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I am astonished at the growing pace at which Holy Spirit is working!
Marti and I are flying back from Bangkok and we have run out of words to describe the impact of the two events in which we participated. First we went to Battambang, Cambodia where nearly 200 younger leaders in YWAM had gathered. It is just an informal, relational network in YWAM but it Is growing at a rapid rate. They call themselves the Malachi network, relating to that passage, right at the end of the Old Testament, where it is prophesied that the hearts of the young will be turned to the parents and vice versa.
Their purpose is to draw all they can from the first generation of YWAM leaders and to deepen their friendships with one another. They can see that one of the strengths of our generation is the friendships that have thrived and deepened over the years. We have rarely felt so appreciated and honoured. It was almost embarrassing at times.
©Carlinha de Paula
Many things stood out to us during the three days we spent there. (Along with Darlene Cunningham, John Dawson and other older leaders, we contributed for a few days and then left them to get on with their priorities.) At times we would just look at each other and say, “Can you believe this?” That usually happened when the crowd was worshipping in several languages and we watched Mongolians, Burmese, Vietnamese, Nepalese, Indians, Sri Lankans, Ugandans, Lebanese, Europeans—and the list could go on and on. We were also amazed as we looked around the campus. A small team of Americans and Europeans went there just over ten years ago and during their short-term outreach God called them to Cambodia. When they returned a couple of months later, they immersed themselves in the language and culture. Before long, they were leading Cambodians to Jesus.
You may recall the horrific images from the “killing fields” of Cambodia, when the ruthless Communist dictator, Pol Pot, killed a third of the population of the nation. One of the results is that it is the youngest nation, age-wise, in the world. A high percentage of the older generation was killed. Another result is amazing openness to God’s story, culminating in Jesus. This young team of westerners grew quickly with beautifully redeemed Cambodians. As a result of one miracle after another, they now have a large piece of property in the second largest city and have built the first 30% of a YWAM/University of the Nations training campus for hundreds. We have searched for a better word, but “astonishing” is the best we can do. They are doing everything with a level of excellence that inspired us to do better.
For three days we worshipped together, spoke at length to the attentive audience, ate together, answered questions and gave advice on difficulties they were facing until we were hoarse. Then we got into a van with Darlene C. and David Hamilton and made the six-hour journey to Jomtien, Thailand. The Ambassador City Conference Centre has the best, most affordable facilities we have found anywhere in the world. Our problem—we “maxed it out”. Though they have more accommodation, their auditorium could only seat a little over 3500 but we had more than 3900 registered and people who had not registered continued to come. Some had to watch the online “live-stream”, but we managed to squeeze almost everyone into the auditorium.
The first night began with an outstanding YWAM Thailand worship band and traditional Thai music, dances and costumes. It was all very beautiful, graceful and elegant and demonstrated a bit of what the Christian faith looks like in Thai culture. For those of us who are immersed in Western Christian cultural expressions, it was a reminder that we have so much richness to discover in the other redeemed cultures.
I will write more about the Thai gathering in a day or two, but for now, will just say that “astonishing” continued to appear in one conversation after another.