The summer of 2004 gripped my heart like no other. I had just finished my junior year of college and I had made the decision to go on Summer Project with Campus Crusade for Christ. When I first decided to go and was making the decision of where to apply to I had a few choices. Few is a MAJOR understatement as CCC has HUNDREDS of stateside and international Summer Project locations! And now comes my shameless plug to check them out at www.gosummerproject.com (ESPECIALLY IF YOU’RE CURRENTLY A COLLEGE STUDENT!).
In about a months’ time I had completed my application (listing my location preferences: Thailand, North Africa, Japan, Australia) and had been accepted to be a part of the 2004 Thailand Summer Project! I SO did not foresee how this Summer Project would change my life and my heart for the rest of the days of my life.
I’m going to backtrack a bit and tell you why I had listed Thailand as my first preference. I have always been intrigued with the countries of Southeast Asia. Half of my heritage comes from Southeast Asia. My dad is 100% Filipino, and I love that I can consider myself half Asian. I truly believe that having an Asian dad has given me a sensitivity and love towards the Asian culture. At the time I was applying for a Summer Project, a summer in the Philippines wasn’t an option. So, basically my next step was to see how close I could get to the Philippines. Enter: Thailand.
Now, I’m going to fast forward to post-Summer Project. You may say: “But wait, aren’t you going to tell us about your trip to Thailand?” Another time my friends, another time. My trip to Thailand deserves a whole post to itself because it was THAT amazing.
When I returned to the states from being overseas for 6 weeks, my heart was aching to go back. To be quite honest, my heart STILL aches to go back. While I was in Thailand I experienced first-hand what it looked like to see a life changed for eternity. I saw a person pass from death to life right before my eyes. Not that I didn’t already have a bent towards Southeast Asia, but after that Summer Project my heart for Southeast Asia (and for lost people in general) expanded larger than I thought my body could contain.
One of the first few days I was in Thailand my SummerProject team took a trip up to Doi Suthep, the main Buddhist temple in Chiang Mai. This temple in Chiang Mai sits high above the city on top of a mountain. As I walked around the temple, I observed many Thai natives bowing down in worship to golden statutes that sat motionless in front of them. They were offering up incense, flowers, money, and earnest prayers to these statues. My heart ached because I knew that their prayers weren’t being heard. The idols in front of them were hopeless, dead statues, and the living God of the universe was right there if only they realized that God sent Someone to rescue their very soul!
During that visit to the Buddhist temple, God brought to my mind Matthew 9:35-38 which says, “And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” This passage from Matthew has continued to be etched on my heart since that day.
So, I’m a MAJOR people watcher! I love observing people’s interactions, mannerisms, facial expressions, and quirks. Yeah yeah…call me a creeper…I’m ok with that. Just as long as you don’t think I’m one of those creepy kinda creepers J I tell you this because as I go throughout the days and weeks of my life, I often find myself looking at people through the lens of these verses in Matthew. I can’t help it!
The harvest is plentiful.
There are people all around me who need to be rescued.
How will I respond?