I remember an unremarkable but entertaining game from my childhood. Blindfolded, you had to navigate an obstacle course of chairs and other make-shift obstructions by listening to the voice of your teammate. The challenging part, besides being blindfolded, was that competing teams would yell false directions. Only one voice could be trusted to bring you to safety, but that voice was not always the easiest to hear.
There is a gospel voice in Thailand testifying to salvation in Jesus Christ, but it is not easy to hear. For most, it is drowned out by the cacophony of competing voices. They hear the seductive voice of materialism, crying out that salvation is found in nice clothes and the latest smartphone. They hear the demanding voice of karma, telling them that they need more good works to reach salvation. They hear the oppressive voice of animism, telling them that salvation is found in the power of spirits that can be manipulated into giving them blessings. And they hear the deceptive voice of sexual autonomy, telling them salvation is found in the freedom to express their sexuality in any way they so desire. These voices ring out loud and clear across the whole land.
Make no mistake, the gospel voice speaks a message that is both true and powerful. But sometimes the voice that most desperately needs to be heard is not the voice given the loudspeaker.
Church on Mill, however little, you are about to increase the volume of the gospel voice in Thailand. This is what you are doing by sending me (Phil) and Julie to the other side of the globe. A country of 69 million people and only some 600,000 Christians needs more voices proclaiming the message of salvation, for “how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?” (Rom. 10:14).
When the gospel voice is heard and believed, it creates a gospel people. These people gather together as local churches—little embassies of God’s kingdom where they love and disciple one another, growing up into the image of Christ under his word and rule.
As our family goes to Thailand with the message of salvation, we hope and pray to see these little outposts of God’s kingdom springing to life in a world that has rejected the Creator’s rule. These local churches may not look like churches in the west—they might meet in houses rather than buildings, sit on floors rather than chairs, and their pastors might also run the shops where they buy their papaya salad or fresh durian—but they will have the same gospel blood running through their veins. The message of hope they proclaim will be expressed in syllables and tones that are foreign to our ears, but it will be the same gospel voice that calls the dead to life.
Church on Mill, you have been our spiritual family. We have been discipled by you, equipped by you, strengthened and loved and challenged by you, and now we are being sent by you. And so the mission goes onward! Thank you for your faithfulness. By God’s grace, you will play a large part in the making of disciples of Jesus Christ, both in Tempe and in Thailand.