Before we even moved to East Asia, we sensed the Holy Spirit was directing us towards training house church leaders. When we first ventured into missions, there was no apparent open door to do that kind of work. Then in 2008 our good friend who had connections with house church leaders in our city of residence invited us to help train students at an underground Bible school. This was a divine opportunity we couldn't have foreseen; indeed, we serve a sovereign Savior.
As we labored to train house church leaders both in group settings and one-on-one, our hearts were burdened for the massive amount of unreached people groups in the Southwest area of the country. We were burdened to see local believers trained to reach those unreached peoples. As we learned the language better and made strong friendships within the house church network, we started pursuing relocation to a specific Southwestern province. That province seemed to be a good hub for partnering with the house church connections we had for the goal of reaching the unreached, impoverished, and orphaned.
We had been working hard to move to that province, and every door seemed wide open and led by the Lord, but then a year ago, all those doors were slammed shut. There was no way for new teams to be started in that region with our former agency.
We began to think that maybe the Holy Spirit was actually forbidding us to preach the gospel in that region, very much like Paul’s missionary experience—“And they went through the region of
Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word
in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into
Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. So passing by
Mysia, they went down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the
night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, ‘Come over
to Macedonia and help us.’ And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately
we sought to go on into Macedonia concluding that God had called us to preach
the gospel to them” (Act 16:8-10). But we didn't have a Macedonian vision to follow yet, so we waited on the Lord. We considered taking that vision to another area of the country, but that still didn't seem like a good fit.
As we were investigating all our options to train house church leaders and reach the unreached, Evan interviewed with the president of Training Leaders International. When asked what we would ideally like to do, he said we would like to help train house church leaders to reach the unreached. At the time, TLI did not have any options for us to do this.
The next day after that interview the president of TLI was called by a missionary leader who had helped raise funds to build a large training center in Northern Thailand in the same geographic region to which we had hoped to move. He asked the TLI president if TLI had anyone who could train house church leaders. The president called Evan and said, "How does working in Northern Thailand with house church leaders from all over Southeast Asia sound?"
It didn't take us long to see why the Holy Spirit closed the door for us to go to that certain Southwest province because there was an even greater option that we didn't even know to ask for. This was a divine opportunity that we couldn't have foreseen; indeed, we serve a Sovereign Savior.
Recently as we considered avenues for obtaining a visa in Thailand, Evan was offered a faculty position at Asia Biblical Theological Seminary, training pastors from all over Southeast Asia. One reason the seminary was interested in Evan is because he has had experience working with house church leaders from our former country of residence, and ABTS has been asked to start a sister school in that country. So Evan will also be helping with this initiative. This is also a divine opportunity we couldn't have foreseen; indeed, we serve a sovereign Savior.
We now see that we can do more for the house church movement and the unreached people groups of our former country not by living there but by living in Northern Thailand where we can serve, teach, and train without scrutiny from the government of our former country of residence.
It was confusing and difficult when the doors were shut for work in the Southwest area of that country; yet our sovereign Savior had something else in mind. We rejoice to follow such a mighty, magnificent and sweet, sovereign Savior!