Right now I’m looking out the window of a ninth-floor apartment where Mary and I are staying in East Asia. On the horizon I see mountains, and filling the space between our apartment and the mountains, as far as I can see to my left and to my right, are towering buildings. Some are grey and some are brown, but they are everywhere. Car horns are blaring almost constantly. On the streets are buses, cars, bicyclists, rickshas and taxis. It’s a bustling urban environment that makes a city like Indianapolis look like a mere village, and yet this particular city is one of the smaller ones in this part of the world.
Last week, Mary and I were in a larger city, one that is probably 10 times as large as the one where we are staying now. The immensity of these places, the teeming swarms of people, and the constant construction of new structures is simply astonishing. Last week as I was gazing out the window of another apartment, noticing that as far as my eye could see were buildings at least 20 stories high, a friend said to me, “Isn’t that amazing? And none of this was even here 10 years ago. It was all just empty fields.”
The friend speaking to me was a missionary, one of several that Mary and I have come to visit. We are here to encourage them, to learn about what God is doing through their ministries, and to consider how the Lord might be leading us to further participate in his redemptive mission throughout the world.
We’ve noticed some peculiar things about this place: people like to shoot off fireworks very early in the morning; many of the locals can’t resist staring at us like we’re celebrities; water is always served warm in restaurants; the large buildings I was mentioning all look old, even though they are new; it is not unusual to see armed men in uniform.
It is now Sunday afternoon, and this the first full day of our time in the second city of our trip. This morning we enjoyed a time of worship together with about 14 missionaries. We sang some Advent songs, prayed together, and then I delivered a message to them from Rom. 10:13-17 about the importance of taking the Gospel to those who haven’t heard it, which is precisely the passion driving these young disciples of Jesus. Afterward I had the privilege of serving communion to this group, and praying that the Spirit of God would nourish and strengthen them in the work that God has called them to do.
Mary and I both are relishing the many ways that God has answered your prayers on our behalf. Our travel (a total of about 18 hours in three different planes) has been smooth and without incident; jet lag has been tolerable; Mary has experienced none of her frequent headaches, and I have suffered only one mild stomach upset from the unusual diet; and of course it has been an absolute delight to reconnect with Nick, Melissa, and Nathan, as well as married couples Austin and Jeanne, and Eric and Lauren, all of whom used to worship with us at New Life and are now fulfilling the Great Commission in this part of the world. Their faith and willingness to follow Jesus wherever He leads is truly inspiring.
We have also been able to visit Linda, who came to faith in Christ during her time at BSU and worshiped with us at New Life, and is now living back home and finishing her degree. Linda is doing well — still walking with Christ and hoping to come back to the States to attend seminary one day, but finding it very difficult to find a fellowship of believers with whom she can worship here.
There are several other exciting events on our itinerary for the coming week: a local pastor who is from the area will be coming to have dinner with us; we will be visiting a local mosque and a Buddhist monastery; and of course we will have more time with our dear brothers and sisters in Christ here.
Our flight home leaves early Thursday morning (that’s Wednesday evening Muncie time). Continued prayers are welcomed and encouraged. We are looking forward to being back together with our brothers and sisters at New Life!