June 7, 2010

Serving those Who Serve...in Thailand

    Four of us have traveled from Shawnee, KS, in order to participate in the Thai Baptist Missionary Fellowship annual retreat.  This is the time when Baptist missionaries from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Sweden, and the US (both ABC and CBF) come together for recreation and renewal.  I will be teaching the adults while two gifted Central students, Kate Hanch and David Stanley, along with Vice President Gravley, will be leading the youth.  This is a wonderful opportunity for us to serve those whose lives are spent being poured out for others.  Years ago when I was a seminary student myself, I had a similar opportunity to serve missionaries by providing activities for youth of Baptist missionaries serving in Israel. Now it is my turn to serve the adults—only 36 years later. [I pray I am ready!]

                The time together will be especially meaningful as this has been a hard season in the "land of smiles." Political differences that have erupted in violence in Bangkok and other parts of the nation made leaders in recent weeks question the wisdom of proceeding with the retreat. Indeed, the Christian guest house where we spent Sunday evening is just blocks from the scenes of burning destruction in the center of the city. Thankfully, overt tensions have lessened so the gathering can go on as scheduled. Our team anticipates that those we serve will be emotionally exhausted and in need of this time of retreat.

                While we are prepared to facilitate learning about the ways of the Spirit of God (in this Season after Pentecost), I imagine that the most important thing we will bring is a spiritual practice that Eugene Peterson calls "acquired passivity," which means that our leadership depends not upon "what we do; it is what we participate in." (See his Practice Resurrection, 95ff). We participate in God's larger mission of renewal of the whole creation—work that was going on long before we joined God's holy dance. This realization will allow us to be receptive to what weary missionary families bring to the gathering. We want to perceive what the real needs are and engage them with humility and encouragement. The prayer of our team, thus, is that we de-center ourselves so that we might serve.  We did not travel half-way around the world to be ministered unto, but to minister. No doubt we will be blessed just by sharing in worship and meals with these servants of God, but we earnestly desire to be instruments of grace.

                So pray that we can breathe deeply of the Spirit of God and follow holy nudges of discernment. We desire to practice resurrection in depending upon the gifts of the Risen Christ to continue his work in the world.

                Molly T. Marshall


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