Feature

Into the Light

A short-term missions trip opens doors for the gospel

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I look out the window at the Burmese refugee camp, its thatched roofs bleached gray by the sun in this mountainous area of northwest Thailand. Several of the buildings are topped with Christian crosses. Our silver Toyota van clings to the narrow road—not much wider than a sidewalk—as we rumble along toward our destination, a Hmong village near the Myanmar border.

Alliance international worker Debbie Vik and several of her associates bounce along with our team of seven from Salem Alliance Church. During the next three days, we will stay in the home village of one of the workers who is with us. We will run a primary care medical clinic and also provide reading glasses to those who need them. During 10 days of clinics, we will serve approximately 1,000 people.

The Prayer of Faith

Praying or meditating is nothing new for these people—they are very religious. The predominant faiths here are Buddhism, Hinduism, animism, or a synchronization of multiple faiths and mysticism. Yet they eagerly welcome our prayers.

In one of the villages where Debbie stayed during an initial survey trip in preparation for our ministry, several women had asked for prayer. One was pregnant and had been told that her baby was not normal. She asked Debbie and the survey team to pray.

Several months later, when our team arrives for the clinic, the woman shows us a healthy, normal baby girl. “She was so thankful for God’s intervention,” Debbie says.

A Life-Changing Decision

In the village where we have been staying for two nights, a young woman wants to accept the Lord. She is living with her husband and their children in her father-in law’s hut—a small bamboo home with a dirt floor. Her father-in-law is a shaman priest.

This woman has had five miscarriages that the family attributes to the influence of evil spirits. Our local Alliance workers have explained the good news of Jesus to her, but she will not make the decision to receive Him without her father-in-law’s permission. We have been invited to their hut after the clinic to talk with her and her in-laws about the decision she wants to make.

A bamboo fire smolders near the center of the hut with a steaming pot in the middle of it. At first, the father-in-law refuses to join us. We sit in a semicircle on small stools near the door. The family spirit altar with its amulets and candles looms large on the wall to the right of us.

My team members and I listen as Sythip, one of Debbie’s national colleagues, tells this young woman and her mother-in-law what it means to become a Christian. Soon the father-in-law emerges from the only other room in the hut and squats by the fire, listening over his shoulder, at times staring at us with dark, unblinking eyes. Those who don’t speak Hmong pray earnestly for God to move in the heart of this woman and her family.

Several potential interruptions threaten to disrupt what God is doing in this dark hut: a child playing a flute stops, a small group of young men come to the door but turn aside. Finally, both mother- and father-in-law consent to the young woman’s decision for Christ.

She prays and asks her Creator to forgive her of her sins and receives Christ as her Lord and Savior. The Alliance national worker cuts the strings from around her wrists, intended to protect her from evil spirits; they remove the metal necklace amulet from around her neck. We watch as the strings are tossed into the fire that her father-in-law had been tending. She steps from the darkness of the hut and her animist faith into the light of the Son.

The woman’s husband wants to become a Christian as well, but his father says no because he needs his son to help him with his shamanism responsibilities. The children also are not allowed to become believers. Only the wife has been given permission.

Making a decision to accept the Lord is most often a family decision among the Hmong. We share the gospel with her again and pray that the family will see the power of God in her life and eventually all decide to accept the Lord.

Open Doors

God moved and did amazing things on this trip. We were able to pray for 90 percent of those we served, some of whom had never heard the name of Jesus Christ. The answers to prayer were immediate and overt in some cases.

The village where we ministered has a new church facility, built by other teams that have come in the past. Our new sister in Christ has a place to worship, but as is the case with many of the village churches we served, there is no pastor to lead the believers. Church elders do their best to shepherd the congregations.

Our mission opened doors for the church into areas where there is deep superstition and ignorance about Jesus Christ. But we need more workers to partner with those already on the field. Pray that God will provide the resources necessary to continue the work both through our international workers and partner organizations.

God moved in Thailand and in our hearts. Those who went to serve will be changed forever. Only God knows how those we served will be impacted. Pray that He who can accomplish incredibly “more than we can ask or imagine” will intervene dramatically to provide for the needs at home and abroad.

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