I am staying in a house in Chiangmai, Thailand that is surrounded by rice fields. This year the patchwork squares of diked land parcels are dry. The usual monsoon rains have not arrived. There is despair in the air. The all important crop is not going into the ground. There will be no harvest here. The mood that a missing harvest creates is something that can be felt, even by someone like me who is not dependent on rice.
My spirit makes the switch to the greater harvest of souls which also seems to be endangered. This city is the Colorado Springs of the Far East. Before the British lease ran out on Hong Kong in the late 90’s most of the Christian ministries based there moved to Chiangmai. There are thousands of missionaries living here. But I can find little evidence of the expected harvest. I recently spoke at one of the five International Churches in the city. The room was full of ministry professionals of many varieties. Afterward in conversations with individuals I found out that most of the arriving missionaries return home to the States within four years. Many don’t last two years. The reason is startling…frustration over lack of results. They arrive with bright vision and high hopes for a bountiful harvest. Then reality kicks in and the spiritual drought and missing harvest provoke depression, discouragement and death of a vision.
Are there any bright spots? Is God bringing in any fruit from this part of His Harvest Field? Yes, there is good news. The problem is that most of what God is doing is happening outside of the control of Western Missionary efforts. The hill tribes in many Asian countries have experienced wonderful multiplication of Christ-followers, leaders and churches. Many NGO’S and ex-pat workers try hard to take credit for what God is doing. There is no lack of shame in that embarrassing scramble to “show product” to supporters back home. Could it be that God has removed His hand of blessing from many of our western missionary teams? Is it possible that God is making it clear that He doesn’t need us, or, at least He doesn’t need our ministry technologies, techniques and expertise? The Rain of God’s Spirit is necessary. Everything else is optional.