I don’t normally travel over 8000 miles and 28 hours in the air to help with a book table. But this was no ordinary book table. I found myself in Chiang Mai, Thailand this past week helping to staff a mega book table for an extraordinary organization. This organization is so unusual that I cannot even share the name, but suffice it to say that the people I met this week are some of God’s special people. The verses in Hebrews 11 came to mind several times where it says, “Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment…of whom the world was not worthy…”
There are only a few times in my life when I have been in the presence of people that I consider to be true “saints” and this week I met hundreds of them. They would not want to be identified in this way, but there was no other way for me to view it. These people willingly left lives of comfort and security to move to the hardest places on earth to love and minister to the least reached. That may sound cliché or even hard to believe, but it was the truth for nearly everyone that I met who was working “on the field”. Before I came, I thought I had a good grasp on geography. This week, however, I learned the names and places of countries like Dagestan and Tajikistan and others that I could hardly pronounce.
Because of the security concerns surrounding this kind of ministry, most of these people will never be known for the work they have done. Most have creative access platforms that allow them to be in these closed countries and are doing some really innovative jobs. Despite this, they are a part of God’s most important work in our generation to draw people from all tongues, tribes and peoples to himself. I was astounded to discover the variety of methods that these humble servants are utilizing to accomplish this task. Day after day as I met new people, I hardly found two that were doing the same thing. Interestingly, many are business people and professionals who are completely sold out to God and taking incredible risks to see Jesus “high and lifted up” in every nation.
As we served daily, I was so humbled to be able to help people make book selections that would impact their ministry, their personal spiritual growth and their family life for years to come. Person after person thanked us for bringing such an extensive and highly curated selection of books. One man mentioned that a book he purchased two years ago at the book table that CLC sponsored for the same organization in Germany “revolutionized” his ministry. I could only hope that something I would recommend might have a similar impact on someone else. Parents were choosing books for family devotions with their kids who were growing up as TCKs (third culture kids) and these might be the only books they would have access to for the next two years. What a responsibility. Couples whose marriages are under tremendous pressure in these challenging places had access to a large range of encouraging titles including the best-selling 5 Love Languages at a really great price.
I may never see these people again. It is possible that I will not be able to be at the future book tables that CLC will host in this part of the world and even more likely that some of these people will not be at future events. One of the most startling things I experienced was the matter of fact way that these folks celebrated the reality of martyrdom in their midst. This was not just a theoretical possibility, but a practical reality that all knew might be a part of their future. Already, in the few short decades that they been in existence, this group honors colleagues who have made the ultimate sacrifice for God’s kingdom expansion. As I reflected on Hebrews 11, I realized that it was I who was not worthy to be in this place, but I was greatly privileged to see my ministry make a small difference in the lives of people that are doing such gratifying work. It may have been my most important book table – ever.