Editor’s Note: This summer, continued COVID spikes and rolling lockdowns happening in different parts of the world have added new challenges to getting to the field. Here is an update on how one Serge intern spent her first two weeks.
After two red-eye flights, a long layover in Germany, and a tedious customs/immigration process, I arrived in Bangkok…only to be whisked away to my quarantine hotel for the next 15 days.
My quarantine has been very strict. I do not leave the room unless I am instructed to. (Ask me about the time I tried to “escape” and got escorted back by the security guard.) I only leave to get a COVID test…totaling four in the last 2.5 weeks. My meals are placed outside my door. I report my temperature to the nurse twice a day. It is far from the “exciting mission field of adventure” you might think of.
Not to sugarcoat it, but it was hard.
Every day was hard. Every day just getting out of bed to sit and do work/orientation training was hard. Every day I had to choose if I was going to live for myself or for God. Was I going to rely on myself or rely on God for strength?
Throughout these two weeks, I’ve been dwelling on Matthew 6. My reflection below is not in chronological order but structured from the 5 subtitles of Matthew 6.
Giving to the Needy
Often, I give excuses when I do not want to do something… “I just don’t have time. Life is so busy. I need life to slow down.”
But is it really that I don’t want to do it or is it not enough of priority to get it done? How was I going to use these next 15 days?
There is a phrase “If you have time for breakfast, never say that you don’t have time for God’s Word.” Truly and physically, I related to Jesus’ instructions in verse 6: “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret.”
I was in a room with the door closed, how could I not live this out? No one was watching or expecting anything from me. Do I only “practice Jesus” when others can see it?
We need to be wary of doing things, especially practicing righteousness, for the sake and approval of others.
Let verse 4: “And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” sink in. God sees that I chose to spend hours soaking up His promises and admitting my need for the Father’s strength in isolation and is glorified in that.
The Lord’s Prayer
As I was studying how to pray, one morning I knelt to pray but had no words.
The first thing to learning to pray is admitting from the heart that we do not know how to pray. Often, I do not pray (or ask people to pray for me) until it is the only option left. That is reversed, prayer should be the first thing we do.
In the Lord’s prayer, sometimes praying “Thy Kingdom come” is the hardest because it means we have to stop our kingdom building.
Rose Marie Miller says in her book, Nothing is Impossible with God, “If we are honest with ourselves, we are usually seeking our kingdom—our will, our way, our plans, our purpose, our desires. How many of us secretly want our names to be hallowed rather than God’s?”
This is not what the Spirit desires for the growth of God’s kingdom.
We need the Spirit to teach us how to pray for building God’s kingdom—the one where he receives all the glory. I can rest assured that “For when we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:26.)
From N.T Wright’s The Crown and the Fire: “The Spirit sustains and supports us in our weakness…we look at the world and long to bring to it the injustice and peace, the Shalom, for which it is yearning. And we don’t know how to do it…But at the very moment of this weakness…we have the assurance that the Spirit is doing the praying we cannot do.“
About a week into quarantine, I started becoming comfortable and reverted back to relying on myself for strength.
I fell out of touch for my need of His dependence. I decided to fast for 30 hours. I put all my snacks (and candy that I ate on hard days) away. I turned off my phone. Stripped of my comforts and distractions even more, I was brought to my lowest place where yet again I fell apart.
And that’s where God meets us in our brokenness.
It is a continual cycle of admitting our need not only when we feel we desperately need him, but when we feel we have it all together. In relation to Hebrews 4:16, Rose Marie says “When we humble ourselves before God and others, acknowledging our need, then when God answers, he is glorified and his kingdom moves with power into all our lives. We are invited to ‘come boldly unto the throne of grace.’”
In those 30 hours, I sought the Lord for my daily bread and to be fed by His word.
Fasting allowed me to recenter myself on the Father in the midst of my weakness. The repetition in verse 18: “your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” amplifies the intended heart posture.
Bethany Ferguson writes in her study, The Mission Centered Life, “Just as brokenness in the world began with people who refused to worship God, transformation comes through people who return to God.” Returning and being re-centering on the Lord is necessary for newness.
Lay Up Treasures in Heaven
In my head, life is structured and structured. I do not like not having an agenda. Entering 15 days of isolation, I often thought this time would be a “waste.” I think of what I could normally accomplish within 2 weeks. I just spent 4 years in college constantly filling my schedule, chasing one thing to the next.
But we are not a measure of our productivity and efficiency.
My worth is not in how much I can accomplish. It is my tendency to be in control of my life and when it is not, I am frustrated. Bethany goes on to state, “a heart-centered on control has no room for brokenness.”
I am made in the image of God, but I constantly disobey his commands and struggle daily to live as he designed.
God delights, in fact, in using the weak, the needy, the helpless—even me, whose heart maybe is not broken for the lost in Thailand, but heard the call to go.
Verse 20: “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” instructs us on how to act on earth. Easier to said than done. This command is linked to the desires of our heart in verse 21: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
When our desire is to see Jesus as our treasure, our worldly accomplishments do not compare to the work for eternity. Living sacrificially for Jesus’ sake, even in the smallest seemingly insignificant ways, is storing up treasures in heaven. Our roles (i.e the things we do/accomplish) may differ in seasons, but the God we serve is the same.
Do Not Be Anxious
At the start of my quarantine, I battled the infamous jetlag. On top of figuring out a new time zone, I was trapped in a single room.
If you know me, you know that I love people and being with people, so the reality of being 9,000 miles from everyone I knew was daunting. Even with modern technology, I was limited being 12 hours ahead.
I felt isolated. I felt alone. I felt afraid. I was reminded of verse 30: “Why are you afraid, O you little faith?” Did I not believe that the Lord was with me?
As I kept trying to count down the days, I felt crushed when there was more than I could count on my fingers. I turned to verse 34: “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” as a reminder to not worry about the next day or the day after.
In accordance with this truth, my dad encouraged me early on to take to one day at a time as completing each day is an accomplishment.
Worry and fear can consume and cause me to miss what is right in front of me. I am so structured on forward-thinking that the present can waste away if I am not careful. Even more, I need to experience God’s grace daily. Bethany goes on to say, “As we experience God’s grace in our lives, it frees us to move out from ourselves and into the world.”
Missions work requires a big vision of Christ’s work in the world because it takes time—it is writing a story that is beautiful in the midst of brokenness. God is working and will continue to work in my weakness, always supporting and always sustaining.
My quarantine was not wasted time nor a mistake; it is exactly just what I needed.