Eastern societies. She has a disability, which was generally perceived as a curse or punishment for past sins or sins of the family. She is without a home. She is without money, but with the money she had she fed the children and went to bible school. Despite these difficulties she went about her day without grumbling. During worship, she would place her two calloused hands on her heart and praise Jesus with the utmost sincerity. She looked so complete, whole, and content because she indeed was. For Sarah, Jesus was utterly worthy and sufficient.


My hope and confidence are in the Lord that He will grant me the same grace for my love and devotion to be pure and wholehearted before Him each passing day. Southeast Asia reminded me of what truly matters in light of eternity: “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24). There is much work to be done. It is my sincerest desire to pour myself out for the work of God that will endure and not for the work of men that will perish.


And this is the work of God, which all saints are called to: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).

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