One more night in Vietnam, and then another in transit in Singapore until we are back with the family and the familiar.
There is something about Vietnam that creeps under your skin and spills into your soul. I think it may be the sheer unfamiliarity of it all. The chaotic order, frenetic and tranquil all at once. Beneath the sweat and heat and dust is an exotic treasure of color, taste, texture and design. It's like gorging yourself at a smorgasbord of the senses. It's the kind of place that you'd want to come to for a Sabbatical, or maybe to write a book. Just a completely different rhythm of life.
Anyway, that's for another time. There was not much Sabbatical in Saigon(HCMC) this time. We loved our reconnection with Thu Thiem Church, a community with 25 different nationalities, which has begun to grow rapidly since coming out of its former house church format. It's led by Steve and Jenny Murphy, a business couple who served on eldership with us in Johannesburg 10 years ago. They and their team are doing a remarkable job. It's a church coming of age, growing in missional traction, which is not easy considering the governments' watchful approach towards outsiders and their churches. God met with us in profound ways as we worshipped, preached, and prayed. My highlight was being there on the day that a young French-Vietnamese man called Chris, who lived in Los Angeles and has now returned to Vietnam, got baptized. The Gospel of the kingdom seems to be lurching forward like a hundred scooters from a Saigon traffic light.
Singapore is more familiar to us. More ordered, less overwhelmingly foreign and more classically urban. I would describe it as a world class city, and RHC, the church we have now returned to for the 3rd time in 4 years, takes after it's city in many ways; exceptional, intentional and warm.
We love going back to churches. Friendships are quickly rekindled and progress can be clearly seen. There were a number of poignant prophetic moments in meetings, and we also had a rich time with some of RHC's emerging leaders. Sometimes though, in God's economy, flying to a distant city to play a few games of Mario Brothers with a church leader's 4-year old son can be as valid as preaching to a packed auditorium at multiple meetings.(we did that too.) The Gospel is relational, and church planters and their families often need good friends more than they need good advice. It can seem costly at times to leave your kids and church and routine to do this. But Jesus left his home in heaven to bring us home to God, and following Jesus will involve leaving the family and the familiar for us too. (Mark 10) We count it a privilege to walk with Simon and Tarryn and the remarkable people of RHC.
I got lost on a run one day in Singapore. I didn't have Simon and Tarryn's address, just a few landmarks in my mind and like most guys, I didn't want to ask for directions. An hour and a half later, exhausted and confused, I hailed a taxi and asked him to take me to the hawkers market where there are four ice cream shops. I told him I only had $10 so if he could not find it by the time the money ran out I'd be in trouble. His reply was astonishing. "It's not about the cost. It's about getting you home." He left his normal route to get me home.
Could that be our heart in disciple making, wherever we find ourselves? In Singapore, Burma, or Brea. Let's be willing to leave family and the familiar for the sake of seeing people find Jesus, and find home.