A Year in Phayao (part 3): A Reinterpretation


A better world is possible, and it’s on its way here.

As you might have picked up on in my last post (part 1), this past year has not been the ray of sunlight that I might have imagined it to be. There have been struggles I didn’t foresee. Doubts that snuck up on me. Anger I’m ashamed of. Lostness I’ve never known. These things, in a lot of ways, have come to characterize my life in Phayao. But, I want to say clearly, defiantly, faithfully, hopefully, that those things do not have the last word on who I am because of this past year. Because a better world is possible, and it’s on its way here.

Many things I once was certain about have been stripped away from me this year. There is not a whole lot I am confident of anymore. But, let me tell you the one thing I am more certain about than I ever have been: In Jesus Christ, a better world is possible, and it’s on its way here.

I only have the slightest hint of what all that means, but I am blown away by the glimpse I have seen. Cause this is what I have seen. There is a world coming where little girls won’t have to fear that their parents will be forced to sell them into slavery. A world is coming where hill tribe people won’t watch their village being burned by men with guns. Where people won’t be shunned and disregarded because of their gender, skin color, or lack of money. Where men won’t have to lose themselves in a bottle every night because they don’t know their potential as image bearers of God. Where there is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, rich or poor. Where the sound of weeping shall no longer be heard. Where the wolf and sheep will feed together. Where people will beat swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. Where there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.

And this is not coming on the coattails of any government or military. And it’s not coming through prayers to idols and spirits. And it’s not coming with just the right policy or ideology. And it’s not coming with a little more money, or power, or status. And it’s not coming because of me. It’s coming because, in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, it’s already started. And he will bring it to completion.

So, with that one claim left in my arsenal, I am beginning to reinterpret this past year in Phayao. I came here with a lot of confidence in who I was and what I was going to do in this place. I was a patient person who rarely got flustered. And then I met Phayao culture. I was a content person who could adapt to any situation. And then I had stretches of days when I couldn’t stand where I was. I was a loving and gentle father at all times (remember, this was all in mind). And then I found myself yelling at my children when it wasn’t warranted. I was a considerate, caring, loving husband at all times (again, in mind). And then there were days when I was too emotionally drained to encourage my wife during her tough days. I was a great missionary who knew how best to minister to Thai people. And then I discovered how very little I knew about this culture. I was a great missiologist and strategist who knew the best plan for planting churches. And then, at times, our team decided to go in other directions. I was a theologian who could explain God’s activity. And then I found out God didn’t always conform to my explanations.

And I have spent a lot of time lamenting that I am not the person I used to be. I just want to go back to the way it was before. And then I read this:

“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 5:7-10)

Jesus had to suffer in order to be made perfect, in order to be the firstborn of all creation, to be the resurrection. Jesus suffered in order to be the lord of God’s new creation, this better world that is on its way here.

So, I am trying to interpret this past year, not as God’s abandonment or my loss of identity, but as God’s work to strip me of anything that hinders my becoming like Christ, who is the fullness of new creation. Because I used to think that God’s kingdom coming to Phayao was dependent on me being a great cross-cultural communicator, father, husband, minister, missiologist, theologian. But, those things are just “a poor reflection in the mirror.” God does not want me to be great at those things. God wants me to become like Christ, to be new creation. (And, behold, I will then actually be a better father, husband, missionary, etc., in the end) Because the greatest gift I can give the people of Phayao is to be a present manifestation of God’s coming world. The people around me don’t need me to be the greatest father or missiologist or whatever else; but, they would be blessed if I became new creation.

Thus, I want to focus my energy on becoming a person who is ready for this better world that’s on its way. And if I live like that today, then maybe that better world will be even that much closer at hand.



  1. wow, dan. those were some incredible words. i have never thought about the journey to become a ‘new creation’ in the midst of struggles and setbacks. it definitely puts things into a better perspective. i KNOW that God is going to transform your hearts during your time in Phayao. it’s exciting to be a small part of your journey and mission there.

  2. Amen brother! Preach it!! Love this post D! Thanks for the encouraging words and inspiring insight. I’m in a study of Revelation right now and your words just reiterate what I’m studying. You are spooky smart did you know that? 🙂 Thanks for sharing! Can’t wait to see you in a matter of days!! Love ya!

  3. Words of faith…….words of hope……words of love.
    I too want to live like that and you inspire me to do so…….
    I read Chris’s blog and once again your gift of expressing and putting your self/team in focus is amazing. For all who are taking this journey with you, thank you. Love,

  4. It’s so good to hear your thoughts on this past year. I cannot wait to see how God uses you now that you are in this place. Thanks for sharing and for being so honest.

  5. amen, amen, amen and amen. love ya bro…and sis, and little sis and even littler sis. you are a very special family. : )

  6. Wow…that was really powerful Derran. thanks for sharing! miss you guys and am looking forward to our visit in November.

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