Dear Follower of Jesus, and follower of the wanderings of Neal,
You may have seen the picture of Jesus sitting at the well. A guy with a backpack is standing there talking with Jesus. He pulls out his iPhone. Jesus, says, “No...no. I want you to really follow Me!”
My Final Report will be in four sections: Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai, Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia. (And an eleven-hour transit stop in China and a three-hour tourist stop in Laos.)
The 11 hours in Guangzhou (paid for by the airlines) afforded me a bus ride to a fancy hotel, a shower, a nap, a meal and a ride back to the airport in time for my continuing flight to Chiang Mai, Thailand. What a joy it was to reconnect with Rose Martinez! She and a staff member were there to meet me. There is no better “sight for sore eyes” after 24 hours in travel than to see someone waiting for you when you come through security! We spent the night in Chiang Mai—each in our own hotel room. We shared a breakfast meeting with another missionary in need of some “pastoral care.” My first of many encounters with missionaries who do not have a Personal/Relational Care Team. It is tragic that with 400,000+ copies of Serving As Senders~Today in print, and with as many seminars and DVDs as have been given on the subject, that there is still virtual ignorance about this level of care. They are hurting! Too many are on the fields of the world: hurting! But they don’t know how they can have partners as Paul did with the people in Philippi! Can you do something? Do you know a missionary who does not have a personal/relational partnership team? Order a copy of the book. Read it. Send them an email saying you will head up such a team for them!
Rose attended the San Diego School of Evangelism one of the years I directed that program. She made a two-year commitment to work with Mrs. Lim at an orphanage in Bangkok, Thailand. Six months into her stay, Mrs. Lim sent her to another home she had in Northern Thailand. A year later (with six months remaining in her two-year commitment), Mrs. Lim called her on the phone: “Rose, I am retiring. I am going to live with my son in America. It’s yours!” Yes, that was 34 years ago! She has been (and still is) MOM to hundreds of children. She now manages five children’s homes in Thailand and one in Cambodia, and a school for 400 children in Cambodia. Her homes are largely staffed by “children” who grew up in her homes. To God be all glory!
It was my privilege to share the principles of spiritual warfare with her staff for two days. Even several from her Cambodia ministry were able to join us in Chiang Rai. And I interacted with her Western missionary staff one day in the principles of interpersonal relationships.
Rose expressed her “retirement” in a most unusual way: She gathered her staff around a gravesite that she had chosen and paid for. She told them that this is the place where she intends to be buried. But projects she is working on and dreams yet unrealized will keep her active in ministry for years to come. What a privilege God granted us (you and me) to participate in His ministry through Rose and Christian Happy Homes.
On Sunday morning, Rose and one staff member took me to the Mae Sai/Tachileik border crossing into Myanmar. As the paper in my hand said for me to do, I presented it at the Immigration Counter. They looked at it and they looked at me. “This is not a visa! It is not a proper paper to allow you entrance into Myanmar!” My Burmese contact, Joseph, arrived. Office after office soon told the story: My $80 piece of paper was being rejected! I was allowed to go into the border area for one day to preach in a church. When the service finally began and continued and continued, I wondered if I would ever speak. It seemed like every age group had some special reading or song or dance. My translator and I sat to the side with our shoes ready to slip off. But then finally, I too was given unlimited time to share from the Word. I had known that I would be speaking in several church settings. In prayer, I had sensed that my sermon topic would be from Jude: “Keep Yourself in the Love of God.” Jude makes reference to six stories of people who removed themselves from the love of God. Then he addresses three ways to keep yourself in the Love of God. I was privileged to share those thoughts five times on this trip. Well received! Two pastors admitted that they had taught the six negative stories, but had never made the connection with the positive instruction Jude gives. Even my translator said that though he had read through the Bible 38 times, he had never thought of those three positive points to be a way to avoid the negative. A music group of “yesteryear” had in their theme song, the words: “Don’t try to drive the darkness out; just turn on the Light.” Or, as Paul said in Romans 12:21: “Don’t be overcome by evil, take the offensive and overpower evil with good.” If we will focus on those three positive instructions, we won’t need to be concerned with the six negative. But now I’ve gone to preaching, not reporting! ;-)
The second part of this story will go down in “history” as a mystery! After preaching that day, I was taken back across the border into Thailand on a motorcycle. We went to the bus station. Purchased a ticket back to Chiang Mai. Went to KFC! My cycle driver insisted; he wanted the good ol’ Kentucky fried! Back to the bus station to wait—alone. Late into the night, I was met at the Chiang Mai station by Mark who drove me to my four-day “tomb”! I “sat” in a hotel for four days, waiting for a “legitimate” visa into Myanmar. I missed a whole area of northern Myanmar. Several hundred pastors had been invited to two different locations. The meetings were cancelled! Because my translator had also translated the book and he had my notes translated into the northern languages, I suggested that he do the conferences. No…unless the “foreigner” comes, they will not come! It seemed like a great loss of opportunity for the pastors who are hungry for solid teaching from the Word. And a total waste of time for me to sit in a hotel room for four days watching soccer games on TV! Yes, I did get a lot of Bible reading done. Prayer, also. I did have a brief opportunity to visit with the receptionist at THE WELL, a member care ministry in Chiang Mai, serving missionaries in Southeast Asian countries. One evening I did walk to and spent three hours walking through a giant six story Mall. Yes, I covered every level! But, beyond those diversions, there was not much excitement!
On the other hand, and according to Papa in “Fiddler on the Roof,” there is always another hand. During those four days, I sensed a peace that could only have come through your prayers for me! I cannot explain it. Ordinarily, in such circumstances, I would have been “fit to be tied”! And, though I grieved for the pastors and my coordinator, I could not “make myself” feel bad! Go figure!
On Friday, with a proper visa in my passport, I flew to Mandalay, Myanmar! A new adventure begins! From the airport to the city is a long, long road! It brought to mind the old poem of Rudyard Kipling, “On the Road to Mandalay.” My trip coordinator and sometimes translator met me. A Saturday seminar on the principles of spiritual warfare. Let me explain how this came about: Two years ago, in the city of Yangon, Myanmar, I did a two-day seminar on spiritual warfare from our book, Prepare For Battle, for a group of 50 pastors. John, one of the translators said, “This book has to be translated into Burmese!” He would do it. A Licensing Agreement was signed. But work did not begin. He finally admitted that other ministry prevented him the time to do it. I contacted a few friends of his that had the time needed to do the work. Nothing worked out. Then, I contacted a friend in Thailand, Mark, who is instrumental in funding, translating, printing and distributing thousands of Bibles in the tribal languages of Myanmar.
Thus, two years later, 1000 copies were delivered to each of seven cities where I would do a one-day seminar and the books would be given to all who attend. Pastors could take enough for their congregations. One pastor had ridden his Honda 125 for 45 minutes on a dusty, rutted road to attend that first seminar. On his way home, he called all of his people. Only on a Honda in Myanmar! He announced to them that he would be sharing a seminar on spiritual warfare on the following Saturday. “You will receive your copy of the book tomorrow at church. Have it read by next Saturday,” he instructed them. He then called my coordinator to tell him about his eagerness to do this seminar for his people! Pause, will you, to rejoice! This is what we (both of us, you and me) do this for!
The next day, Sunday, in the same church, I taught from Jude. What can I say? It was a whirlwind adventure!
In Puin Oo Lwin, the seminar was translated into Burmese. In a Mandalay Bible School, it was also translated into Burmese. In Kalaymur, into Tedin Chin. Another time into Falam Chin, and a third time into Hakka Chin. Though they are of the “Chin” family, they are completely different languages! Expressions of appreciation came from every age. It is spoken through a special handshake. They extend their right hand to shake, but their left hand is holding the elbow or forearm of their right hand. This expresses that their total being is saying, “thank you”. (No hand behind the back with the fingers crossed, to use an American expression!)
But, unfortunately (and reports should not only tell the “great and glorious”), there was a lot of “exalting” the American who came. I kept trying to direct them to the Word of God. Even in my introduction, I would say, “You have not come to listen to me, but to study the Word of God. Let’s be sure we are listening to the Word. There are over 700 Scripture references in the book you will receive. You can be sure this seminar will focus on the Word.” Invitations to return…or to stay…came at every occasion. I graciously indicated that I would pray about them. And I did. And will! But I also said, “You now have heard the seminar, you have the book in your language and my translated notes, but more importantly, you have the Word of God. You can teach these lessons to those among whom you have influence. And many pastors and elders said, yes, they were planning to do just that!
And, now, on Sunday evening, I sit alone…again…in a hotel room! Mark, from Thailand, who facilitated the translation of the book, Joseph, of the Falin Chin tribal language group, a beautiful brother in the Lord and coordinator and part time translator, and Jack, a man from Holland who “tagged along”, since he has provided thousands of dollars for Bible translation and printing, are gone! They are in the air as I write this rough draft. On their way to Yangon. Tomorrow they will drive to a leper community where Joseph wants to develop a program to provide a better education for the children. In the morning, I will eat a “good” hotel breakfast. A taxi has already been called to pick me up at 11:00am. I will again travel that road “from” Mandalay to the airport. A Thai Air flight to Bangkok and a transfer to Phnom Phen, Cambodia. I look forward to see our son, Greg and his wife, Marci, who are there with the YOUTH CALL team. And, the next evening to reconnect with my wife (and her team)! The fourth leg of my “wanderings” will have begun! (By the way, all who wander are not lost!)
But, back up for a moment: On the flight to Bangkok, I sat next to a Thai businessman, brought up in the beliefs of Buddha. Following Paul’s example in Athens, I did not speak negatively about his beliefs. A reasonable conversation came around to asking him if he had ever read the Bible? No! If I could get one for you, would you read it? After a moment of consideration, he said he would. I will need your address. It was not forthcoming. The conversation got diverted to other topics. But it came back to the Word of God. Question again: If I could get you a Bible, would you read it? Yes, I need a piece of paper to give you my address! Please pray for Chanond Tesavibul, that when he receives his Bible, that God will speak to him through the Word.
On the next flight, however, I sat next to a man who should have had to purchase two tickets! If you know what I mean! Fortunately, I was on the aisle. Except when the food carts rolled by, I was able to get my full seat allowance by leaning into the aisle. His very skinny wife was sitting next to the window. I thought to ask them to trade places…but I didn’t!
(For those interested in such trivia: The food was good. The hotels were more than adequate. [No late phone calls asking if “she” can do anything to help me through the night—a very common practice in Asian countries…the phone call, that is!] The weather was temperate. Cambodia will probably be a bit warmer…it was! My health was good.)
Not trivial at all: My spirit has been rejoicing in the privilege we (again, you and me) have had to “find faithful saints of God, entrust to them the Word of Truth…and do it in such a way that they will go out and teach others.” (ref: II Tim 2:2)
In Phnom Phen, I purchased a visa on my arrival. New airport! Nice! But even nicer, to see our son, Greg, waiting to pick me up. We took a tuk tuk (pronounced took took) to Greg’s flat. Late!
Briefly, the Water of Life ministry in Cambodia: Fifteen years ago, Randy Fleming began to take in boys—some orphans, some in abusive home environments, and some from villages where they would not be afforded a decent education. For example, one 22-year old is six months away from his law degree, which will qualify him for a judge appointment. I asked Marci where he would be and what he would be doing if not afforded this place to live? “At the least, a farmer; at worse, selling and/or using drugs.” Somewhere along the way, a girls’ home was established and an orphanage developed. In a word: Fabulous!
Tuesday morning, Greg and I took the tuk tuk to the White Elephant retreat facility. Got my room key. A retreat had been scheduled for all the Western missionaries. We listened to a couple of pastors, Jeff and Jeff, talk about taking responsibility and cooperation. I had to go back to the Water of Life facility. (This is a one-hour hot, dusty, dirty, pot-holed ride on a tuk tuk!) I taught the first lesson in the Letter of James: Trials and temptations, and what to do with them. KJV says, “Count it all joy…”! (You might want to reread that passage.) Greg went to the airport to pick up Yvonne and her team. I could not go to the airport to meet my wife! I did not get to see her until the next day! I had to return back (one hour) to the White Elephant center for my early morning session with the Western missionaries. Did some teaching on how we view the organization with which we are ministering. Well received. The second session, I did my lesson on Servant-Leader. Even better received!
Because I did not have the five evenings at the Bible classes that I had expected, Wednesday evening I chose to do James’ lesson on Wisdom. The Word of God is powerful. What a contrast is the wisdom of this world and the Wisdom of God. (I want to teach it here and now!)
Thursday I went with Yvonne and her team to the Killing Fields! The insanity of man against man. One wonders how one man—Pol Pot—could gain such singular power to create a genocide of an advancing culture to return to an agrarian, 18th century culture. And in the process, destroy a nation—one that is still trying to recover. Thursday evening, one of the pastors finished the last chapters of Acts. Friday, I digressed from James and did my lesson on the Renewal of the Mind from Romans 12:2. Well, it starts with that verse, but picks up a few dozen more to give us a clear picture of the battle that rages (Gal 5:17) and how to live in victory (“Don’t be overcome by evil; take the offensive, overpower evil with good.” Rom 12:21) The Word! The Word! The Word!If there is one thing I like to do when giving a seminar, it is to drive the people to the Word of God. I was asked to meet for several luncheon meetings with WOL leaders. May God’s wisdom prevail in ongoing “growing pains” in this ministry.
And now, I finish the rough draft of this tale of Neal’s wanderings in the transfer hall of the Guangzhou, China airport. Most people only experience one February 29th, every four years. This year Yvonne and I experienced two! We left Cambodia on 2/29, and when we crossed the International Date Line, we experienced a second 2/29! Of course, I “lost” February 1, on my flight to Asia.
To God be all glory! What a trip! Thank you for partnering with me on this journey. Only eternity will tell the good accomplished in Jesus’ Name.
Ministering by His grace,