In August of 2015, my family landed in Thailand for the very first time. We had no idea what we were stepping into, carrying our two very young girls and eight tightly packed suitcases. Just one month prior to our flight, my husband Jonathan had turned down a job offer from FCS in order for our family to function as working missionaries, teaching English at a school overseas. Although his preference had been to take the job in the States, He knew clearly that God had called us to make this move. So in a whirlwind, we sold all of our belongings and went through the process to get a passport for our infant daughter. Seeing it arrive just one day before our flight was scheduled to depart was only the beginning of the Lord’s hand at work.
After a very difficult first month of adjusting, I had my own life organized enough to begin looking outward. The more time I spent on the school campus the more I noticed the cultural divide between the Thai staff and the Western Christian staff, and a Godly burden grew within me. Although Jonathan was the one technically employed as a teacher, I made it my mission to bridge the gap in the staff by involving myself with the Thai teachers and asking God to give me opportunities to get to know them.
He did just that in our second year overseas when the school director asked if I would begin a Bible study (of sorts) with the Thai staff. I excitedly, and somewhat ignorantly, agreed and felt led by the Spirit to teach specifically on the character of God. It proved to be a difficult task without a curriculum, speaking through a translator, about a God who contradicts nearly everything that Buddhism/Animism teaches. So I found that I had to break all of the concepts down slowly. We studied one characteristic of God for four weeks at a time. I used basic life analogies (Week 1), stories from Scripture (Week 2), discussion on how the stories apply to us (Week 3), and real life testimonies from other Christian teachers that exemplified whichever characteristic of God was being taught (Week 4). It felt like a ton of effort with very little response, but I had a God-given passion for those teachers and was therefore hopeful.
At the end of that second year, I found out that I was pregnant and began my prenatal care in Thailand. I announced that I was expecting to the Thai staff, who, by that time, had become friends. Having only two weeks remaining before school let out for the summer, I began to seek the Lord asking him which of His qualities I should teach in that short time. He spoke to my heart clearly and said “Teach them that I am good.” I remember being concerned about the staff’s level of understanding with such a time crunch. They hardly understood what I was teaching in four weeks, so having only two seemed useless. Pushing my logic aside, however, I did my best to teach a group of people who believe heavily in karma that God is good even when our circumstances don’t look or feel good. For my basic life analogy, I held up my children’s favorite dessert, a chocolate Kinder egg. Using it as a visual I said:
My kids want to eat these all the time, but oftentimes I have to tell them that they cannot have them. I deny my children chocolate eggs because I know something that they don’t know. I know that chocolate eggs won’t nourish them. I know that if they eat too many chocolate eggs, they won’t be happy having to get cavities filled at the dentist. You see, good parents often withhold things from their children because they are good. Likewise, God, because He is good, does the same.
We flew home for the summer and weeks later I decided to have an ultrasound in the States to see our baby’s gender. Being in the second trimester, I both looked and felt pregnant. And although all prenatal tests up to that date had been normal, we discovered at that appointment that our baby didn’t have a heartbeat. I remember lying on the exam table and seeing the baby’s little form on the screen in front of me and hearing the doctor say that although there was no explanation, the baby was gone. Although I was crying, and my husband was crying next to me, God met us in that exam room. In that moment, a wave of tangible peace covered me unlike anything I had ever experienced before. As I was trying to take it all in, the Holy Spirit dropped a vision into my mind’s eye. It was me, standing in front of the Thai staff holding up a Kinder egg saying, “Good parents often withhold things from their children because they are good.” I knew in that moment that God was with me and that He was working and that I could trust Him. And as I decided to praise Him in my grief, He again spoke to my heart and said, “You only had two weeks to teach the Thai staff that I am good because you are the testimony this time – go tell them.”
And so I did. I returned to Thailand, and I told the Thai staff my whole story. Although my listeners didn’t know what to do or say, I know they heard me. I also had the opportunity to gather up the Thai moms from the school and tell them my story too. In a culture where personal things and emotions aren’t usually expressed publicly, many in the group cried with me and even shared some of their own stories of miscarriage. In this, the Lord gave much purpose to my baby’s short life.
In our fourth year in Thailand, Jonathan and I decided that it would be our last year overseas, and we began selling all of our possessions and preparing to move back home. Amidst all of our planning, we found out that I was pregnant again. I went to a high-risk doctor, had a sonogram at every appointment, and had lots of bloodwork showing everything to be perfectly normal. As the date of our departure drew near, the Lord spoke to Jonathan’s heart and let him know that we were not released to leave Thailand yet. It was confusing, highly stressful, and very disruptive. I’d be lying to say that my initial response was holy because it wasn’t. God had thrown a major wrench into our plans. But after grappling with the fact that God’s ways are higher, we chose to stay and obey.
Very soon after making this God-fearing decision, we learned for the second time in the second trimester that our baby had no heartbeat. While I don’t ever remember feeling angry with God, I do remember being extraordinarily confused. Why did I have two healthy children in the US and two dead babies in Thailand? Why was God asking us to stay in a place that seemed to be causing death in my body? If I already used the first miscarriage for His glory, what was I supposed to do with this one? Did I do something wrong? Did God want more children in this family or not? Doctors had no answers for me. DNA tests on the babies that passed away showed absolutely no diseases or abnormalities. In the difficulty of the situation, I searched for an object of blame, and the only place I could logically land was Thailand.
And so I wrestled with God. As a mental processor, I wrestled also with myself. It was a weird mix of me submitting myself to what He wanted for my family and asserting my will at the same time. Speaking with friends and family, I said that, unless the Lord spoke audibly to me, I would not be having any more kids. And in my prayer time I would say that I would do whatever He wanted. Although contradictory, both cries of my heart were honest.
It was during one of those times of prayer that the Lord instructed me to ask the leaders of our church to pray over me. At home, I reasoned that the request was both logical and Biblical, so I agreed. But when the Holy Spirit reminded me during the altar call the following Sunday, I was furious. I tried to reason with God, reminding Him that He sent me to Thailand to pray for other people, but not so that other people would have to pray for me. I told Him that people who go up to the front of the church have big issues and that I was not one of them. Like a modern-day Jonah, I literally got up out of my seat and went the opposite way of the altar. I ran out of the sanctuary, up multiple flights of church stairs, and made it all the way to the children’s floor before breaking down. There, I came head to head with my disobedience and pride and finally surrendered. I determined to do what God was asking me to do, but I wasn’t going to do it happily. I slowly and angrily stomped my way down the fire escape steps in the back of the church hoping that the whole prayer team would be gone by time I got there. When I got back into the sanctuary, only the pastor was there – waiting for me.
As I approached Pastor David, the presence of God was so thick on him that I began to weep. I didn’t know why I was crying, but I couldn’t stop, and the loss of control was frustrating to me. My first words to him were, “I did not want to come talk to you.” He handed me some tissues and kindly asked my name and how he could help me. Because I was trying to do just enough to be obedient but still get out of there quickly, I gave him the cliff notes version of my story. I ended it with my list of how he should pray for me: “Please pray that I won’t be angry with Thailand because I know God sent us here and pray that if there is anything wrong with my body that I would be healed”.
I watched his eyes fill up with tears, but I remember him smiling as if he had an answer for me. He said:
My wife lost 3 children in this country, and one in a very similar way to what you experienced. What we learned in our own story, and the Holy Spirit has put on my heart to tell you, is that there is nothing wrong with your body, I don’t believe, but you are actually dealing with a curse. You see, we learned that there is a group of people in Thailand that prays curses over the wombs of Christian women – that they will not be able to produce and that life will not come from them here. That is what has happened to you. I know that you know that the Light here in this country is very small, and the enemy wants it out completely…and you were almost gone. The good news is that anything that has been spoken over your womb can and will be broken in Jesus’ name. So in a moment we will pray for that. And I’m not going to pray that you aren’t angry, because the enemy stole something from you, but instead that your anger is focused in the right direction.
Pastor David asked me to place my hands on my stomach, and he placed his hands over mine and began to pray. I cannot tell you what he prayed, because my mind was racing so fast in that moment that I cannot remember. But towards the end of his prayer, he said, “And I prophesy over you in Jesus’ name…”. I remember saying to God, “Please, no more. I’m at my limit and can’t handle anything else right now.” But the pastor continued saying, “You will be pregnant again in the near future. The baby will be another Samuel – regardless of gender – born healthy, set apart and dedicated to the Lord’s service.”
I walked out of the church that day completely unable to wrap my mind around all that was said and all that had happened. Without knowing me, or my private conversations with the Lord, Pastor David had directly answered so many questions that I had asked during my prayer time. For the next few months I wrestled (again) with God’s words that had come through the pastor. I struggled with the idea of curses, tried to understand how and why they were allowed to “land” on me as a Believer and also how God could say something was going to happen if I, a mere human, could prevent it. Does stuff like that even happen? Was it possible for me to nullify the word of God? My comment about not having any more children “unless the Lord spoke audibly” had certainly come back to bite me.
In the middle of all my analysis, I found myself listening to a sermon by my all-time favorite preacher, Dr. Tony Evans. In summary, he said:
Oftentimes we confuse having faith with having a feeling. But faith isn’t measured by how confident we are feeling about God in the midst of our circumstances. Rather, faith is both demonstrated and measured by our movement. This is why it’s possible to have a disappointment of circumstances and a faith of praise all at the same time. Sometimes we erroneously think that we can manipulate God by moving in faith. We like to exercise faith in a God we can control. Instead, we are to exercise faith, by movement, in a sovereign God who makes the final decision.
In his sovereignty, God decides to do some things simply because He chooses to do them. Other things He does when we trust Him to do them. Everything that God wills to do, He doesn’t automatically do. Some things He will only do when He sees our faith. When we exercise faith by action, we invite God to do what He has already willed to do. Our job is to express faith in prayer in everything, so we don’t miss out on any of the things that He plans to do.
And so I decided to function as though God was telling the truth and align myself with what He had said. Some days I felt confident in the Word of the Lord, and some days I felt totally panicked. The only way that I knew how to “move” on what God had said was to tell people. So I spread my story around and told everyone who would listen that God said a healthy baby was coming. It was easy to tell Christians who would believe in God even if something went wrong, but it was gut wrenching to tell those who were unsaved. Having no control over the outcome and being unable to manipulate things in my favor, I remember crying out to God and saying, “If You don’t come through on this, there is nothing that I can say to defend You.” It was the first time in my life that I went that far out on a limb with God. I had no control, no back door out, and people were watching and waiting.
Seven months after Pastor David prayed over me, I found out I was expecting. I spent the first few months of the pregnancy in Thailand, but returned home to the United States when the air pollution outside and the threat of coronavirus inside made it difficult to go anywhere. Each time I went into the doctor’s office there was bad news. It was a nine month long roller coaster ride of issues in my bloodwork and issues on each sonogram. I remember touching the handle of the door at the high-risk OB office and reminding myself that the Lord was faithful at that moment walking in, and He would be faithful no matter what happened when I walked out. There were multiple doctors and so many discouraging appointments, but on September 22nd I gave birth to our third daughter, Hosea. She is alive, and I declare she is healthy. And like her namesake, she is a visible, physical example of the faithfulness of our God.
We intended to take Hosea back to Thailand as a testimony of all that God had done, but in light of covid, timeframes, and financial complications at the school, we were unable to return. We still don’t understand why everything happened the way that it did, but we recognize the Lord’s sovereign hand in it all. FCS was gracious to offer Jonathan part-time work in our long waiting period last school year. He has since moved into a full-time position in athletics. Absolutely nothing happened the way we had planned, but we are confident that it is good, because God is in it. Hosea is a mini but mighty one year old. Many things have appeared to oppose the promise of health in her body, as well as mine, since she was born. But isn’t it just like the enemy to come fiercely against whatever God declares to be true? As for our family, we will contend for the words of God that were spoken over her. As Dr. Evans says, we will “act like things are so, even when they aren’t so, so that they might be so, just because God said so.”