Thursday was one long day. Emma and I were in route back to St. Louis for over 25 hours. It was good that our last flight from Chicago to St. Louis was the shortest leg, because our excitement to get back to our family was boiling over. They were as excited to see us, as we them. We spent most of Friday relaxing and reconnecting, trying to get over jet lag. We are both excited to share with the church what God did on our trip. Emma will be giving a short report to the teens Sunday morning and I will give a report Sunday night. I’m looking forward to being back in the service with the Grace family this Sunday.
I believe God really used the trip for our good and His glory. I hope that the ministries of all six missionaries we visited will be renewed in their purpose and refreshed by our visit. The Lord has certainly increased my heart for His work in that region. My prayer life has been affected. Our bonds have been strengthened. I pray that the refrain so often seen in the book of Acts will ring true once again, only this time in Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia, “as they went through the cities… the churches were strengthened in the faith and increased in number daily” Acts 16:4-5.
There is joy in serving Jesus as I journey on my way.
Joy that fills my heart with praises every hour and every day.
There is joy in serving Jesus as I walk alone with God
Tis the joy of Christ my Saviour who the path of suffering trod
There is joy, joy, joy in serving Jesus, Joy that throbs within my heart
Every moment every hour, As I draw upon His pow’r
There is joy, joy, joy that never shall depart.
This song sung (in English and Indonesian) by the youth choir at the First Independent Baptist Church of Indonesia summarized the feeling I had as I pillowed my head Sunday night. It was quite an exhausting day of service, but my heart was so full of joy I could hardly fall asleep.
The day started early as I got ready and looked over my sermon notes. I tried to think about what illustrations could be used in this culture to relate the truth I believed God wanted me to share. I was a little unsure so I explained to Nancy Quinlan at breakfast if the Indonesians used a coffee filter to make coffee. I’m glad I asked because she said most Indonesian homes did not have a coffee maker, but she thought it would be great if I used that illustration in the sermon. She said they like to learn about the way westerners do things, and because her husband Larry loves black coffee. The coffee most Indonesians drink is an instant brew (no coffee pot is required.) She found a small single serve coffee maker and packed it away for use in the message. We headed out the door loaded with food items for the special lunch that the church was having, because they were hosting Emma and I as their special guests. We arrived at Larry’s work, the Perumnas Independent Baptist Church of Indonesia to find Sunday School already under way. (This church is a newer work that the Quinlans are working at to help bring to maturity and sustainability). It was great to hear the kids singing as we walked in the building. Most of the adults began arriving around 9:00 for the 9:30 service. After some great singing, testimonies, special musical numbers and offering, Emma and I were introduced to the church. Emma sang a wonderful song titled “Grace and Peace” and then it was my turn to serve the Lord and preach His Word. I brought a message titled “The How of Holiness” from Romans 6 and Matt. 5. I used the coffee pot illustration to show that the Lord wants us to change not just what is in our cup (sinful actions) but what is in the filter (heart desires). The illustration worked! It helped keep attention and connect the spiritual point. I praise the Lord how the Spirit enabled this American pastor to speak to Indonesian hearts the truth that he desired them to hear.
The church honored us with a meal and with many group and individual photos. I get emotional when I think about how close the connection with believers from different cultures can become in such a short period of time. The separation of language is no match for the love of Christ. I’m not sure when I’ll see these dear people again but, I’m thankful I was able to worship with them and observe their joy in serving Jesus.
In the evening we drove to the First Independent Baptist Church of Indonesia and at the request of Pastor Marcos, Emma and I again had the opportunity to sing and preach like we did in the morning.
This church is a solid work, fully autonomous and led by a wonderful servant of the Lord. Pastor Marcos was saved out of Islam over fifty years ago, gave up a lucrative job in banking to assume the pastorate of the church over thirty years ago, and is one of the solid leaders of the Independent Baptist movement in Indonesia. The Lord again blessed His Word giving even greater fluidity in the English to Indonesian translation than in the morning. I’m so thankful for Brother Larry’s ability with the language. After the service one young man told me that he had committed to take some “radical steps” to gain victory over sin in his life. It was a joy to serve this church by proclaiming truth from the Word. Again, we were honored with a time of photo taking and a special meal. The graciousness of Pastor Marcos and his wife was a tremendous blessing (and example) to us.
Now here is the kicker: at both churches, the new church plant and the well established one, a man in the congregation came up to me and said something like this in broken English, “Pastor Kolb, it was an honor to have you at our church, please accept this as a token of our appreciation for your service to us today,” and then they handed me an envelope. I was stunned! I had no expectation of an honorarium; I did not want one, or feel like I deserved one. But in that moment I realized what I had to do; I had to receive the gift. Why? Because, I did not want to steal from them their joy in serving Jesus.
I’m so thankful for the opportunity to experience the work of the Lord here in Indonesia. What I have witnessed this weekend is the answer to prayers I’ve prayed for several years. God is working here in this country. I believe exciting opportunities for the gospel to make in roads are not too far away. This country still needs more missionaries with the heart and passion for Indonesia like Tom Crawford and Larry Quinlan. Would you pray with me that God would lay it on someone’s heart to come here and help advance the work. If you are praying about missions, I wish you could have heard the young people singing…
There is joy, joy, joy in serving Jesus, Joy that throbs within my heart
Every moment every hour, As I draw upon His pow’r
There is joy, joy, joy that never shall depart.
The Quinlans (Larry and Nancy) had the Crawfords (Tom and Janice) come to their house to join us for dinner Saturday evening. The meal was great. Chicken Parmesan, veggies and wonderful garlic bread. But the real joy was sitting around the table discussing the work of God in Indonesia (past, present, and future). The conversation never really died down. We went from one topic to the other with ease. I asked some questions but mainly listened to two really good, really faithful missionaries share their thoughts with me about Indonesia. I thought I’d let you in on some of the topics.
- We discussed how God enables the missionary to do what he is called to.
- We discussed how the Lord called them to Indonesia and later confirmed that call.
- We discussed what obstacles they have faced and are currently facing.
- We discussed why many missionaries come off the field.
- We discussed why Indonesia is not “on the map” of most in the BBFI.
- We discussed what could be done to put it on the map and draw attention to the need.
- We discussed team missions and the prospect of getting younger missionary interns to Indonesia.
- We discussed raising kids on the mission field.
It was a blessing. I believe the Lord used it to set the stage for a great week here in Indonesia.
As Emma finished introducting her song with the aid of translation by missionary Nancy Quinlan and walked over to the pinao to sing, Larry Quinlan leaned over to me and said, “you have to be very proud of your daughter.” I could hardly answer back as my throat was getting a little choked up and my eyes were getting ready to be wet (with tears). Yes I’m very proud of all my children but this trip has given me the opportunity to appreciate some things about my oldest that I may not have noticed under “normal” conditions. I’ll save the specifics for her when she wakes up, but for now I just want to send all those who supported my daughter and prayed for her while she was on this trip a few recent photos so that you can see her in action. She has been a tremendous blessing to her father, the missionaries and the nationals she has interacted with. Thanks to all who have invested in her. God has used her for good and I think He is very proud of her as well.
WOW! What an unbelievable thing it was to stand up on a Saturday morning and see sixty plus Christian servants sitting at attention, eager to hear what the Bible has to say about warning and admonishing each other in the church. I prayed that God would help Larry and I to develop a good cadence as he translated my words into the Indonesian language. I had previously sent him my notes which he translated for a handout the day before, so the material was pretty familiar to him. I did stump him a couple times (the word restore means to set a broken bone, Gal 6:1). He did not know the word for setting a bone in Indonesian. Apparently his kids never had any accidents when they lived here. Other than that, It went very well.
I used the white board to explain the theological pyramid, and I drew an illustration explaining progressive sanctification. Rather than copy the illustrations onto their own paper many of the younger students took out their phones and took a picture of the white board once I was done drawing. (What really blew me away concerning the use of technology in Asia was the young man in Singapore who typed a text message of my entire watch night sermon while I was speaking and sent it out to the church list just minutes after I concluded!!! … now back to “Why Counsel”) The group was hungry for the truth. We took a break about an hour or so into the material. There was a buzz in the room.
We ate some sweet, green doughy snack with coconut in the middle (YUM!) and got right back to teaching.
The second part was an explanation of Paul’s philosophy of ministry from Colossians 1. It reiterated much of the same material from the first hour, but gave us a chance to restate and re-emphasize the principles from the Bible. That is always a good thing. We ended right at 12:00 p.m., because many of those in the crowd had ministries that they were responsible for that Saturday afternoon, but the sponsoring pastor wanted us to take the time for Q & A. So for the next half hour, several good questions were asked.
What a joy this time was. Larry and Nancy later told me how helpful the material was. It was a joy to share with others truths that have helped my ministry, even if it was in a different culture. Ministry is ministry, it has a way of transcending culture. I often forget that people’s problems are the same around the world, and the Bible is really the only source for any lasting help or hope. Why Counsel? Because we have the answers in God’s Word, no matter what language it is printed in. That is what we celebrated on Saturday morning. We then went back to Larry and Nancy’s home and took a nice long nap.
The flight from Phuket to Jakarta was delayed. Emma and I experienced a hectic evening as we tried to process through customs. The lines were long, people were cutting. I was scouting the fastest way, but later realized there was no fastest way. We were going to be there for a while. This is why they tell you arrive three hours early for international flights
Once through immigration we found our gate, realized we had some time, and went upstairs to find a DQ (it was the only food joint in the terminal food court we recognized.. We both overpaid for a blizzard, and then we went to a “burger” joint (like burger king but not) and paid around seven dollars for a bag of fries and a bottle of water. (ouch!) We were hungry… ( hard to imagine after the brick oven pizza we ate earlier that afternoon, now that was good.) The flight was delayed and then they moved us upstairs to gate 5 to board. – it was all a good experience – AirAsia was a fine airline, and ran in a professional way (think Southwest Airlines of the southeast Asian market). Once on board they don’t do anything special – they just get you where you need to go.
I knew we would have to go through customs at Jakarta, so I began to map out the plan. It was not just that I wanted to be super-international-travel-dad, I really wanted to get to bed. We unloaded on the tarmac (walked down stairs and onto the airport concrete). That was new for Emma. We boarded a bus and I stopped at the first seat by the door so we would be one of the first ones off the bus. The plan worked great. When I walked into the airport check in area, I had to make an unexpected split second decision – there were two signs – “visa” (arrow left) and “immigration” (arrow right). Since I did not have a visa I headed left to purchase one – Emma followed. We were the second people to the window. We handed them our passports and he said it would be 70 USD for two. Larry warned me that It would be 35 USD per person prior to leaving so I pulled out my envelope and I gave it to him. He counted the money, handed me my visa, and off we went to immigration.
There were four lines – I choose the shortest (line number two) but the family in front of me was really confused. They took their time. Line three and four were moving fast; I began to feel anxious. Finally we were allowed to go up to the officer, he looked at all the paper work, and all of it seemed in order. The line behind us was growing longer, so he stamped everything and we were off. It all went a lot smoother than I anticipated. We got a cart for the baggage and I told Emma to get into line while I would wait for the bags. There was a long line for getting out of the baggage area (from a previous flight whose bags had just arrived) and into the airport terminal.
Once we got to the front of that line with all our bags we were told that just our carry on bags needed to go through which did not make sense because at that point how would the officer know which ones were carried on the plane and which ones I picked up in the terminal. But hey, it was late, I was tired, and my bags were heavy. While lifting my backpack, I tripped over the cart, and then ended up stepping on the rollers while almost sliding into the scanning machines. The security guards got a good laugh at the expense of the tired white guy who had just bloodied his shin.
We walked through the opening and Larry was sitting right there. (Yeah. All our missionaries remembered to pick us up.) As we walked out at 1:30 in the morning, a host of taxi cab drivers were trying to coax us into their cabs. Larry wanted to leave us at a safe distance but realized he could not get his car close so he came back and walked us through the “pack”.
We found a safe spot on the passenger pick up island and waited for Larry. About seven different taxi cab drivers either pulled up or walked over to ask if we needed a ride. (we had a bulls-eye on our back for sure) We would wave them off trying to give them as little eye contact as possible.
Larry pulled around, we loaded up the suitcases, and our ministry in Indonesia began. Car rides provide the context for some of my favorite conversations. It’s the get to know you talk that begins to peel back the onion. The church over the last two months has been going well. They had a great Christmas day service – it lasted four hours. It is great to hear missionaries upbeat about their work. The drive from the airport took about 35 minutes – it would have taken over an hour during the day. We never left the city. Jakarta is HUGE!
We arrived at the house, met Nancy, and got the lay of the land around the house – (bathrooms to use, wifi passcode, etc.) We went to bed around 2:30am. We were tired. The next day I was to speak at 9:00 am, which meant be ready to leave at 7:30 (1 hour drive time on Saturday morning). Breakfast at 7:00 was optional, we could sleep or eat, whatever we felt was needed the most. Before I went to sleep I did two things – I called my wife to let her know we arrived in Jakarta safely, and I warned Emma about the 4:30 a.m. Muslim prayers that would be broadcast from the local mosque (so she would not wake up and think we were under attack). She told me the next day she was so tired she slept through it. It woke me up and stood the hair on the back of my neck on end. Before I dozed back to sleep, I prayed for the people who were praying to Allah.
It seemed like everywhere I turned, I saw Buddha. Thailand is filled with statues of Buddha. Each home has a “spirit house” in their yard to keep away evil spirits. Thousands of Temples fill the neighborhoods of Bangkok. Amulets are sold throughout the country to be worn for protect and to bring good luck. In fact, some people wear them like collector pins. The more you have and the older they are, the more valuable they become. There are price guides for these little trinkets like the ones I used when I was a kid and I wanted to know how much a baseball card was worth. (again the older the better.) Folklore, good works, reincarnation and temple visits encompass much of the Buddhist religion. Doubt, frustration, failure, hopelessness, suicide, fear and a lack of any hope of eternal life summarizes the Thai people because the influence of this religion.
For most Thais, they are born Buddhist like the Irish are born Catholic. This is who they are. Most Thais don’t know a Thai Christian. They have heard of them but have a hard time conceiving one. They don’t make fun of Thai converts to Islam but they ridicule Thai Christians if they meet them. The advance of the Gospel is very slow. When they do accept the gospel they can be very strong in their faith, but because they are naturally shy evangelism does not come easy.
One other difficulty in reaching the Thai people is most (some estimate as high at 90%) of the missionaries are congregated up in the northern provinces (the Chang Mai area) and are doing work with the hill tribe people (many in these groups don’t even speak Thai). While we praise the Lord for all who serve as foreign missionaries in Thailand, and for those from the northern provinces they are reaching, those tribal converts will not be readily accepted in the major population centers like Bangkok. There is a great need for more workers (both Thai and American) who will reproduce themselves as the great commission commands. A country with 66 million Buddhists and tens of thousands of Buddhist temples desperately needs more light.
I have always beleived a little friendly competition is a good thing. When the competition is between two sisters who are striving to make the best Amerian style burritos for their guests from America, it is a great thing. Yes, Emma and I think of mexican food as our love language. Ginger Crocker, a missionary in Singapore, found out that mexican cuisine is our comfort food. So she prepared a made-from-scratch mexican feista meal fit for any Mexican. It was great. When Joy Speight, a missionary in Phuket, Thailand, found out how much we enjoyed that meal, she determined to make us burritos when we arrive a week later at her home. The trouble was she wanted to know whose was better. That’s what little sisters do. They always try to out do their big sister.
Yes, Ginger and Joy are sisters. How cool is it to think about two sisters both serving with their husbands as BBFI missionaries in southeast asia? But the irony doesn’t stop there. They have another sister who, with her husband, is a missionary in China. How were all three of these ladies influenced to serve the Lord as missionaries in Asia? It might be because fifty years ago they came over to Korea with their parents, Worth and Hazel Worley, and were raised as missionary kids on the field. There are many challenges to being a missionary kid, but there are also many blessings and priviledges to being raised on a foreign field. God has used the expereince of growing up in Korea to prepare all three of the Worley’s daughters for continued missionary service. Ginger and Joy are excellent helpers to their husbands, are multi-lingual, create very comfortable homes for their families and know how to raise children on foreign soil. It has been a joy to observe the fruit of Worth and Hazel’s faithful parenting, and it has been our great delight to expereince both Ginger’s and Joy’s expertise in the kitchen. YUM! Thanks so much ladies for the comfort food. It was all so good. We’ve ruled it a tie.
In light of the record cold and subzero wind chill back home, I hate to tell you about the absolutly beautiful climate of Phuket, but to tell the story of this city I have to explain. The tempurature is a comfortable 75 though it feels like 86 with the humidity. It is slightly overcast with a subtle breeze off the Adamann sea. Again there is a point and it is not to make you jealous. Phuket is the tourist captiol of Thailand. Close to the southern most tip of the country it lies close to the equator, creating a rather tropical feel. Paradise? No, but very nice if you’re traveling from a colder climate. And that is excactly what people from all over the world do this time of year. They go “on holiday” and travel to warmer climates to relax and excape the bitter cold. In the US it would be equivalent to what the snow birds do in the winter. That being said, Phuket is not a vacation desitnation for the Thai people. It is a money making city. Tourism is by far the number one industry in this sleepy little part of the country. The Tourists come from Korea (which can be very cold in the winter) Russia, China, South Africa, Austrailia, New Zeland, and all over Europe. The city has the feel of Branson, MO with its cheep hotels and corner resturants blended with the sandy beaches of sunny Pensacola, FL.
If your wondering why we came here on our missions trip it is because we are here to visit BBFI missionaries David and Joy Speights along with their daughter Jasmine. They were approved by the BBF in May of 1985 and have served the Thai people for thirty years now. They have worked and planted churches all over Thailand, but for the last ten years they have been working down here in the south. The locals are Muslim rather than Buddhist, and their traditional occupation was fishing prior to the commercialization of the tourist industry fourty years ago. Building churches here is difficult, as many of the Thai people in the service industry have come from another part of Thailand to make money and then return back to their homes in the low season. David and Joy need our prayers as they strive to live out Christ and make disciples among the locals and ex-patriots who have made this area their home. Tonight we are headed to their mid-week Bible study with friends who come over and want to learn more about Christ.
If the Lord has recently spoken to your heart about missions and you want to speak with me when I get back to the states, please don’t reference this blog post as the one that prompted God’s voice:) Even though the weather is nice, the work is very difficult. But mid-way through our trip in southeast asia, I am enjoying the weather!
Early this morning we boarded a plane, took off and in seconds the view of Bangkok was hidden by the clouds, but it was the view we had from the Bayiok Sky Hotel that will provide me with my lasting memory of my trip to Bangkok. It was the view of a missionary whose heart beats for the Thai people.
Our last meal was on the 76th floor of the hotel, an absolute stunning view that accompanied a very delicious international buffet. Ricky and Tammy typically always take groups here on the last night of their stay in Bangkok and for a good reason. You see the sheer size of the task that lies ahead for those who want to reach the Thai people.
After the dinner, we took another elevator and climbed a couple of flights and then stepped out on a revolving observation deck on the 89th floor (this hotel is the 41st tallest building in the world, the tallest in Bangkok). But better than the view was the passion of the man I stood next to. Ricky Salmon shared with me his desire to reach the city of Bangkok with the gospel of Jesus. He shared we with me an incredible goal. After noting that his church was the only Baptist church in the city limits of Bangkok (there are some on the outer edges of the city but none in the city’s core) he pointed to the city’s thousands of high rises and said I want to find a way to get the gospel into every one of those buildings. He said he had been thinking about some ideas so I asked, “What’s your best plan so far?” He said, “My best idea so far is to create some really nice calendars, put a super photo on each month along with some Psalms and Proverb’s quotes and then insert the gospel.” He said they would have to be pretty nice so even the wealthy families would see it and think, “Oh I want to keep that.” Friends, that is a big, hairy audacious goal.
If Ricky were with you tonight he would tell you that their greatest need is not for a million high quality calenders (calenders may open the apartment’s door, but not the heart’s door). He would tell you, as he told me last night, Bangkok needs workers. People who will commit themselves to making disciples which will in turn, make disciples. Addition is not the answer in a city of 14 million. They need to multiply. And don’t think Ricky was just asking for more American missionaries, though each one helps. Ultimately Bangkok needs Thai believers who will be forged by the Word of God and take serious the great commission.
Hey, everyone back in St. Louis. Take a look at your city today? What do you see? What is the solution? What part are you playing in God’s harvest?