We really need to talk. I have a story to tell.
So we remember the story of Jesus Christ "feeding the 5000", right? Today I'm going to tell the story of the beginning of a journey.
I'll call this embarkment, "Finding the 4000".
I took my 31st overnight bus ride into the street lights and traffic sign local of Asoke, Bangkok. What that means is that I have spent over one month of my mission sleeping on a bus from 10pm to 6am.
So we arrived at our Mission Leadership Council meeting and by the end President had laid out a vision. We have baptized so many, and last year about 2500 people would come each Sunday across Thailand. After the take-off and the hastening, 3500 people.
"By the end of this very month," he concluded, "the Lord God wants 4000 people attending church each week across Thailand. He can do it, but that's not all. That is very different than the statement, He will do it. .. And he will."
We arrived home filled with faith and desire to help our zone catch the vision placed in our hearts. 500 more people in 4 weeks? Where on earth are we going to find 500 more people? That would mean that we need to baptize the same or more AND rescue those who have fallen at the side of the road.
The following Saturday would become a last opposition experience for me, where nobody I called gave me a definite yes on church. By the looks of things on Saturday evening, the odds weren't in our favor.
But we didn't ask for luck. We prayed in faith.
If there is one lesson that I have learned in its absolutely clarity on my mission, it is that faith precedes the miracle.
So on the evening of July 5th, that Saturday night, we set up the chairs in the chapel with the Elders.
Before we knew it, we had filled the room with 150 chairs.
Members came in and out watching us and helping, saying, "Why do you keep putting out more?" knowing that last week there was a total on 89 people in that room.
But the 150 chairs remained. Who would fill them? No idea. But we knew that room would be filled.
Beginning of the month, July 6th-- Fast and Testimony Sunday morning. The air crisp, the breeze slightly cool. The doors of the church stayed open as if welcoming arms.
And oh, did it welcome.
I am a witness that "faith precedes the miracle."
Families I had not seen my entire service spent in Ubon appeared as if from the dust came back like they'd be coming the last ten years. Faces I'd seen in my area book were standing right in front of me. I knew their names! Where had they been?
From my translation table in the back with my microphone and headsets, I looked out across what would appear to be an ocean of people. I saw the room full. Members, old and new, investigators, children, a newborn blessed baby, 2-baptismal candidates, a girl waiting for the Holy Ghost confirmation, families since lost, families newly baptized, families just barely found....
...and two orange-robed Buddhist monks.
That's right. You heard me.
A Phillipino man arrived early, saying: "Two months ago I met two sister missionaries at a market, they invited me." .... Two months ago. The miraculous thing? I saw as I walked passed something that caught my eye... his hymn book! What the...? He's not an investigator! He's a member! Since he was 14! He had lived in Thailand for 3 years and had no idea there was a church here.
Oddly enough, he had received a prompting this week that it was his time to go back to church, and he promised himself he would.
I testify that God plays 4-dimensional chess.
The ocean of 148 souls I looked over differed in every stage of their lives, whether young in age or young in faith, or neither. I mean, there is the oldest woman I've ever seen here who has out-lived us all on both aspects.
But amongst all these I felt stood angels on our left and on our right.
A higher power had brought these people here, not us. It was the faith.
We simply set out the chairs.
(my companion Sis. Jackson)