By Melanie Devereaux …
Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?” I said, “Here I am. Send me.” – Isaiah 6:8
When I was asked to write a blog about our trip to Southeast Asia, I thought, “Goodness, where in the world would I begin? There is so much to tell! How do I consolidate all that we witnessed and experienced into something shorter than a book? So, warning here, this may be a bit long. I suggest you get a cuppa and have a seat to read it through.
Our team recently returned from a land on the other side of the globe where nothing is familiar, the climate is hot, the humidity is high, and dust and dirt mandate you shower at least twice a day. This fascinating country is home to people who mostly live on less than two dollars a day. The list of ‘world’s biggest’ and ‘fastest growing’ statistics from this country is long. And yet, as one local entrepreneur friend of ours recently said, it is “probably the most invisible country in the world.”
Not invisible to the Father, though. In fact, this nation and its people are very special to the heart of the Father, and his Holy Spirit is at work there to reveal the Truth about His sacrifice that paid for their sins once and for all and about the offer He’s extending to them to have an intimate, eternal relationship with Him.
Earlier this year, Duane and I were asked to build and lead a team from Hope in the City to participate in this summer adventure to a land where many have never heard the name of Jesus – a home to many of the unreached people groups in the world. Now on the other side of the trip, we both agree this experience will forever be marked as one of the most pivotal in our lives. We lived in the nation for 4 years and have traveled there many times, but the two weeks we just spent with our team took our faith to a whole new level and our love for the nation to an even greater depth. We were blown away by the awareness that we were playing a little part in a very big endeavor that had been orchestrated by the Holy Spirit.
We are in awe of our team of thirteen that God put together. Not having any idea who He would call, we only knew it would need to be people who were FLEXIBLE, ADAPTABLE, and HUMBLE. This work would require us to lay down our rights, to lay down our expertise, and to submit ourselves as humble servants. We had to work as a team, each individual recognizing that any victory was a TEAM victory, and the specific vessel the Holy Spirit used was up to Him and Him alone.
Duane and I are so very proud of the eleven people He gave us. They worked through challenges, deferred to one another, looked after and supported one another. A trip like this will be sharpening and be purifying because it’s rife with chaos, confusion, things not going the way we wanted them to go, discomfort, DIRT, lice, bugs, and other creepy crawlies. There were plenty of opportunities for repentance and as many for grace and forgiveness. We saw team members walk in humility and servanthood. The strong stepped up to help the weak. No one was left behind. No one was lost.. We recognized our need for one another and no one considered himself better than the others. Strong leaders submitted to other leaders, laying down their rights to have things go their way. We saw the beauty of the Body of Christ at work.
An EEP network (Extreme, Extraordinary Prayer, my term) was constructed early on, made up of over 150 prayer warriors both from Hope In The City and from other churches. This was one of the most beautiful things I experienced this summer — this awareness that every day and every night we were covered in prayer and, as we ran into various snags along the way, we were able to call upon the EEP for extra prayer, and, time and again, we saw the Father answer our cries. Again, the beauty of the Body of Christ at work.
Midway in our preparation, we were asked to shift to a different location, one where we knew the stronghold of the local religion was heavily entrenched and where resistance to the Gospel was fierce. We had the great honor of being amongst folks who have devoted many years of their lives to the people of this land. We joyfully submitted to their instructions, even though it meant laying down some of our preconceived notions about how things would go.
Backyard Bible clubs, handing out tracts, large tent meetings, public worship, gathering crowds to hear preaching from a microphone — none of this would be effective in this land. Instead, our team was on mission to find “People of Peace”. In Luke 10, Jesus sent out 36 teams, each one a team of 2 people, to go to every town and place where he was preparing to go. These teams were “advance teams” whose sole focus was simply preparing for the work that Jesus would eventually do! He instructed them to look for the “Person of Peace”—someone in the village who would be open to the travelers and willing to talk with them about deeper matters. The “person of peace” would be one who would open the door to more people in the community hearing and being responsive to the message the visitors were bringing!
Each day, we set out in teams of 2 or 3, along with a translator, to meet people wherever they were doing their daily activities and to look for someone who the Holy Spirit was stirring. Villages, parks, beaches, taxis, markets, sports fields—we went out to these places and looked for people who would talk with us.
It was not easy. Many attempts were met with rejection, some even with sneers or laughter. But the Holy Spirit helped us find people whom He had prepared who were willing to talk with us at length and eventually invited us into their circle of friends and family to hear more about this One who sacrificed His life to pay for their sins once and for all.
There was the farmer lady, the fisherman, the shopkeeper, the teacher, the food stall vendor, the farmer man. There were the homeless surf instructors who lived on the beach, the haji taxi drivers, and the curious homestay hosts. There was the couple in the village who yearned to have children; the middle-aged woman who struggled with loneliness and depression, having lost her husband just a month ago; and the Hindu family, bound by generational curses, in the village in the foothills. We were invited into their homes to share meals and to share stories about Jesus. We told stories about what Jesus had done in our own lives, and we listened to them talk about their needs and desires. We said we follow the teachings of Jesus and we believe He has what they are looking for, and we got to pray for them. Some were healed; many shed tears; most were interested in knowing more.
Then, just like that, our job was finished. We would return to the States, but confident we had confidence that the work would continue where we left off.
While we were there, several people who know us commented on how Duane seemed “fully alive” in that country. That made our hearts soar, of course, as we deeply love that nation and her people. Our real desire, though, is to be found “fully alive” here in our own city. We can apply the same things we learned during this two-week journey right here in Austin. We know the Holy Spirit is moving here and, all around us, there are “Persons of Peace” he is stirring. We just need to ask him to show us. He’s given us everything we need to “go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” We can teach these new disciples to obey all the commands he has given us. And we can be sure of this: He is with us always, even to the end of the age.
Want to hear more stories? Stop and ask anyone from our team, and we’d love to share with you about this powerful trip! Something really big happened there this summer. Something unprecedented that will, perhaps, go down in history as the shifting point in the destiny of this land.