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From Mustard Seed to Tree

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By Tom M, Asia regional director

During my recent visit to Thailand, one of the highlights was spending an entire day with members of the RMM team and several of the local believers studying the Bible, talking about church planting principles, and discussing life and ministry in their specific contexts. Dan Byler shared from his experiences years ago in Nicaragua, telling us how his work with some unlikely young men led to the birth of many churches in a remote area. He told of how the gospel spread from village to village and the way in which uneducated, marginalized people were instrumental to that growth. We can see the same potential now—both in the villages of a neighboring country and even in the sprawling city of Bangkok. Faith in Jesus can spread naturally along relationship lines and in ways that are often unexpected. Another highlight that day was reading together the account of Paul’s work in Ephesus and discussing the importance that he placed on leadership development. We recognized that it is crucial to make disciples who will in turn make disciples. It’s the only way that the gospel will take root and spread among their people.

The group that we met with is small, but the potential is huge. For years we were hoping and praying for this kind of opportunity—to be able to equip and encourage local leaders for ministry among their own people. As we met with these young men we could see that God is preparing them for that purpose. Lan is an active evangelist—splitting his time between several locations and constantly discipling people, both in person and over the phone. Tha, another young man who attended the seminar, is one of Lan’s disciples. He’s currently working at a gas station in Bangkok. He lives there in a community of more than 20 people form his home country. Even though the job is low paying and the hours are long he feels called to that place. He was baptized a year ago and now he is taking leadership of the small group of believers and seekers that meets at the gas station. Spending the day sharing with them and hearing them talk about their plans for leadership development and expansion was an inspiring reminder of the gospel’s power to start small but have a large impact. Jesus compared his kingdom to a pinch of yeast or a mustard seed—small things containing great power and potential. We are seeing the truth of this principle clearly in these brothers and sisters.

“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” (Matthew 13: 31,32 NIV)

In the afternoon Lan showed us a map of his village that he had drawn. He had marked the two households that currently have believers and then talked about his vision for the future. He has faith that the gospel will spread, and he is thinking strategically about how to set the stage for God’s work. He’s also begun thinking about how God wants to bless the villagers in his home area materially and feels that God is giving him ideas for developing the natural resources that are there in that rural area. They have abundant land and access to water and Lan now sees that these are God-given blessings. We’re praying with him about how he can start an agricultural project—growing vegetables, sugarcane, or something else. This could provide income for his family and provide the funds that he needs for his ongoing discipling of others. He’s back at home now—to harvest his rice crop and to be the presence of Jesus there.

In the weeks since Lan returned to his village he has faced increased spiritual opposition. His family ran out of rice and several family members were seriously ill. When his uncle was close to death, the rest of the family wanted to take him to a spirit doctor. Lan resisted and told them that God had the power to heal. But in the end his uncle died. Other family members faulted Lan for this and naturally, he felt discouraged. Since then he has continued to share his faith and in the most recent update he shared that he has been able to study the Bible with his mother and he thinks that her heart is softening towards God! Please join us in praying that God’s spirit will continue to work in the hearts of Lan’s mother and others in his village and that many will become followers of Jesus!