I have learned so much about God's character in the time I have been in Southeast Asia and this last month really helped me put all my thoughts together.
First off, throughout my time there God continued to remind me of His perfect love. It always seems funny to me that He could show me such love in the middle of a red-light district, in a place so deprived of it. However, it turned out to be the perfect place for Him to show me. Every time I stepped onto the streets of one of the districts, I was reminded of these words, "There is no pit so deep that God's love is not deeper still." For me it was all the encouragement needed to move forward and step into the darkness, knowing God's light would always shine brighter.
"The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it." -John 1:5
The funny thing is these individuals were in dark places, yes, but they were hardly difficult to love. Some of them were the kindest people I had ever met. A lot of times, I wasn't asking for strength to love the ones in the bars but some of the others around me. Many times, I was asking for strength to love myself.
If I am completely honest, the city was not my favorite place to live. I do love many people there though and there were aspects of the city and culture I did enjoy. Then again there were things that I did not. Being at odds with the culture, whether I wanted to be or not, made it difficult for me and it often made me upset.
I spent too much of my time feeling guilty for not fitting in the way I wanted to and too much time comparing myself to those who seemed to connect so effortlessly. I believed, and still believe, God brought me there for a reason, but sometimes it was so hard to see.
July was definitely a hard month of learning more about myself, to see my shortcomings and weaknesses, but also be reminded of God's strength. For me it became apparent that sometimes it is not enough to try and delight in God without remembering He also delights in us. I was trying to share the love of God to others without believing it entirely for my life. I wanted people to know God was proud of them while I myself felt like a disappointment.
Thankfully, God is continuing to show me how pleased He is with me. Even though my time in Southeast Asia was not always what I thought it would be, I take comfort in knowing that I was faithful and obedient to go where He sent me. I am encouraged by the fact that this life is not about who I am and what I have done, but about who God is and what He has done, and what He is doing. I am thankful that God has shown me His love for the people of Southeast Asia, but also the love that He has for me.
As I was leaving, God also continued to reinforce His truth to me that He is sovereign. Everywhere I looked, I saw a place that God is redeeming for His glory and people that He is drawing back to Himself. As I walked the red-light districts one last time, I knew these places would not be there forever and I prayed that one day I would come back only to see the remnants of something that once was. I know God was moving in these streets long before I ever even thought about coming and He will continue to be at work long after I am gone. What He started, He will see through to its completion.
"As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it." -Isaiah 55:10-11
If there is one thing I want to do as I reintegrate into American life, it is to continue to show the love of Christ to people. Even as a nation whose culture has been so heavily influenced by Christianity, America is sometimes so clueless about who God is. People misrepresenting Jesus and people turning to a self-created perception of God has left all parties unsatisfied and lacking in the true experience of God. God is love, but He is also mercy, justice and righteousness. As I step into this new season of life, I know my days of loving people are not over. God has so much more to show me. I only pray I will be open to see and hear Him.
Brooke* served in Southeast Asia the past six months with Go Now Missions.