Man, I'm so glad to see my kids. Now that I'm home, reflecting on this indescribable week, I'm overwhelmed with affection for the little ones God has entrusted to me to raise toward the light. I don't deserve them. They are a gift. As was this week. How do I carry what I saw this week forward into the life God has chosen me to live?
I want to take a moment to fill in some of the picture of what we saw at ZOE this week and the evidence of God at work.
I saw our team going above and beyond in constant and tireless humility to offer whatever they could to support the ongoing work at ZOE. Denna battled through allergies, motion sickness, and physical exhaustion to extend her medical expertise to all the female ZOE children and ministry students. She showed each one of them that they are worthy of time and personal care. Fred and Carol humbly accepted the role of medical assistants, keeping equipment clean and documenting findings so that each child could be seen in our short time there. Pam, Carol, and Zohreh helped paint a new dormitory during their scant down time. Karen and Irene met with and prayed life over the children's home parents, also interviewing them about concerns for their kids so that the visits would go smoothly. There was so much to do and so many wonderful things to partner in that I can't write about all the ways I saw this team extend God's love. Just know that these incredible prayer warriors and encouragers have been faithful to do a work that God will multiply over time within the larger work going on at ZOE.
Speaking of the larger work going on there, one of the many ways ZOE is involved in redeeming Thailand for God is by helping to coordinate a network of pastors throughout the country in order to supply food and resources for those in need in their communities. Recall that under 1% of the Thai population is Christian, and that poverty is rampant in the rural communities. Not only does ZOE help coordinate the distribution of food and supplies to show the love of Christ, but they are also innovating and improving self-sustaining agriculture solutions such as an on-site pig farm (over 100 pigs bred from just two originally), a hydroponic fish farm (the fish water and feed over 70% of their own food), a mushroom hut, and sustainable gardening. This is not only a way to provide for the on-site needs at ZOE, but this knowledge is carried out to the community to help break the cycle of poverty. This is the Thai people equipping the Thai people. So many needs and so many ways to help.
I haven't even talked about the ZOE children's home parents, these mighty warriors of the faith who show love day in and day out to the least of these. Please be in prayer for these saints. They are doing battle daily against the powers of darkness that would try to overtake these children's hearts, and only by the great grace of our God do they bear up under it. These people understand what it means to depend on Him day in and day out. They understand the fallacy of the self made man. Please. Be in prayer for these saints. I sit here in my comfortable life lamenting my parenting failures (and there are many), despondent and paralyzed in fear of that failure, while these indomitable saints plunge into the darkness in order to pull souls out for the glory of God. When I see these people, I realize that I deserve nothing that I have. It is all a gift.
These people are living proof that when we choose to stare evil in the face, God stands before us in order to be our greatest victory. The Christian faith is about declaring Gods ultimate victory in the here and now. It is about us allowing God to show He is able to do the impossible through through the lives of His children.
There's the groundskeeper, who walks over the entire 55 acre complex daily tending to this city of God. He carries his equipment, and his 59 year old joints are not as flexible as they used to be. But ZOE doesn't have money lying around to buy him a motorized cart. Any resources that come in are used toward whatever the donor earmarks it for. A cart for the groundskeeper simply isn't something anyone has donated toward yet. So many needs and so many ways to help.
We were asked to save our hotel amenities to give as a gift to the ministry students. Again, ZOE doesn't have money lying around to purchase such things for these future leaders who are going to claim Thailand back for Christ. The need at ZOE is as large as the problem they are tackling. So many needs...
ZOE currently serves as home to over 50 children and over 30 ministry students. The vision they shared with us is that they would eventually expand to house 2,500 children in need and train 1,000 ministry students. I have no doubt in my mind that this is possible. I also have no doubt that the need is that great. My brothers and sisters, there are still kids out there! Kids in distress, and kids who are being victimized by human trafficking. Children whose every moment is drenched in the hopelessness that comes from not knowing if there is an end to the nightmare. Beloved children of God who do not know there is a God who knit them together in their mother's womb, because life has told them the exact opposite: that they are worthless, voiceless, and unlovable.
We deserve nothing we have. It is all a gift. Why?
There is still work to be done! And this sobering thought strikes me: what if? What if it were my child? Lord, thank You that Hannah, Taylor, Avery, and Kellen will not have to be subjected to such horror. The horror I feel at the mere thought of one of my kids in such a situation is not even a fraction of the heartbreak God feels whenever one of his children is victimized by sin. Thankfully He has chosen me to be a conduit of His love and watch care over them. Lord, accept my failures and be my strength.
It wasn't meant to be this way. We know it in our hearts. We are blessed to know God is a God of redemption and that He is working in the midst of great evil to bring about His victory. But these kids don't. Over 99% of Thailand doesn't. Someone in your life doesn't. How can I sit idly by when people remain enslaved by sin? When children are enslaved by sin? How can I possibly continue to marinate in my own laziness and selfishness? I will not. ZOE's mission is to reach every person, rescue every child. I want that to be my goal, just as it is God's goal: That none should perish and that none should be left blind to the fact that He loves them beyond words.
The main thing I learned this week? It's all about God. The story He is telling revolves around the themes of need and provision, hopelessness and rescue, failure and redemption.
When we realize our need for God, He is faithful to meet that need intimately, as only a Father would, be it spiritual, physical, material, or relational. He is Lord over it all. When we feel hopeless, God offers rescue, because you are His beloved child. When people fail, God shows us that He never fails. Don't fear failure, because failure on a human scale ultimately serves to magnify God's power.
We had the chance to witness the confession of new faith in 103 kids due to ZOE's outreach this week. Over 400 have occurred over the past month. One person from our sister team came to Christ this week. The soil is fertile and the fruit is hanging low. The harvest is great but the workers are few; the blessing and curse of low hanging fruit is that anyone can pick it. The kingdom of God needs more workers to gather in the harvest lest these souls be taken by the enemy. We know the need, Lord, please fill that need. Show us how we can help fill that need. So many needs and so many ways to help.
How do we help?
The pat answer is always "prayer and financial support". I do not mean to trivialize these things. Yes. Please give of your money and prayers toward the work of ZOE. They can certainly use them. But I'm also sure God has more in store for you. He wants more for you! God has met each person on this team in a personal, intimate way, and we want that for each person at Evergreen SGV. Prayerfully seek the areas where God is gently tugging at your heart. Step out and go on a trip. See what Christian faith looks like outside of our Western box, see how our brothers and sisters around the world live out their faith and worship. See what God is doing and how He is moving. He desires an inheritance of nation's, and offers us a part in presenting Him that.
He also has something for each of us where we are now. What evils do you face? Where is the point of need in your life? God wants to use you and draw you close in that need. The same God who is pulling Thailand out of darkness is pulling on your soul, wanting to give you deeper wholeness. Remember the bleeding woman from the gospels. To her, it didn't matter what others thought. She pursued Jesus with all her strength and she was healed. What do we need healing from? I need healing from my pride, laziness, and selfishness. I don't witness to others as boldly as I should. Thankfully, God still loves me and has used this trip to reaffirm His passionate pursuit of my heart. He can still use my broken heart for His glory if I let Him.
The harvest is great and the workers are few. Praise God, He uses imperfect workers to participate in the harvest. We are praying that you allow God to meet you at your point of need, and that He provides for that need with rescue and redemption in a way only our good Father can. You are His beloved child!
In His love,
Jason (on behalf of the Evergreen SGV ZOE team)
PS, if you are interested in partnering with ZOE, please visit their website. If you want to learn more about our trip, we will be presenting on Sunday, October 7 at 9:30AM at Evergreen SGV.