I heard a compelling sermon this morning tracing the journey of the people of God through the wilderness of Sinai. It was based on this text from Numbers 9.
Numbers 9:15-18, 21-23
“On the day the Tabernacle was set up, the cloud covered it. But from evening until morning the cloud over the Tabernacle looked like a pillar of fire. This was the regular pattern—at night the cloud that covered the Tabernacle had the appearance of fire. Whenever the cloud lifted from over the sacred tent, the people of Israel would break camp and follow it. And wherever the cloud settled, the people of Israel would set up camp. In this way, they traveled and camped at the Lord’s command wherever he told them to go. Then they remained in their camp as long as the cloud stayed over the Tabernacle… Sometimes the cloud stayed only overnight and lifted the next morning. But day or night, when the cloud lifted, the people broke camp and moved on. Whether the cloud stayed above the Tabernacle for two days, a month, or a year, the people of Israel stayed in camp and did not move on. But as soon as it lifted, they broke camp and moved on. So they camped or traveled at the Lord’s command, and they did whatever the Lord told them through Moses.”
When God Says Move, You Move. When God Says Stay, You Stay
The core of the message was, “When God moves, you move. When God stays, you stay.” This is the heart of the journey, isn’t it? It seems so simple. But it’s a lot harder to do than it is to say.
When I returned to the US in March of this year, I believed I would be in the States for a few months, and then would return to Thailand. However, the pandemic continues to spread. In light of the health risks, Thailand has assumed a stance of caution, imposing extreme travel restrictions on who can enter the country. These restrictions continue to prohibit my return for the time being. For me, it feels like a time of waiting in the wilderness. Some days, the myriad of “what ifs” can feel overwhelming. For some of you, the “what ifs” have become a terrible reality of illness, job loss, wildfires, and even death of beloved family and friends. And yet, day by day, we do our best to press forward.
Three Things I’m Learning
Even in these extremely difficult times, God is active. Here are three things I am learning:
1) Stay put until God tells you to move. It is humbling to be in a position of dependence and uncertainty. My goal-directed orientation is revving to get “back to business”, but God has not yet given the signal. This passage from Numbers says that the Israelites did not know whether they would stay put for 2 days, a month or a year, but “the people of Israel stayed in camp and did not move on”. From day to day, they did not know what was next. I can identify with that. Not knowing when I will be able to return to Thailand is unsettling. But I am trying to just keep my eyes on the clouds, and wait for God’s lead. Fortunately, I have profoundly kind and generous friends who have allowed this wandering missionary to pitch her tent in their homes during this season.
2) There are gifts in the wilderness. One gift I have received is having extra time to focus on my studies in counseling and art therapy. I have also attended 5 online conferences in trauma-informed counseling and art therapy that I would not normally have been able to attend. So I am taking advantage of this opportunity to better equip myself for the ministry ahead.
3) God continues to do miracles. Some of you may be aware that I have been struggling with some health issues over the last eight years. Earlier this year, I found a doctor in Cincinnati who was able to diagnose the mysterious medical conditions that have been causing my autoimmune issues. Over the last six months, I have worked with the doctor, an integrative health practitioner, and two physical therapists to figure out a long-term treatment plan. While I still have some food limitations, I can now honestly say that overall, I feel much better. The Lord brought me to the US for a reason – so that he could restore my health and prepare me for another season of ministry ahead.
On days when the pandemic fatigue feels like it’s too much to bear, let’s try to just keep it simple. “When God moves, you move. When God stays, you stay.” God will work out the rest. When the clouds lift, I’ll be poised and ready. But until that time comes, I am going to accept whatever each day holds and keep my tent pegs fixed firmly in place.
Thank you to each of you who have continued to send support, prayers and encouragement. I cannot thank you enough for sticking with me in hope and expectation that I will be able to return to service in Thailand when the Lord leads. I pray that you will have a blessed Thanksgiving holiday as we remember together that even in the midst of these difficult times, there is much to be grateful for.
 If you would like to hear Rev. Dr. David Palmer’s entire message, you can find it here: https://www.facebook.com/KenwoodBaptistChurch
Click on the Sunday Morning Service for November 22, 2020