I'll be boarding a plane for southeast Asia in two days. Less than two days, actually. More than any other place I've been, I'm finding that people have a WIDE range of reactions to this trip. Top three reactions:
1) "I was over there during the war." This statement is either followed by "...and I never want to go back", or "...and I'd love to go back sometime". There's rarely any gray area between those two reactions. Regardless of history, I hope you'll be praying that God will work.
2) "Ewww....they're communists, aren't they?" It's true- the new visa in my passport says "Socialist Republic of ...". There are technically constitutional guarantees of religious freedom, but they're meaningless. The communists there (and the rest of the world) have never been very comfortable with Christianity. In some places, they have a "live and let live" attitude. In other places, Christianity has been outlawed and Christian leaders have become the target of violence and imprisonment. But communists need Jesus, too.
3) The logical followup to #2- "Is that safe?" I'm not quite sure how to answer that question. In a sense, we're not safe when we drive the roads of the United States. But I realize that I'll be in a nation that has the 6th highest persecution index in the world. The real danger isn't to us- they generally just kick Americans out if they don't like what we're doing. The greater risk is for the pastors/leaders we're training. They are consistently placing themselves in harm's way, as they faithfully serve. That's why you won't find the name of the country "- so this blog won't show up in random web searches. As I get ready to board my flight at O'Hare, I'm keenly aware that I'm dependent on God's protection and provision.