I’ve been mulling these thoughts around in my head for some time now and trying to form cohesive thoughts. I’m not sure if I’ve arrived at that stage yet, but we’ll give it a go.
Maybe I’ll begin with the assurance that we aren’t completely remote here, in the middle of nowhere without amenities. There is much more to eat than rice, so all your fears that Stephen will starve can be quelled. We have bread every other day or so, cereal and cheese maybe once a week, plenty of ice cream, and the far better fruits and vegetables than you can find, I assure you! We could have Western food more often, but we’re trying to be smart about the prices. Truth be told, there’s wonderful Mexican, Italian, and Indian in town, and we ordered take out pizza for our date night last Friday (granted, my vegetable pizza had little corns and green beans on it, so it’s a little different…but we’ll take it!).
Our house isn’t made out of bamboo. We’ve had steady electricity, plenty of water, and our windows only let in a few lizards and spiders. We do have a squatty potty, but we’re coming to love it. It’s less drastic changes than we expected; perhaps more slight adjustments: learning to deal with the huge amounts of dust, the heat, the small refrigerator. Simple things, really.
We’re not suffering.
But there is suffering around us.
There is war within miles; there are illegals living here and working here because they have fled their homes. There are land mine victims walking the streets. There are hundreds of mothers willing to give up their children in hopes that they find a better life. There are children begging for money; there are deportation trucks taking people back to the border each Monday.
And to be honest–the ones here, living in Mae Sot–they are called lucky. Yes, lucky, to live here as the poorest of the poor, with the risk of at any point being taken advantage of–for money, for your bicycle, for your life. And you are lucky, because the others, they live in a war zone. They have their villages burned, they watch their families killed, they see their sons taken off to fight.
And we live here.
What kind of house do you rent if you live in that? What kind of groceries do you buy? What kind of car or motorbike do you drive? What kind of money do you put in savings, for this so-called wisdom that sometimes feels more like storing up for yourselves treasures on earth?
I’m not sure.
And I’m learning how to reconcile that. We’ve been trying to find this balance where somehow we live here, try to help the suffering, try to make sacrifices, and still stay afloat ourselves. And maybe the hardest part is that I don’t even know the goal. I don’t want to “adjust” and not be bothered by these things. I want to always have my heart broken by the children in the market, by the man missing a limb, and by the crowded deportation truck. But somehow, I don’t want to simply have my heart broken constantly, because where are we then, if we have compassion for suffering but do nothing to alleviate it?
What, then, am I doing to alleviate suffering here?
The role of global missions seems idealized–as if we are able to make a grand change in the world simply by being in foreign place, often where there is suffering of some kind and those who don’t know truth. But really, I find myself simply in another location, struggling with so many of the same battles I fought in Conway and Oklahoma City–Am I truly making an impact? How do I love people well? How do I live in such a way that others might live, know Christ, and see the kingdom?
And I’m finding that really I’m still asking the same questions here; it’s just that I ask them from here because God told us to be here rather than there.
Over the last few weeks I’ve been mulling over this quote I saw at the Winston Churchill War Rooms in London:
There are many nights that I lay down and let this roll through my mind. I’m very proud to have been only a very small cog in the wheel. Perhaps it’s just been a day of learning Karen and buying a few vegetables down the street, but it is in effort of living here; in preparation of loving well and serving the people here. And maybe it wasn’t making a grandious difference in the life of Mae Sot or Burma today, but maybe it was taking the steps in front of me for my life–on the whole–to be only a very small cog in the wheel, counting it simply a blessing to play even the smallest role in bringing the kingdom.
I suppose I love this most because it challenges me in both directions. It puts me in place of realizing how small of a role I play, while at the same time creating an image of the greater machine moving forward.
This Sunday was Global Day of Prayer for Burma, so I was praying for Burma and thinking, again, through Luke 18:1-8. I want to pray big things for Burma, and I want to ask persistently; I want to ask for the kingdom to come and wait in expectation, even. But I don’t always want to be waiting for the kingdom to come and what that looks like on a grand scale of Burma being freed; I also want to rejoice in the little things–the little ways that His kingdom is coming now. And that brings me back to the small cog in the wheel that I am, and perhaps all of us are. That maybe it’s all just little things we are doing that are somehow bringing the kingdom now in little ways, while we ultimately wait for The Kingdom to come. Said better in lyrics: “it’s just a little thing, just a little thing; but it will make a change, it will make a change…I see His kingdom come and every small thing done” (Kaitlin Pflederer, “The Kingdom”; And can I just recommend the whole CD–Can You Hear Us?).
In another part of this same song she sings, “I see a crowded room of flies and restless kids praying for the guns to quiet down and the houses to be full again. And as they run home, hand in hand, the peace talks come to an end and the wind blows through the empty war camps. The Lord will reign forever; the Lord will reign forever…” This gives me shivers each time I hear it. Perhaps because a war camp is where my heart was broken; perhaps because we live and love so many that have grown up and even now remain in these same war camps that litter the border around us. Either way, I hope for this so deeply. I hope for the small chance that I could be the smallest cog in the wheel of changing something; of bringing the kingdom of heaven to this place of darkness; of somehow watching wind blow through empty war camps here.