My team landed in Bangkok, Thailand late at night. After spending a significant amount of time in the airport trying to figure out the Asian public transportation methods, we loaded our entire squad into the covered beds of several trucks. And by “covered,” I don’t mean “enclosed.” Falling out of one of these things onto the busy interstate was a total possibility, causing many of us to laugh about “how illegal this would be in the U.S.” Highway safety isn’t necessarily a major concern in other parts of the world.
Finally, we arrived at the city’s YWAM base. I showered then crashed hard onto my bottom bunk. Our squad had just endured the long and sleepless journey from Manzini to Johannesburg, Johannesburg to Dubai, then Dubai to Bangkok, and we were all beyond exhausted.
The following morning we traveled to an island called Koh Chang for month eight debrief. After a week in Koh Chang, my team and a few others took another 8 to 10-hour trip to Chiang Mai, where we served for the month.
I was on the very front end of a new three-month long season—one that wouldn’t relent in testing my discipline, attitude and conditionality.
- Would I fight for time with the Lord?
- Would I choose joy despite the intense heat, the crowds, the spiritual darkness and a demanding ministry schedule?
- Would I love the people on my team, despite whether or not I "liked" them?
These were the kinds of questions I had to ask myself over and over during my time in Southeast Asia, because honestly, I kind of wanted to be finished with this whole World Race thing. The hype and adventure had subsided, and I was left feeling tired and dirty—not to mention the constant pressure that came along with our living conditions.
I wanted a pillow and a bed. I wanted to eat a consistently healthy diet. I wanted to feel clean and for my skin to stop breaking out. I wanted to not look so grungy all the time. I wanted alone time and independence. I wanted to see Tony face-to-face. I wanted a lot of things, but life isn’t about what I want. It’s about what God wants for me. I had specific mountains to climb, and God chose to use Southeast Asia as my obstacle course. So, I sweated and struggled my way through it.
A week or two into my time in Chiang Mai, Tony messaged me. “Can we talk for a second? I have something I want to tell you.” I was getting ready to attend a worship meeting with the three teams serving at Lighthouse in Action, then we were heading to the local bars to minister to street children and prostitutes. I told Tony I only had a few minutes to chat, so we quickly logged onto Skype.
Recall the conversation I had with Chelsey in Swaziland: “I promise I’m not crazy. I’m not a crazy kind of girl. But the Lord told me Tony will be in the States sooner than me, for a reason other than me. And He said we’re going to get married... sooner rather than later.” (Chapter 15) Chelsey was the only person I told.
Since the beginning, I’ve been careful not to influence Tony’s journey with the Lord, so I often keep those bits of insight to myself and wait. I wait for God to confirm them with and through Tony—apart from me.
Almost as soon as I saw his face pop up on my screen, Tony started talking. He told me about the pledge of support he received from Sean and Mel and said he was making plans to head to Baton Rouge in November. I was scheduled to land in the States on December 7th, my mother’s birthday.
I was so happy for Tony, and selfishly for me too.
I walked downstairs into the coffee shop where the Racers were leading worship, and Chelsey was sitting in the corner. “Chels! Remember how I sensed that Tony would be in the States before me? Well, he’s heading over in November!”
Like me, she was happy but showed no trace of shock. After all, God told me that would be the case.
Chelsey is a great kind of friend. Though she was experiencing her own personal heartache, she expressed nothing but excitement for Tony and me. I’m continually inspired by the way that woman loves and supports. With grace, she refuses to be negatively affected by the notion that “life’s not fair” and instead, submits herself to trust.
I’m not saying that Chelsey simply compartmentalizes her feelings and puts on a happy face. No, that’s something I struggle with doing. She tugs and wrestles, laments and learns until her hope is genuine... until she actually believes that hope is for real. Chelsey's presence is always refreshing for me.
Toward the end of the month, Tony and I Skyped again. By this point, he’d decided to help lead a missions trip to Swaziland until December, so his American arrival was postponed to 12 days after mine.
“Soon, I’d like to have an idea of what my 2014 is going to look like,” I told him. I didn’t need an exact plan, but I wanted a bit of foresight about where we’d be geographically—together or separate—and about whether or not God was calling me back to the paycheck-earning workforce. Basically, I wanted Tony and me to be on the same page about our future, and for that to happen, a discussion needed to take place.
“Well,” he said. “I’ll be in the States for five to six months. After that, I have to go back to South Africa. And of course, we have a wedding to think about.” He hesitated for a few seconds then said, “Julie, I think we’re going to get married... sooner rather than later.”
That’s all the confirmation I needed. Of course we were going to get married sooner rather than later. God had already told me that too.
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