Celebration

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion –
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
Isaiah 61:1-3

When I came to Thailand, I came to be part of pioneering a vision that hasn’t yet come to pass, that I don’t think will ever come to pass, at least not in the way we planned and dreamed. Letting go of that vision has been harder than I admitted, even to myself, until recently. I’ve been taking some time to mourn what might have been, what I dreamed would be.

As I read Isaiah 61 I see that Jesus is the One who binds my broken heart and proclaims freedom – freedom from the weight and pain of unfulfilled dreams, a release to walk from darkness into light. He is the One who comforts me and provides for me. And He is the One who gives me joy instead of mourning, praise instead of despair.

My perspective has shifted: instead of remembering all that didn’t happen, I want to celebrate all the good that DID happen. Lives were changed because of this vision and because I came to Thailand to be part of it – what an honour! Let me share some of the amazing things the Lord has done through this ‘Rock of Hope’ dream:

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  • I (and others) had the privilege of regularly teaching a wonderful group of migrant children. I saw them grow in their thirst for learning and their study skills, as well as their knowledge. Many of them now attend school. One of them taught herself to read and write from an alphabet book given to her by my friend.
  • Alongside academic learning, these children heard about the God who loves them and gave Himself for them, the One who will never leave them. Many of them have chosen to follow Him, trusting and standing firm even in difficulties and challenges. They know that He sees them.
  • Children formed solid and meaningful friendships with each other. They may never have met if they hadn’t attended ‘Wednesday School’.
  • We took some trips – including one to an aquarium. The children were so excited!

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  • We were able to be the bridge between home and the Thai school system for seven migrant children. We helped them get registered and started in school, and now a whole world of possibilities has opened up to them.
  • A local school changed its policy and flung wide their doors to migrant children (previously unwelcome)! I don’t think we can take credit for that – it happened without our involvement – and yet I wonder how much it had to do with all the prayers we prayed for this area.

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  • Teachers in this school were impacted by the attitudes and faith of their new students. They became actively invested in seeing these children succeed.
  • We opened up a safe space in the community for kids who live in unsafe places. They told us they felt loved and safe as soon as they walked into the room.
  • Many of the ‘Wednesday School’ children joined wider ministry activities – going deeper in their walk with God and making connections with older teens, who are great role models.
  • Visiting teams caught a glimpse of God’s heart for vulnerable children.

On a personal level, I have learnt so much about project planning, pioneering, prayer, overcoming obstacles and how to serve a community. I’ve learnt from my mistakes just as much as from the things I got right, probably even more so. I’ve made connections with a whole network of wonderful people. The children have brought me so much joy. They have taught me about perseverance, hope, wonder, grace, determination and having fun.

I may never know the full impact we had on these precious ones. I may never know how this dream, this ‘failed’ vision, has transformed lives or even changed history. But I am confident that the Lord was at work, that He is still at work and will continue to be at work – His Word will accomplish the purposes for which He sent it. And that is cause for great celebration!

‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,’
declares the Lord.
‘As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
it will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
Instead of the thorn-bush will grow the juniper,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the Lord’s renown,
for an everlasting sign,
that will endure for ever.’
Isaiah 55:8-13

Cliff Jumping

Last weekend, I had a wobble about going to Thailand. More precisely, everything in me was yelling that I shouldn’t go. This was less to do with Thailand and what I’ll be doing there, and more to do with leaving Northern Ireland. There are a lot of good reasons to stay here at the minute and it’s hard to leave.

I love change but hate transition, which is a tricky combination. So, while I can see life in Thailand being good and exciting and what I want, these last few weeks – full of preparation and goodbyes – are hard. That probably adds to the desire to stay where I am.

This has, in hindsight, been building for a few weeks and when I finally gave up on pretending nothing was wrong and talked to God about it, He said something that surprised me. He told me that this is my choice – I don’t have to go to Thailand, I can stay here if I want. He won’t force me to do anything. I guess I always assumed that this was the path God was calling me to so there was no other way. But I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that God loves me and He will be with me and bless me wherever I am, that He can use me for his Kingdom anywhere. So in that sense it doesn’t really matter what I choose – to go to Thailand or to stay here.

(Of course, in other senses, it matters a lot. I have made a commitment to ARK and I have responsibilities in Thailand. People have supported me in many ways, including financially. And yet, on their own, these are not reasons to go – they will not sustain me and I can’t make this kind of choice to please (or not upset) others.)

By Sunday afternoon, if you’d asked me (thankfully no one did), I might have said that I wasn’t sure about moving to Thailand. At that point, I was seriously considering not going. I was feeling a strange, wild freedom at being able to make that choice, if I wanted – set free by the fact that I didn’t have to go. I was also confused and a little overwhelmed. So I went back to church that evening, to refocus on God, to hear the same talk I’d heard in the morning and to respond to the call to come forward for prayer for a fresh touch of the Holy Spirit (which I hadn’t been ready to respond to during the morning service).

We had a guest speaker, Darrell Tunningley, sharing his testimony (which, incidentally, is AMAZING – listen to it here http://ow.ly/2Av2Oa). When he invited people to come and receive prayer, I sat in my seat and didn’t move as others made their way to the front of the church, even though I’d mainly come for this. Then he got back up and told a story which he hadn’t told in the morning. He talked about climbing a cliff on a childhood holiday, so that he and his siblings could jump off it into the sea. He said that, at the top, he was so scared to actually jump, even though there was no other way back down. But he did jump, and it was amazing.

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And I started to cry as the Spirit whispered, ‘this is what’s going on, my love.’ This is the real issue. I feel like I’m about to jump off a cliff. It’s a cliff I deliberately climbed up, excited about the jump into the unknown, into the future of what God has for me. I know I’ll love the journey. I know the jump will be amazing. But now I’ve reached the moment of stepping off the edge and it’s terrifying. The cliff top seems nice and green and grassy and safe. Maybe I could just stay here.

And then I heard my Father again, reminding me, of all things, of a cheesy line from Titanic taken completely out of context – ‘you jump, I jump, remember.’ And I saw a picture of two people jumping off a cliff hand in hand. And I thought, I can do this. God is with me and I’m safe with Him. We can jump together.

So I spent some time with Him, talking and repenting and believing and choosing. I choose to go to Thailand, not because I have to or because I think God will bless and use me most there, but because I want to and because He’s jumping with me.

I still need to process and deal with some of my fears and concerns. I’ve pushed them so far down I barely know what they are. I still feel like this is a cliff jump and I’m still scared. But I’m going to do it, hand in hand with my Saviour, who has never left me for a moment and never will.

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Learning, Growing, Becoming – DTS Reflections

I sat down with my journal to reflect on the biggest areas of learning and growth for me during the Discipleship Training School (DTS), which finished last week. Turns out there are more than I thought! This has been 6 months of incredible stretching and growth, so I share these areas of learning with you in the hope they might encourage you as you see how God is transforming me.

The entire DTS at graduation.

The entire DTS at graduation.

Unsurprisingly (given that I’ve spent all my time since January with the same 30ish people), I have had no choice but to grow in how I relate to others. Some of that has been in laying down my rights, preferring others to myself, learning to criticize and judge others less and lift them up in prayer more and some has been in not taking the blame for everything – acknowledging when someone has sinned against me and offering forgiveness instead of denying my hurt. I think I’ve made a little bit of progress in asking for help and addressing issues with others too.

I’m learning to love people fiercely, even when I know the close relationship is short-term and the investment feels too costly for the reward – to let people in to my heart without worrying about getting hurt or the inevitable goodbyes, trusting that God will pick up the pieces if necessary. I’m commanded to love, not merely be nice.

I’m learning to walk in an attitude of submission to those placed in authority or leadership over me, even when I disagree with them most vehemently. I’m learning to be a better team player, to be less independent. I’m learning to lay down my inclination to lead and to seek to develop people or ministries – sometimes this is just not my place, especially when my involvement in a ministry is very short-term. I have greater insight into what I understand ‘leadership’ to mean and how my definition is not necessarily the same as yours, and that that’s ok.

I am becoming more myself, more who God created me to be, without worrying about looking a bit silly or about what people will think. My playful, light-hearted, maybe even goofy side is emerging and I think I’m getting better at having fun, strange as that sounds. This has been a significant release for me.

I’ve grown in relating to God as Father and in seeking to encounter his presence every single day, not settling for less and always seeking more. I have again and again been challenged to surrender to Jesus, at a deeper level each time. He is worth laying down everything for. I’ve learnt to walk in God’s grace every day – his grace is always sufficient and his power is made perfect in my weakness, and this has been made very evident to me through all the challenges and difficulties there have been. I’ve learnt to press into God in the tough times more than ever. I’m learning how to deal with frustration, disappointment and unmet expectations. I’ve learnt that sometimes God’s purposes are not what I think they are!

I’m beginning to understand the authority I have in Christ. I heard God say that I have a voice. I’m slowly gaining understanding of what this means, but it’s to do with the authority I have when I speak God’s Word, when I pray. I need to use my voice, not letting it be silenced. I’ve grown in my understanding and practice of intercession. Prayer has been a big area of development for me.

Spiritual attack has been sometimes obvious and sometimes subtle. Fighting often involves standing on the truth, letting God remind me of the truth, what really happened, not being dictated to by my emotions. It involves pressing in to God regardless, in worship and obedience. (Of course, there are many ways of waging spiritual warfare – these are some I’ve been developing).

I’ve learnt that Thailand is my home too. God told me clearly (This is your country now) and when I was in Kolkata, I learntthe emotional truth of it as I became homesick for Thailand! During this DTS, God has given me vision and dreams for the future and has opened the door for me to start to walk out those dreams in Thailand. I’m thrilled both to know the next step and be ready for it.

So there you have it – a summary of what has been going on in my heart and head and spirit over the past 6 months. I know it’s quite long, but it really is only a summary. I can’t express how wonderful, faithful, kind, gracious, loving and good God is. I’m so grateful to him and excited to see how he will continue to bring transformation in these areas as well as teaching me new things. To him be all the glory!

To finish, here’s a link to six-minute video summary of our six-month adventure. Enjoy!  CARM DTS 2013

This is your country now.

I got back yesterday from Camp Zoe, a Christian camp for some of the teens we work with here in Thailand. It was a great 5 days of building relationships, having fun, playing crazy games and helping the kids get to know Jesus a little better.

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My team at Crazy Night. Our costume theme was… crazy?

The last night was a worship night and we spent some time thinking about being a light to Thailand. There was an outline of Thailand marked on the floor, with a large wooden cross in the centre. On the cross was a candle. The idea was that we would light our own candles from the one in the middle and set them round the country outline as a symbol that we want to be God’s light in the darkness in this country. My friend Brandi, who facilitated this, asked everyone to consider what purpose God has us here for. I started thinking about this for myself, not just for the young people.

Very quickly, and very clearly, God said that if I lit a candle, it would be a symbol of committing to stay in Thailand – not just shining God’s light in Thailand during this DTS outreach, but staying here long beyond that. I knew I was staying in Asia, but I hadn’t quite been sure what specific country. I hadn’t been fully committed to Thailand longer-term. So I took some time to think about if I wanted to make that commitment by adding my candle to those others were lighting.

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Shining God’s light all around Thailand.

I did light the candle and add it to the map. In some ways, it wasn’t easy – I needed to again surrender some of my own ideas and hopes and dreams. But as I made this symbolic gesture and sat looking at the map, I felt the Spirit whisper, ‘This is your country now.’ Not that Northern Ireland will ever stop being my country, but now Thailand is my country too. This makes me really happy.

So Thailand is where I’m staying, where God is calling me to shine his light into the darkness. For how long? I don’t know. I’m not completely sure in what capacity I’m staying either, but I think I’m getting closer to knowing that too – watch this space!

DTS Outreach… Coming Up Soon!

This is a quick post to update you about our DTS outreach, which is coming up very soon (less than 2 weeks). It’s pretty much the same as my e-mail update, so if you’re on my e-mail list you don’t need to read any further! First, an outline of what we will be doing:

1. Bangkok, Thailand

1-4 April: Outreach preparation/visa runs.

5-9 April: Camp Zoe (leadership camp for teens).

10-16 April: Evangelism at Thai New Year and attendance at a counselling seminar.

2. Kolkata, India

17 April – 17 May: Working with Mother Teresa homes, street children, street evangelism, mercy ministries…

18-19 May: Days off in Bangkok.

3. Chiang Mai, Thailand

20 May – 8 June: Call2All missions conference and YWAM Asia Pacific conference. Partnering with a local children’s ministry.

8-14 June: Debrief and finishing off back in Bangkok.

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The outreach costs 70,000 Thai Baht per person, which is almost £1600. I’ve been blessed with the money for this, but there are many on the team who do not yet have adequate finance.

As a school, we are doing three things to raise funds. The first is a street party to help with finances, but it’s not exactly handy for most of you! Secondly, on Sunday, many of the students are undertaking a sponsored‘marathon’ – not a literal marathon but an extended effort of their choice. 5 of the Thais are completing a 10km run, a New Zealander is doing 1000 push-ups in 24 hours, an American is doing 24 hours of prayer and worship, and so on. I’m completing a ‘Bible reading marathon’ with some others to raise money for the team. The plan is to go tovarious locations around Bangkok and read Scripture aloud, using it then also to pray. We want to read the whole book of Psalms aloud and some others too (not chosen yet). So if any of you would like to sponsorme to do this, please let me know and I’ll get back to you with how you can do that.

Our third way of fundraising is simply communicating the need, which this post is part of. Altogether we still need around 1 million Thai Baht, which is around £22,000, by next Monday. We believe God can and will provide all the money we need to do what he has called us to do and already we’ve seen provision in ways we never expected. I’m asking if you would take time to pray for the people who still need money and also to consider if you are able to help financially.

Thank you. We’re so grateful for your prayers and support.

Old Year, New Year: Reflections and Expectations

Disclaimer: This is not what I sat down to write. I wrote as the year changed. It’s late and I’m tired. So I’m not sure anyone else will make sense of my thoughts, but I needed to write them anyway.

2012. Where to start?! How to sum it up?

It’s been brilliant, stretching, hard, fun, exciting, God-filled. I feel that now, at last, I’m going out there and grabbing fistfuls of life, living life to the full, letting God’s life fill me and shape me. 2 years ago, I was so weary of the battle, the spiritual battle, that I couldn’t quite see how to go on fighting. Now, I say bring it on. I will not give up or give in or give ground to the enemy. I will stand firm. I will fight, as God gives me strength. More often, I’ll let him fight for me as he holds me by my right hand (Psalm 73:23). I have understood more deeply this year the truth of 2 Corinthians 12:9:

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

It’s when I know I am weak that God’s strength can really be seen and experienced. I am experiencing new depths of God’s grace, faithfulness, power and love. I can’t put into words how incredible he is.

The start of my mission journey has been amazing. Of course, 2012 wasn’t really the start at all and I’m not sure I could pinpoint when it really began. But actually moving to Thailand, not knowing when (if) I’ll ever live in Northern Ireland again, was amazing. Whenever I’ve lived elsewhere before, it’s always been for a finite, given time period. This is different. More exciting, more unknown, sometimes scarier but also so incredibly right. I am living as who I was created to be. Am I getting it right all the time? No. But this is a God-adventure, a lifelong commitment to follow him where he leads. How could it get any better than this?

Of course there’s sacrifice. Of course sometimes it’s hard and I get bogged down in the details of life and I miss petty and unimportant things, like ant-free kitchens and custard creams. I miss my church. I miss people I’ve had to say goodbye to. Yet I don’t quite fit in Belfast anymore. I have loved being home for Christmas and seeing so many people I care about, but this isn’t quite where I belong now. Things have changed, moved on, without me. I’ve changed. I don’t miss my life before Thailand.

So I’m excited to go back in a few days. I’m excited about what God has in store in the coming weeks and months. I’m excited to see where I’ll be living, what I’ll be doing, who I’ll be at the end of 2013. I expect to see God do great things, in and through both me and those around me. I expect to be challenged and changed. Bring it on!

A Revelation

I had a revelation today. It’s not world-changing or anything, but I thought I’d share it. Actually, it’s pretty life-changing for me. In our team meeting this morning, we were worshipping and praying and I suddenly realised that I like myself. I like who God has made me to be. I’m not only comfortable with who I am, but I’m glad he made me this way. I like me.

Maybe that sounds a bit weird, but if you’ve known me for a while you’ll know that this is fairly revolutionary. A couple of years ago my view of myself was pretty low. I remember writing ‘I despise myself’. I doubted my own abilities and worth. I’ve been on a journey of healing and freedom in many areas of my life and one of them has been overcoming inadequacy. Before I came to Thailand I’d have said I’d completely overcome this and I was living in the security of who I am in Christ, much more confident in myself and my God-given worth and abilities. The first few weeks in Thailand, feelings of total inadequacy returned with surprising intensity and I fought that battle all over again. As a good friend reminded me, ‘if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.’ (John 8:36) She thinks maybe this is my ‘free indeed’, as I learn to live secure in my identity in a very different culture and spiritual atmosphere. God has been so faithful in fighting for me and negative feelings about myself have been gone for weeks now.

But I don’t think I’ve EVER, in my whole life, had the thought that I like myself. So it feels like a seismic shift in my thinking. I can agree with this verse at a much deeper level now.

For you created my inmost being;


you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

your works are wonderful,


I know that full well.

Psalm 139:13-14

I’m not saying there’s nothing I’d change about myself or that I like all of the things I think, say and do. I’m just saying I’m happy to be me. And I think that’s a really good place to be.

Happy to be me 🙂

 

Flying free!