I’m 44 chapters in now! 65% ish complete. Thanks for following along. I’m continuing my random-chapter-post this week.
P.S. I was interviewed by Caitlin Eggimann’s 3rd grade class on writing the other day. So freakin cool. I’ll try to make that my next post.
photo by jessica sims guevara
This is our ATL month. Stands for “Ask The Lord.”
Think of it like a treasure hunt, but a Spirit-led treasure hunt asking God to highlight specific people to pull the gold of. We pray. We listen. Then we try to move toward what we hear the Lord saying.
Our logistic team back in the states allows each team on my squad a choice of where to head next. The options presented are: back to Thailand, back to Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Philippines. This totally feels like some crazy New Testament disciple shit.
Luke 9:2-6 “…and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. He told them: ‘Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town. If people do not welcome you, leave their town and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.’ So they set out and went from village to village, proclaiming the good news and healing people everywhere.”
What kind of a mission organization trusts their people so much to let them do this kind of living? None that I knew of. I’m pumped!
Each of us has our own wants and preferences for where to go. We decide the best way to know for sure which country we should go to, was to pray individually, and then come back together. We didn’t want to talk about it before hand and have one of us sway the group one way or another. After praying, our team leader Andrea brought us back together.
“Ok guys – on the count of three – let’s all yell out what was everyone hearing, feeling, sensing. Ready? One. Two. Three!”
Jessica, “Vietnam!” Jonathan, “Vietnam!” Lili, “Vietnam!” Ashley, “Vietnam!” Tracy, “Vietnam!” Me, “Vietnam!” Andrea, “Vietnam!”
What!? No way. Seven people hearing the same thing, when five options are presented. Someone do the math on that. I think it’s like .02857%. But that’s just a guess. This is very different than any kind of church I’ve done before. You mean the Lord speaks to His kids so they can go on adventures to find and pull the gold out of people, all while the Lord does the same to them. This is bizarre. And magical.
Problem is, we’re supposed to have some semblance of a contact before heading into an ATL country. My team couldn’t find that. So logistics back home wasn’t super pumped on the idea of us heading out with no plan and no contact, and was about to shut down the idea of Vietnam. So I went straight to the top and asked Seth Barnes, head of Adventures in Missions, what we should do. Here’s how that convo went…
“Nathan here. So our ATL month is coming up. My team has been praying about it and all individually heard Vietnam. Jonathan has never even heard the name Dong Tau before but it kept popping up in his mind and turns out there’s a Dong Tau in Vietnam. Wild. So we figured we would start our search there. I know that you are a busy guy but wonder if you might have an idea where to start our search, or if you might suggest anything in Vietnam that you know of. Don’t feel obligated to respond, just thought I would shoot out a feeler for Vietnam and see if any thoughts came to mind.
You are appreciated!”
“Well done! I’m checking w/ (contacts name). I’d also check with (ministry organizations name). Here’s how you get there from Hanoi (3 1/2 hrs)…” And proceeds to give us step my step directions to the nearest launching point toward Dông Tau, in the Như Xuân District.
So here we are. Thanh Hoa, Vietnam.
Let me bring you up to speed on our first week in Vietnam before we get to the good stuff. Our bus ride from Siem Reap to Ho Chi Minh City took 16 hours. Saigon is packed. About 8 million people packed. Feels more crowded than New York or Bangkok with more lights and sounds than Vegas.
Day two I came down with some nasty stomach bug. Went to the hospital to get some meds, and I’ll spare you the details, but it was bad news bears in my belly for three days, keeping me out of ministry and near a toilet. I think it was from a bad pint of draft beer I got from a local batch off the street. I should have known. The beer smelled like that annoying guy that sits behind you at sporting events and yells lewd comments about the opposing teams mothers.
Ministry had looked like a lot of things in Saigon. Orphanage one day. Tea time hang outs with twenty something’s at night. Another day we just walked around the park and prayed for opportunities to tell people about Jesus. Treasure hunting I guess.
One night we went out to dinner with our new Vietnamese friends. They decided to pick us up on their motor bikes and vespas to save us some cab fair. I rode on the back of Mai’s bike. Mai is in her 50’s and drives with the confidence of John Wayne in a western flick. It felt like a six flag’s ride weaving in and out of night traffic more crowded than the Denver Tech Center on a good day. Trip highlight for sure.
For whatever reason we decided sleeper bus was the way to travel up north. It took three different buses and many more stops to get us to our destination. Our first sleeper bus was hot. Smelled like tuna fish and urine. I slept in the back of the bus with my team stacked like sardines in small submarine like space, while doing my best to sleep on my back so it didn’t seem as if I was trying to spoon Tracy 6 inches to my left. In the end we didn’t spoon (WR policy), but in my mind I figured it would have been a more appropriate choice than having to spoon the small Vietnamese man who slept peacefully to the right of me.
Aside from the Scuba Steve leg of this trip, I found the landscape in Vietnam to be stunning. Misty mountains backdrop to the China Sea. Random limestone structures shoot upward next to lush green rice patties. The weather here feels like Ireland. Its nice to have a long-sleeve shirt on again.
After 43 hours of travel, we’re dropped off on the side of the road at 3am. No idea where in Thanh Hoa we are.
I wonder if this is how the disciples felt. No idea where they were going. Abraham sets a fun example in Hebrew 11:8, “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” The challenging part about Vietnam is not having everything mapped out, clear cut, with contacts and all. And the great part about Vietnams is not having everything mapped out, clear cut, with contacts and all.
That’s not a typo. If abandonment and brokenness have been a part of this journey, next step is dependency. And it’s way easier to have to depend on the Holy Spirit, when you don’t know where you’re going. The Bible calls it faith, which leads to inheritance.
Celtic Christians had a name for the Holy Spirit. Ah Geadh-Glas, or The Wild Goose. They believed The Holy Spirit could not be tamed or domesticated by man. Rumor has it Celtic missionaries would set loose wild goose (that rhymed) from the shorelines. And whatever direction the goose went, they would send out missionaries taking it as a sign from God as which was He was leading.
I’d say finding Dong Tau in north Vietnam is our Wild Goose Chase.