The Promise

The first promise recorded in the Old Testament was not by an angel with choirs, just God talking. He finds Adam and Eve in deep shame, but quickly moves the conversation to the deceiver. Seems like Adam tried to shift the blame for his bad decision onto the woman, Eve. Not much has changed, men have been trying to shift the blame ever since! However, God ignores Adam and goes straight for the deceiver and blames him. Then comes the first promise. It is surprisingly a promise of Christmas and it lifts up the status of all women. I wonder how we missed that all these millennia, right? God tells the snake that the seed of the woman would eventually overcome the shame wounds he inflicted and crush his lying head.

The New Testament begins with the same ancient promise to a startled young woman, a virgin, getting ready for marriage. After warm greetings he gets to the point, “The one to whom you will give birth will be like no other, none from the beginning of the human race to the end. He will be a Saviour, and will bring healing to the wounds inflicted by the deceitful snake.” Confused she reminds the angelic presence of the impossibility of this promise, she had known no male to fertilise her egg. The announcer must have smiled when he said, “Young lady, there’s nothing impossible for God!”

Christians, like many Muslims, believe in a virgin birth. What differentiates us is the belief that Jesus’s birth was of incorruptible seed. He was more than a prophet. He gave us more than a compendium of good sermons and an example of love. He was begotten of the Father, the Word that began it all now made flesh. Now that’s a pretty big promise to live up to! The snake reappears to cast doubt again on God’s promise, this time in a desert. We call it the temptation of the Christ. Don’t confuse Jesus name from his title. Jesus was the baby born of Mary and the greek title ‘Christ’ meant messiah. The snake in the desert kept pushing Christ for proof to his title, “If you are the one, the Christ, then show it now!”

In the end Jesus did not compromise to his archenemy in the hot sands of the Judean wilderness. He would not resort to feeding himself miraculously. He wasn’t willing to prove God’s protecting power. There would be no miracles to save himself, not would he bow to the lure of prestige and power. He would stay true to himself even if it meant great suffering would await. He left with his ‘Christ’ identity intact.

maryconsolesevenThis post was inspired by two images, first an inspired painting  that depicts a pregnant Mary consoling the ashamed Eve. Please see the snake wrapped around the heel of Eve and the head crushed under the seed of Mary. The question I started with and want to bring some clarity to us all is “Did God keep His original promise made in the garden of Eden?”

The painting gives us an answer. The promise began to take shape in Mary’s belly, to a hard birth behind an overcrowded Inn in a stable, to a miserable neglected town called Nazareth, to a baptism in a river that led to the Dead Sea, to a desert testing, to three years of incredible happenings, to a betrayal and abandonment, to a the gruesome cross, to a dark tomb shut tight with a Roman seal, and to the miracle of all, resurrection.

Today I was rearranging my dresser in our tiny Parisian bedroom and came about a memorial service bulletin. That was my second inspiration for this writing, the image of my Mom’s beautiful face still free of the ravages of old age and cancer graced the front with her smile. She passed away on January 1, 2015. For a moment I missed her voice, her smile and her calling my name. And I remembered the promise. I’ll hear her voice and see her smile again. God’s promise to the world is more than an escape from hell. It’s the redemption of all things. I am not sure what that looks like, but I am certain that it includes the healing of our shame wounds that always lead to a death. Death gets outdueled, swallowed by a greater power, life!

My theology training took three years of study and thirty-four years to live, it taught me that Jesus, the Christ, came to release us from the fear and sting of death. The shame wounds you and I now bare, both inner and maybe outer, caused by our own choices, will be healed, redeemed. How to say it better than a letter we call first Corinthians, “this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.”

The ancient promise spoken by God in first in Genesis 3:15 and later repeated by an angel to Mary is one of ‘joy to the whole world’. It reaches as far as the curse is found. It is for my mother, and for your’s. It is for you. And it is for me.  It is for the people of war-torn Syria as much as it is for the people on the shimmering snow covered hills of Sweden! Sounds unbelievable. It did for Adam and Eve. It did for Mary too. I guess we all need to hear some smiling angel say to us, ” Hey there young man, young woman, is there anything too hard for God to do?”

Christmas’ Glory: No Fear!

linusxmasMy favorite scene from the 1965 Charlie Brown classic Christmas Special is of Linus on stage recounting from Luke’s gospel the true Christmas story. The epic words, now forgotten by the vast majority, still ring out as truth to the humble of heart, “… and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not!”

Wow, the glory of the Lord and an admonition to not fear in the same breathe! It is hard to imagine with so much gone wrong in our fearful world that the glory of the Lord is on humanity. Yet the Good News of a true light among us, Jesus, remains. God deliberately shone His light and humanity came face to face with glory. And all those beings we were taught to fear in the darkness, those creatures with whom we fought and who fought with us, came face to face with God’s light. And it taught us not to be afraid.

The fear effect of darkness is a belief that something, someone, maybe everyone is dangerous. What God’s glory was meant to do was to show us that those creatures we rejected as bad were people like us. Light does that. It has forced us to see them, and ourselves not merely as walking trees or enemies hiding in the darkness, but as living under a great light. The incarnation has re-humanised us all. And in this great re-humanisation we are now allowed to enjoy and love the beauty that is revealed in Christ and in others.

We have a friend who is homeless. He was given a place to sleep in the warmth, yet recently he chose to go back and live on the street. He told us about the man who finished his shift very early in the morning and brought hot coffee and fresh bread to the homeless group of which he is a member. They never see him. He does it before they all wake up. And we might add that he does not leave a pamphlet from the church. But his good works are visible and precious, and come from a place of God’s glory in his heart we are sure!

Paul has an inspired way of making God’s truth so accessible and once wrote: Do everything you need to do without grumbling or arguing, so that you can be children of God, blameless, sincere and healthy, living in a torn and sick world, and shining there as lights in one Dark place. For you have in your hands the very word of life. (Philippians 2: 14,15)

lightscbrownWhen a light shines in a dark place it is there for all to see. It doesn’t even have to say much! Not only this Christmas, but daily we get to manifest the presence of this risen glory of God upon us to all those taking care of their business. It may be in Thailand where people still like to bow before the images and give them drinks and food. It may be in a chic neighborhood in Paris where Gucci bags are a common sight. It may be in the cubicle next to you in the office or your neighbour across the fence. We get to shine. What a wonderful job description. We shine the light of another and say, “No need to fear!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to each one of you!


Bottom Reaching Up!

To see Vikash is to know immediately that he has Indian blood. He comes from the Mauritius Islands and his ancestors immigrated there from India many generations ago, far too many to count. His family was a poor one and could barely afford to send their kids to school. However Vikash was a bright boy and was awarded bursaries to study further  vikashbecause of his good grades.

Still the family’s poverty demanded that he  help put food on the table. At the age of 14 he was hired to wait on tables at a hotel. He switched from time to time to a bellboy. But his life began to change when he found work in the kitchen of a famous hotel on the Island, the Palm Royal. A chef from France began to teach him some serious cooking skills.

By 17 years of age, Vikash was finished with schooling. He decided to find full-time work as a chef and actually made it to a Club Med cruise ship for about 4 years. From there he came to France. He was just 22 years. All he had known religion-wise till now was Hinduism. Yet the church buildings he saw all over Paris fascinated him. He just had to go in. What he discovered surprised him, his heart was at peace in those places of worship. It was the quiet, the fresh cool air in the hot summer, it seemed to help him clear his mind while sitting there, looking and meditating on life.

While in Paris he found work illegally with a well-known chef named Paul Menchelli. He learned more about French cuisine and some international dishes. His ‘piece de resistance’ was the Spanish Paella. His life seemed good. He fell in love, married and had three kids. He began his own business working out of his apartment as a caterer to events and was able to make a decent living providing for his young family.

However it all went downhill in 2008 when he became very ill with a bacterial infection that destroyed the usage of his pancreas. He was interned in the local hospital for a month. Not being able to work made it difficult to care for his family let alone pay the rent in expensive Paris; they had to move out. Things kept getting worse between his wife and he, and in 2010 his wife found it too much and she took the kids, two sons and a daughter and left.

Alone. Terribly alone. Could it get worse? He was able to find the odd work here and there, but eventually his health deteriorated further and he found himself homeless. For six months he begged, borrowed and did what he could to stay alive. The worst part of being homeless was the violence on the streets. Other homeless would sometimes rob or kick the other homeless wheel they slept. The fear was real. He was a lonely broken man.

Walking the streets he sometimes remembered how it was to have a good salary. He remembered the praise from clients about his well prepared meals. Once he remembered taking his whole family to India to visit the Hindu tourist sites. Though his wife discouraged it, he was drawn to an old majestic Catholic Church. While the family waited outside, Vikash went in and gave God his respects in his own way. Was God looking over him?

Eventually Vikash found a hostel who took him in with about fifty other men. Often there would be stealing and conflict even here. One time after finally having new shoes, he laid them on his bed and went to the toilet. When he returned the shoes were gone. There were days he was depressed. Many days. His depression once led him to the fast-moving waters of the Seine River where he wanted to end it all. “All I have to do is jump and I’ll be through with this misery,” he thought. Miraculously he heard church bells ring then and there. A sign? He decided his jump could wait another day.

And then in 2015 another cold lonely day, a day like the rest of not ever having a meaningful conversation with anyone. After all, he was a nobody and a loser. And he was at his wit’s end. He decided to clear his mind at the Catholic Church. There he asked God to help him once again. “All I need is 10 euros, God!” Ten euros to survive another day or two.

When he stepped out of the church and walked some, an Asian lady addressed him. He was quite surprised at this rare occasion. She asked him what he was looking for. And the ten euros came to mind and he asked for a bit of money. She reached into her purse, pulled out ten euros and said, “This is not from me, it is from God.” She then invited him to join her at her small church. “There are good people there”, she said.

That same day I remember seeing This small dark man in a heavy coat for the first time , sitting quietly, head bowed for the most part, not making eye contact with anyone. As quietly as he slipped in, he did the same slipping out. He did this week after week for months. Our church helped him with his medication needs. I guess that is why he came. Eventually though, as others would begin to speak to him, pray with him, he began to want to come. What stands out is how the people of the church never made him feel ashamed or guilty for needing help.

Eventually the day recently came this past May when he heard about the church organising a water baptism. He so wanted to be baptised. In his words He told us that for years no one gave him the time of day. Loneliness was a disease that was killing him more vikashbaptizedthan his heart problems. But here he found a family. He found people who would engage. On the day of his baptism he told me he was proud to call us his family. The words that came next touched me, “I am no longer afraid of life, I have you guys now!”

Vikash was quite ill immediately after his baptism. Maybe it was too much excitement for his heart that day. He spent almost three weeks in the hospital. I tried to visit as often as I could. That’s really when I found out about his fascinating life. This man truly touched the bottom to find God’s grace reaching for him.  Daily for a time we read the french version of Francis Chan’s book ‘Crazy Love.’ Afterwards Vikash would smile and comment on what we read.

During my visits his confidence and warmth surprised me, before this I took him to be a simple man who didn’t want to interact with people. I discovered that there was more to Vikash than meets the eye. He was more than a homeless broken man with a lot of pain, there was change happening in him brought on by hope. With a warm smile and a direct gaze from his dark eyes he told me his stories. We would always finish with clasping our hands to eagerly say a prayer. It is crazy to think of all he came through to somehow get to where he is today. It was thvikashlaurentpeter2016at crazy love of God that reached him. His dream is to see his kids again, now 12, 10 and 8. And to work as a chef. I looked at him for a moment, knowing how fortunate I was to have my wife and family together. Yet seeing his faith and hope as he shared his prayer request, my eyes watered up. “All things are possible,” I told him, “All things are possible.”

Hatred and the Cross

They should take them all into the forest,” he told me. And making the gesture of matchsticklighting a match he spewed out the hateful words, “Then they should light up the forest.” I looked at him not believing what I was hearing. And then I noticed the cross around his neck. I could not hold back, “You wear a cross. Do you remember what the man on the cross said to his captors when they nailed him and left him to die alone in shame?” His turn to look at me unbelievingly. I answered my own question, “He said, ‘Father, forgive them.'” He tried to change the topic. Ah, the foolishness of this cross.

Light of the Cross

Do you find it strange that Paul the Apostle once wrote, “I am not going to boast in any other thing but the cross.” Paul, or Saul as he was named at birth, once hated Christianity, so much so that he went out as a representative of fundamental Judaism, to capture Christians and put them in jail, and much worse! Hatred had gotten the best of him. Then on a journey to Damascus in pursuit of those in this strange new sect, he himself encountered the love of God. From then and there the cross became his point of reference, his message, and his life. This Jewish ‘jihadist’ who once resorted to violence when his way of believing became threatened, now learned that the greatest message for humanity was love, the kind manifested on that ugly now beautiful cross.

I grew up learning that Jesus paid it all. His death was caused by my rebellion. In order for me to escape God’s wrath I needed to really apologise, tears would help, and of course I must turn from my wicked ways. Visiting preachers came to my church quoting a sermon called ‘Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.’ Gulp! I was only twelve years old. There was a lot of hell fire preaching going around! These days I wonder if we have put too much emphasis on how the cross appeased an angry God. Is he a wrathful God angry with all of us who should know better? My guess is He was always and still is motivated more by love than anger.  I believe the death of Christ was necessary for our at-one-ment and at the same time I am drawn to the thought that the supreme message of the cross is that it displays His shocking love for humanity even at it’s worst?

I think back to a time in a taxi driven by a devout Muslim taxi driver. We talked about the violence happening in France and in the world and surprisingly we talked about Jesus. I wanted him to tell me about the cross, what he understood it to mean. I was trying to steer the conversation to a God that was more love than anger. “Do you remember what Jesus said while he hung there to die?” It felt right to bring up to him the fact that Jesus actually asked the Father to forgive his killers, the ones so blinded by hatred they didn’t know what they were doing. After saying this, a beggar came to where we were stopped at a red light and tried to wash his windows. It was the worst attempt of cleaning a window I had ever seen. More dirty after the washing! I said to the good Muslim driver, “Guess we need to forgive him, for he doesn’t know what he is doing!” We both laughed. After I got out of the taxi we shook hands warmly and I think we both wished the ride lasted a little longer.

Are there not times we humans don’t know what we are doing let alone are saying? While visiting my relatives in the Netherlands, an uncle of mine blurted out loud, “I hate them all because they hate us.” He wasn’t joking either. It reminds me of the disciples who wanted to call down fire from heaven upon those awful Samaritans, they had no clue to what they were asking Jesus to do. My uncle’s remark was not much different than Donald Trump’s  solution to the terrible terrorism that has touched every continent of the world, that is to simply kick them all out! It’s a tad better than Adolf Hitlers ‘Final Solution’ I suppose, isn’t it?

We no longer live in the dark ages, thank God, but I am aghast by the amount of  hateful ideology that exists in our day. We hate this and that. ThAnnefranke result is a beaten black-eyed world with the greatest refugee crisis known in the history of mankind. Apart from Germany, most European countries have said, “We can’t, we won’t let them in!” We are turning a blind eye much like during the beginning of Word War 2, when no one would take in the Jews. They were all spies after all, all bad, Nazis even! And so hundreds of Jewish families that applied for hope, like Anne Frank’s father did,  were denied a new life in spite of the fact they had connections, spoke English, and were, well, good people. How many more modern Anne Franks are trapped somewhere today with no escape?

One of my reasons for writing these words today is a result of my moving to Paris. My apartment was a five minute walk from La Belle Equipe, a corner bar and bistro where bullets sprayed killing twenty beautiful people.  It wasn’t the first time for us nor last time to see hatred’s manifestation up close. In our two short years we’ve seen protests turned violent, we experienced  the Charlie Hebdo attacks, we were in Nice the day before an angry truck driver crushed 85 people to death with a rented 19 tonne lorry and most recently the senseless murder of an elderly Catholic priest who had his throat slit before a small congregation.  I’ve seen hatred’s face here in France too often. A French friend told me that he was haunted by the image of young terrorists dancing with joy after murdering the priest. Aren’t we all haunted by hatred? In France it is a touchy topic here with a long complicated revolutionary and colonial history.

I read the papers daily and maybe like me you feel the helplessness of reading yet another headline of violence committed in the name of some ideology. As believers in the message of love, we should stand out as counter-culture to hatred and to those who propose building walls, or the refusing and sending away of the unwanted. Can I point you to yet another unspoken inference of the cross, it shows us God’s way to solve the problem of hate.  I like Brian Zahnd words, “The cross is shock therapy for a world addicted to solving its problems through violence.” Fear and hatred put Christ up there on the cross. Look!


Georgia O’Keefe ‘Black Cross’ 1929

Love kept Him there. And strong love needs to keep us in the places we live, dark places and hateful spaces and offer up seemingly foolish words of life and love.

So back to the cross and the astonishing words of Jesus on that hateful tool of death; it speaks to me of finding a better way to reconciliation. It is not a quick or easy, admittedly. I am not Jesus, nor could I ever attain a love like His! I do pray sincerely, “Oh God, may hate never be the response of my heart.”  And I am trying to glean from His sacrifice and of His offer to all of second chances. “Its easy to love those who love you,” Jesus once taught, “Now try and bless those who hate you and you’ll reflect better the heart of the Father above.” Jesus lived just that. Even in a cruel death by violent hearts and hands. Ultimately this foolish cross stuff is our best hope for a better world !

A World Ends!

by Patricia DeWitPatinSwiss


Every once in a while the world ends. Resistance is usually futile. Oh, people have tried to resist, mourning the good ol’ days, crying over the loss of the way it was, stubbornly remaining phone-less, car-less, facebook-less. But in the end, they couldn’t prevail against what had become a new normal.


On August 17th we celebrate 25 years as PAOC Global Workers. We may have seen the end of the world a few times, having to adapt to many new normals. Some of these were just in our own world; some were shared universally. Each has formed us. Looking back it’s easy to see them as road markers, yet at the time, they were huge steps of faith, where we found ourselves in unfamiliar places, leaning desperately on God, squinting to see His face, shushing all other voices in order to hear His voice.


So from… twenty-two years in Bangkok with our first military coup in 1992, numerous states of emergency, the Tsunami, 9-11, strict curfews, adopting a daughter, giving birth to a second daughter, the world wide web, the creation of social media, national floods in Thailand, to… a transition to Europe that started with brain surgery, a year in Germany, then a move to France, Charlie Hebdo, The November 13 terrorism, Bastille Day terror, there have been many times where we woke up to a new normal.


The thing about new normals is that they can create a powerful space for the Gospel to emerge. That’s the crux of Global Work; not so much to create new normals, but to recognize and not be afraid of the new, to navigate the hard parts and create space where others can follow and cross over on dry land, always prayerfully in response to God’s love and reflecting God’s Kingdom.


In 2008, something that looked a lot like civil war started to divide Thailand. As a church we found ourselves caught between the Redshirts and the Yellow-shirts. Each side believed they had a right to hate the other. These colours seeped into the church, and where we would have hoped for orange, we just found Christian Red-shirts against Christian Yellow-shirts, each so determined to ‘have things our way no matter what’, each praying ‘Oh God, let us win!’ So while killings and protests hit the news headlines, our Newsong Bangkok church family knew we couldn’t rejoice in those ‘victories’, and set out to navigate this new normal so that once it was all over, Red-shirts and Yellow-shirts could come home to community and communion.


When the world ends we are forced to trust. Or die from worry. Seriously. It shows us that God is God and I am not. I remember a day in June 1995, and we were living in Nong Khai. We had guests, but I was starting to get a headache and stayed home while everyone went out. The headache had become so bad, and no amount of Tylenol helped. There was a fever, and out of body hallucinations. Peter took me to the hospital and the doctors told me I was suffering from full-blown HIV, and to put on a mask, go home, that there was nothing they could do for me.




We had to get to Bangkok. FAST. So once our friends arrived to stay with the boys, another friend drove us to the airport an hour away, then a quick flight, and then a zigzag taxi ride to the most advanced private hospital in the city at that time. I was extremely ill.


“They told us she has final stage HIV, but that can’t be true.” Said Peter upon meeting the doctor. Peter was correct. A battery of tests proved this. But they could not find the cause of this illness. Not until the next month when we returned to Toronto for our first ‘furlough’ and Doctor Gamble at the missionary health institute discovered that I had suffered from Japanese encephalitis.


Most of all, what I have learned is that the end of the world does not kill us. Go back and read that again. The end of one world and the ensuing new normal does require us to take on this vulnerable posture of laying down our lives, dying to our idea of what things ‘should be’ but then there is that glorious coming out of the restrictive deathtomb and walking through the garden in a resurrection body. The new normal! God is there.


In every new normal GOD IS THERE. We may not recognize him in that foreign place, and we become frightened, like that time we were 5 and lost sight of Mom at the Kmart. Just as Jesus’ friends didn’t recognize him in the garden, it’s hard to recognize God after the tsunami, after the suicide of a child, after the diagnosis, after the terrorism. It’s hard.







As we celebrate this milestone anniversary, I can’t help but express gratitude for dear friends along the way who have been by our side faithfully through all the times we came to the end of the world, and who prayed us through our new normals.


Thank-you friend

For crying with us without judgment

Bangkok2009For celebrating with us generously

For putting wise words into our hands, words that have nudged us into a better Gospel story, a better trust, a better recognising.


Thank-you God

For Your great always-ness

For Your solid rock-ness

For waiting for us at the end of the world

And for meeting us in the new normal. Amen.

A Quarter of a Century!

_MG_0413Today We Celebrate 25 Years of Global Ministry!

I still look back from time to time to that moment sitting on a picnic table in Montmagny, Quebec.  I knew well on that cold damp day that my life and my family would change forever. We had just received news of our overseas appointment. Thailand would soon be home. Though we had no idea what life in Asia was like, I was still making promises to God. My youthful fervour had me promising to God that I would give it my all and for as long as he wanted.

The day our  Old World ended was August 17th 1991 at 14:50hrs. Imagine what three tired little boys, a wife and her man might have looked like as they pushed their trolleys filled with 10 over-stuffed suitcases after over thirty hours of travel and finally entering a strange New World. Anticipation. Once we got out of the immigration lines of Bangkok’s old Don Muang Airport we were greeted by two Canadian families waiting to put fragrant Jasmin garlands around our necks and we were stuffed into two old vehicles for our first look at the snarled Bangkok traffic, eyes wide-open and sweating buckets.

That first week we all slept together at Ray and Betty’s, one room for all of us, the air-conditioning working at maximum. Nothing felt familiar, not taking a shower with lukewarm water as the ants marched one-by-one on the shower wall. Even going to Kentucky Fried Chicken witnessing Thais all dressed up and cutting their finger-licking chicken with their forks and knives! This was indeed a New World.

The next month was spent figuring out how to buy furniture, groceries, and a second-hand car. We had to adjust to torrential rains and humidity. Our laneway was continually full of swamp and rain water and we hired a man to pump out the water to prevent flooding our driveway. We had to learn how to relate to a Thai house-helper who quit after a few months, the first of many! Then there were the instant noodles my kids loved and I hated, and a son’s hatred of rice, which I loved! I remember the fear of driving manual on the wrong side of the road, but for them it was the right side. In our wooden home on stilts we learned to aim the fans for maximum human coverage. Each morning it was pitch black as we prepared to go to language school before 6am to beat the traffic jams. Honestly, we easily spent the first couple of years living in and out of culture shock.FamilyThailand earlyyears1991

Oddly enough those days don’t seem all that long ago, yet it is exactly 25 years ago to this very day. Not many people work with the same organisation for that long these days. I think many people within my organisation know a bit how we have lived in this exotic New World. Some upon meeting us ask how we decided upon Thailand, but I usually don’t get around telling the whole story, of how I became interested in cultures and languages and people groups. Or of the day I cried so hard for war-torn Cambodia that I thought my heart would burst. Maybe some day I will write about my Dutch-Reformed spiritual roots and how the Pentecostal message changed our Spiritual World. I’d love to tell how a teenaged boy was already drawn to an atypical life by reading books like ‘Peace Child’ and ‘Lords of the Earth’. Those stories of another continent (Indonesia) opened an Avatar-like world that I never knew existed. Something was kindled in me that would flame into service in cultures and contexts not my own.

Beginnings are usually the hardest anytime, they demand the most of us. Though Patricia and I looked forward to the challenge of proficiency in the Thai language it took hours, days, and months, and yes, even years learning to speak Thailand’s tonal language. Not easy, especially with a family. In my first Christmas message I spoke a tone wrong and inadvertently changed the angel’s message to the shepherds to, “Behold we bring you Good Rice.” That was indeed good news that day in our context! Though I loved how Thais would always encourage us and say, ‘Wow, your Thai pronunciation is so good!’ I knew better! It took courage every time to teach and preach in this strange-sounding language and I begged God to helped me more times than I can count.

Being a white family in the early nineties in Thailand also carried a novelty factor with the Thais, especially in villages outside of Bangkok. One time I was in a far flung village and a little boy saw me as he was riding his bike. He lost his balance and fell off. As I walked toward him, he got back on and sped away, fast! Another time in Nong Khai, where we planted our first Thai church, I borrowed a rickshaw. I put my three boys in the back and drove them through town. If only I had a camera to film the faces of those who caught this rare sight of a slender white man and his boys. They gave thumbs up as they called out to their friends to see this strange westerner pretending to do the most humble job on the social ladder.

Maybe it was this curiosity and willingness to try new things, go to new places that helped me to not return to ‘normal’ Canadian life. If you saw some of what I have eaten or where I have slept at times you might think us strange. We did it for the gospel. All of it. We have sweat enough water over the years to fill a pool and can tell you of the long weeks suffering from what the Thais called running stomach! After our first four years in Thailand we were skinnier than when we were married and that was already skinny! But I was happy, I was fulfilling the promise I made on that picnic bench, to give it our all even when it was extremely uncomfortable or embarrassing or lacking the immediate results that we felt God deserved.

About halfway through our 25 years I experienced a desire for God to do something new in me, to open new doors of influence. As I began to study the life of Joshua I took note of the correlation between ‘the courage of one’ and ‘the benefit of many’. If Joshua could not find the courage to act, to overcome his self-doubt and Moses’ long leadership shadow, the result would be many people losing out on opportunities to see or feel God in new ways. Stepping into the swirling waters of the Jordan without Moses’ miracle stick would be his biggest step of faith. Without Joshua’s courage many would lose out on a preferred destiny!

Thaiyouth prayHow impacting Joshua’s life would be on my own. Twenty-five years ago we took the  risk of working with Thai Youth,  a role I was uncomfortable with, yet it resulted in hundreds maybe thousands of youth encouraged to give their all to God’s way. We never thought we would host teams, develop a child sponsorship program, chair a board for a ministry among children born with HIV or bring leadership training to other countries. Yet we stepped out of our comfort zone and gave of ourselves. None of this would be part of our story without the courage to step out into the unknown. Even today I’ll meet someone who will say, “I was at that camp you spoke at and I gave my life to Christ!”

If it is true, and I think it is, that life shrinks or expands according to the measure of courage, then each courageous step into the unknown carries great promise. Today we find ourselves again needing courage to minister in a new way and in a new culture and context; Europe! We came to Paris knowing no one, just the two of us with a dream and no team. We did a lot of walking asking God thaPetersharest each step would be guided to bring His love wherever we found ourselves. We knew that this step of obedience risked much, that we could be misunderstood by many, and we were. It resulted in the stretching of our faith and finances. And yet we heard an inner voice saying, “Have courage, don’t be afraid… as I was with you in Thailand I am with you in Paris!”

When I look back, I see so much of God in my steps, 25 years of ordered steps, I cannot doubt that He has us here and now for such a time as this. I cannot say how long we’ll be in this Once Again New World. My promise to God, however,is the same I made on that cold and damp day in Quebec, I will give it my all as long as you provide the strength and the resources. And we are seeing lives, French lives, drawn closer to their creator, and we believe there is much more to come.




Family Means…

It had been years since I saw him last. As I passed through customs to retrieve my luggage, I knew he would be waiting for me in the welcome hall. This trip was because of him. I would preach and teach as usual, but this time God wanted me to be a friend to a big-hearted individual. Anton and I go back a long ways. The first time I met him was in 2000 at a church dedication and conference I was speaking at. We were sitting at the same table. He let others do most of the talking. My impression was that he was shy. I had no idea then that this man with a fun loving smile would one day be part of my own destiny.Anton&me

Honestly, Sri Lanka was never a place I thought about visiting. When Ray Faulkner, the Regional Coordinator at the time, asked me to come and speak, I was surprised, but pleased. It was the first of many trips, often with teams from Canada and Thailand. When Pastor Anton became the Superintendent years later he was keen on developing the young people in both the Tamil and Singhalese churches. I wanted to be a part of this embryonic vision! That’s how Sri Lanka became one of my passions.

It has been my honour to speak in many camps and church meetings. I have spent countless hours with this man weaving in and out of Sri Lanka’s notorious traffic. I became familiar with Colombo’s dichotomy of a colonial past and its continued struggle to become an independent nation. I’ve seen the outcome of a civil war and learned about the persecution by a controlling Buddhist population on minority religions. Anton’s own church was hit twice, once with a grenade in 2002 and then with a petrol bomb in 2003, causing damage to the building and vehicles. I visited after the Tsunami destroyed homes and lives. From the beautiful southern City of Galle to the breathtaking tea estates in the highlands of Candy and Nuwara Eliya Anton and I have laughed generously, cried some, prayed and told each other God-story after God-story.

A lot had changed since I last saw Anton in 2013. I knew he had been through some deep waters. Being a pastor and leader carries a heavy price. While he groaned many prayers, shed many tears, and lost weight, I was going through my own transition. Brain surgery changed drastically the direction of my life and our family transitioned in 2013, first to Germany for a year and then to France. But we kept in touch, as best as one could, considering the distances and circumstances. This year he reached out to me and yearned to lead his church for a time of retreat. I wanted to bring a team from Canada and speak too. Unfortunately the expenses were far too great for the abilities of the congregation to organise a camp on their own. I could neither find a team, nor funds for a camp. My first thought was, “Should I just forget about it and cancel?”  It made sense to say, “Next year, Anton!”

My heart was heavy as I prayed and I knew I was giving up too easily on Anton and his family. I let the Lord know about my desire and my personal financial situation. I felt led to I reach out to an individual, asking humbly if there was any way he could help me with travel. When he agreed, I reached out to another friend for help with some of the logistical expenses. The trip began to take shape. I was pumped. I would spend a week with Anton and his church and a day at a youth camp as well.

Leaving the airport we made our way into crowded Colombo. The traffic was as bad as I had ever seen. Everyone was shopping before the New Year celebrations would close shop. We spent the next three hours chatting away and missing where we were supposed to turn. I reminisced how the last time I visited we were slated to do a Youth Conference but only a few kids showed up. I found out in our car ride that many pastors had boycotted the camp. I never knew how much Anton felt betrayed and deflated. We did a shortened version of the camp there anyway. On our way to the hotel Anton shared how that over the years he was looking for a father figure; his own dad left with another woman when he was 12 years old. At first he wanted a kind of fatherly relationship from me, but as we spent time together he realised we could become real friends.

I prepared well for this trip while in France and was ready for our church meetings on Sunday and Monday. My theme was ‘Transformation’ and emphasised how God does His best work in our lives  when we go through difficult situations. Our teachers are darkness, wounds and pain. If we avoid the blame game we gain insight into our own blind spots and ego. It leads to finding our true identity in Christ. The second day I was blessed by an even larger group and continued to speak on how a changed identity provides security, transparency and a willingness to be vulnerable in family. When Jesus was told that his

Anton &I preaching

Sharing in the church.

brothers and mothers were outside wanting to speak to him, he asked those sitting inside, “Who are my brothers and mother?” No one was prepared for that shocking answer as Jesus realigned what true family would look like in his kingdom. “Anyone who does the will of my Father are my brothers and mother,” he answered!


Even as I was speaking my revelation of family was growing clearer. I had always loved travel and meeting people of different cultures. Now I was beginning to see how brothers in Christ should view and treat each other. We say no to slander, divisiveness and stumble together towards grace. It is the only way. We refuse to allow opinions, skin colour, racial or economic biases or jealousy to wreak havoc on the family. The world has been waiting a long time to see such a family. Unfortunately we have showed them a lot less of that. The response to these messages was encouraging.

After four nights in a hotel Anton announced to me his home was ready to receive me. An air conditioner was installed, rented by the day! His three kids painted the walls, moved in Anton’s and Silverine’s own mattress, bought new pillows and sheets and welcomed me home proudly. I saw his family up close. I heard Anton address his wife and children with unfamiliar words. I wanted to know why? He taught me the meaning of these Singhalese words. I asked him how do friends address each other. You see, from my first visit to Sri Lanka I’ve been addressed as Pastor Peter every day, every time, by every single person, including Anton. I wanted to drop the formalities. After thinking a bit he found the word, “machang.” “This,” he said, “is what good friends call each other.” And of course I decided to use that word at the dinner table. “Machang, can you pass the curry?” I waited to see the reaction. It was laughter, appreciation and it was appropriate.

Anton Murphy and I

Anton and I for the evening ritual of sitting outside to relax.

This tall thin white visitor and this short chubby dark-skinned local were now friends and we were a microcosm of the true family of God.


I left a bit of my heart in Colombo on this trip. My hope for the church in Sri Lanka has been renewed. The church carries a great responsibility to show its population what our true identity is. It has nothing to do with buildings and rituals. It is above all a receiving of Christ’s identity, participating in His very life and grace.  It took a long trip to a tear-shaped island in the Indian Ocean for me to rediscover a life hid in Christ in God looks like love.