Last night after the lectures I returned to my tiny green tiled hotel room in the middle of the bustling open market in Pattaya (Pat-tea-ya) and watched Australian television. I was flipping through the channels (because Jay isn't here and I have the remote) and saw, much to my amusement, game shows, variety shows, MTV type shows and religious shows in Thai interspersed with the weather channel, crime dramas, and news and sport shows in various English accents. This is truly a country with a decidedly international flavor and even the television reflects it.
Yesterday was the first of the three day "Discipleship Seminar" at Tamar Center. Despite the fact that I've had the schedule in my hands for months, I neglected to notice that I am to give two lectures twice a day. Two in the morning and two in the evening on Monday and Tuesday, and two in the morning on Wednesday. I'll spare you the trouble of simple addition and tell you that equals 10 teachings. I prepared 6. Whoops! But oh well. It might be for the best. I prepared as well as I could before I left and gave three of those teachings yesterday. Now that I'm here and have seen and met the women, I'm kind of glad for the chance to pray some more and tailor make the lectures for them. Please pray for me in that regard.
My translator, a beautiful waif of a girl from northern Thailand, was taking twice as long to translate my sentences as it was taking me to say them. During one of the breaks I commented how much longer it took to speak Thai than to speak English. She told me I was using somewhat difficult language and she was having to simplify and explain my points so the women would be sure and understand. I was concerned about this very thing when I was praying and preparing at home. Still, I wrote as I felt the Lord leading and after talking with her I felt confident she was able to convey the Lord's thoughts in a way that could be easily grasped by the women. The problem wasn't content as much as vocabulary. I was trying to explain to them who God is, what holiness is, what Christ has done for us and who we are in Him. In short, the Gospel.
Because I ended up giving two pretty intense back-to-back lectures in the morning, I felt the evening ones needed to be lighter. For the first session I pretty much recapped and expanded a little on what had been said in the morning sessions. After the break I opened it up for questions and encouraged them to get to know me a bit and to feel free to ask me anything they wanted.
Being women, they asked all the questions women ask: How many children I have, how I met my husband, how I came to the Lord, what my life was like before and what has happened since.
I was able to pretty much share my testimony with them. The drug abuse of my teenage years, my lack of success in school, the deep sense of rejection I felt when my parents made the difficult decision to sever their parental rights and put me in a home for juvenile delinquents, the difficulties of marriage and the upcoming third anniversary of Jordan's death.
Like everything else on this trip, it was marvelously led of the Lord. I told my stories and they laughed and nodded. The cultural barrier of this strange American woman was broken and I think they could clearly see that despite our outward differences I am more like them than I'm not. Once I was lost, now I am found. My life was headed for destruction until God's grace stepped in. I was bound by guilt, shame and condemnation until the Lord set me free!
As you know, these women are coming out of a life of prostitution and the prolific sex trade that operates out of Pattaya. Literally a block from Tamar Center are the bars they worked out of and the foreign men who paid for their services. Last night I shared one of the first lessons of our CBS (Community Bible Study) study of the book of Matthew. How in the genealogy of Christ the Messiah, there are five of the most unlikely women listed.
The first is Tamar (not the one the Center is named for) who had lost two husbands who were brothers and under Old Testament law was entitled to the third brother so she could produce an heir. Her father-in-law denied her the third brother so rather than trusting the Lord, she took matters into her own hands, dressed up as a temple prostitute, seduced him and became pregnant.
Next is Rahab. She was a prostitute in Jericho and a Gentile to boot. Talk about double indemnity! However, she heard the reports about the great God of Israel and believed them. So when the Israelite spies came to check out the land, she hid them and the result of her faith was that she and her household were spared when the city was destroyed.
The third woman is poor Ruth whose husband and two sons all died leaving her without provision or protection and bitter toward the Lord. Yet through her daughter-in-law Naomi, she became the grandmother of King David.
Then comes Bathsheba, the Gentile woman who committed adultery with King David after he saw her bathing from his rooftop. She became pregnant and David had her husband killed. The child also died, but the second son was none other that King Solomon who ruled after his father David and the wisest man who ever lived.
Last, we find Mary, the teenage girl chosen by God to bear His Son.
God, in His great mercy, took these woman; a deceiver who prostituted herself, a Gentile prostitute, a woman who thought God had dealt harshly with her and then abandoned her, an adulteress and a teenager and gave them all a place of honor.
I told them God would do the same for them. He would wipe away the stain of their sin and give them a place of honor in His kingdom because, as it says in Luke 1:37, "For with God nothing will be impossible."
Please pray with me the words of truth will be sealed in their hearts and they will be set completely free from their past and equipped to fulfill the call of God in their lives!