When The Daily Mirror calls it a “modern day Sodom and Gomorrah”, you know you’re not living somewhere picturesque and idyllic. Pattaya is a difficult and dark place to live.
We knew that living in a city which estimates at least 30,000 people working in the sex industry would be a challenge, but we didn’t expect everything to be so hard. It feels like we’ve sacrificed and surrendered so much to be here and do what we believe is God’s will, so the least we deserve is a manageable day to day life, right? Surely God owes us that much?
But life has definitely felt like one struggle and test after another, and it’s not just the city itself.
It’s a language you still feel useless at after a year of full-time lessons and a culture that you still have no real clue about 12 months in. It’s being terrified of getting ill as you have no idea how the health system works. It’s the risk of an accident every time you venture out on the roads. It’s the constant negative feeling of being an outsider because you’re not Thai. It’s worrying about whether you’ll be allowed to stay for another 90 days because, honestly, having sold all your stuff at home, not getting a visa would be a kick in the teeth. But as God said to Job “Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty?” (Job 40:2)
It’s being terrified of getting ill as you have no idea how the health system works.
For us, it comes down to how much we really rely upon God. How much are we willing to give up the driver’s seat and be content about not being the director of our lives? Truly, it’s taken moving to the other side of the world to open our eyes to what we actually believe about who God is.
This year has been brutal, and yet beautiful. We’ve been forced to surrender control and believe all the more that God has given us a hope and a purpose despite difficult circumstances. It’s not that we didn’t believe this back home, just that in practice it was easy to fall into the trap of believing you were self-sufficient. In all honesty, it feels like we’ve experienced more of God’s goodness to us over the past 12 months than we have at any other time in our lives as he daily provides, cares for, encourages and sustains us.
We’ve been forced to surrender control and believe all the more that God has given us a hope and a purpose despite difficult circumstances.
He is the one who spoke the universe into existence, who purposed us in Christ from before the foundation of the world and who has given us his Spirit to equip and empower us for the tasks he has for us. In the light of that, handing over what control we imagine we might have to him doesn’t sound like a bad option.
As we look to the future, as we consider how he has opened doors and provided opportunities we never imagined here – reading the Bible in Thai with our language teachers; having the opportunity to use our gifts in a very different church setting; witnessing the Christ-transformed lives of ex-bar girls – we do so with excitement and rugged obedience. It is not only our duty but our delight to know and follow him.