This morning I woke up in a resort just outside of Chaing Mai, Thailand. The last couple of days have been a blur as we traveled from Texas to San Francisco to Hong Kong to Bangkok to here. Oddly, I am awake and alert at seven in the morning after a good night’s sleep. Oh, how wonderfully our bodies were made to adapt, to flow in and out of time and space, as if they were made for a different world altogether.
On the balcony outside my room I step onto terra cotta tile, protected by teakwood railings, surrounded by lush green of every shade and texture. Palms from Jurassic Park with fruits and flowers I don’t recognize. Beaded streams of red berries I’ve never seen before. Birds of every shape and size whose chirps are familiar but different. The balmy cool stillness reminds me of those moments right before a tornado, yet here there is no such threat. It is a tranquil place.
And yet the air conditioner beside me hums.
I take another sip of my cup of Nescafe and I am reminded that I’m still in a primitive place.
Just across the balcony in front of me an immense rice field stretches nearly to the horizon, surrounded by more palms and vines and jungle that remind me of the pictures from Vietnam on the evening news in the 1960s.
Back then who would’ve guessed it would be so easy for someone like me to travel halfway around the world and get to experience this?
And yet here I am.
At the Asian Mission Forum, a gathering of missionaries and leaders from churches all over Asia to share my story of what it’s been like growing up in church and also experiencing same-sex attraction.
It’ a common story for many who have been called to work in missions – to “go into all the world” and share the good news of Jesus with people who don’t yet know him. What a burden it has been – and still is – for so many who have never been able to fully share their own stories, completely, with other brothers and sisters in Christ.
For fear of exclusion.
For fear of being sent home.
For fear of losing support from congregations back home.
What a heavy burden to carry all by yourself, so far away from home, so isolated.
We’re learning a better way to carry each other’s burdens. Just opening that conversation here in the stillness, among the lush palms. Among the graciousness of this culture.
Maybe some of that will spill over.
Maybe I’ll discover some other coffee besides Nescafe while I’m here.