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Our Competent God

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Take a minute and picture yourself as a new missionary. You have spent the last few years preparing yourself for ministry in a new country and context, and you finally arrive with excitement, passion, and a readiness to push back darkness in the new land. What do you do to start? Language study.

For us, this meant studying Thai for two years with a minimum commitment of 30 hours a week. It was a challenging and monotonous time. Our identity and confidence changed. In the States, we were competent (or at least somewhat competent) ministers. Then we went to a country where we didn’t know one word of the language until we set foot on local soil. It was a paradigm shift from speaking like an adult to speaking as a child, but God used that time—both in molding us and impacting His Kingdom.

Pichay and his wife, Pibunam, with Keith's son, Lauren

After a year in Thailand, a fellow missionary suggested I begin to disciple a man named Pichay. Pichay was a believer but not living the victorious, sanctified life. Although another C&MA missionary led him to Jesus a few years ago, he was not growing and perhaps was even backsliding. There was no deeper life movement, just a lifeless creed and belief.

Tentatively, I began discipling Pichay in Thai. I tried to prepare for our meetings, but sometimes he had questions. I smiled and nodded; sometimes I just answered with something generic about Jesus but probably didn’t address his questions. Other times we dialogued a bit, but I’m sure my words came across broken. We continued to meet for the remainder of the year until my wife and I completed language study and moved up-country.

I didn’t see Pichay for about six months. When I was back in Bangkok, I asked him how things were going. He said that after our discipleship time his life radically changed. Previously, he was going through the motions and had a dry faith. Now his faith was alive. He was hungry for the Word, separating himself from sin, leading a group at his church, and even helping lead one of his neighbors to the Lord. He relayed this news with tears in his eyes.

When I saw Pichay, for the remainder of that year he told me how he was growing, he hugged me, and he told me that the time we spent together was transformative. He was living the sanctified life.

Honestly, it confused me. At my worst and most ineffective time, I made more Kingdom progress than while at my best. But isn’t that the Kingdom way? “Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God” (2 Cor. 3:5).

So, Alliance family, pray for your missionaries in language school. God will use them. And take heart! If God could use me at that stage, then He can use any of us at any time.

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