2015 Angeles City – Katt Gao

Do Not Disbelieve, But Believe

The night of our departure from Sydney I remember looking out of the airplane window and wondering…what I would witness in the next week? What would I capture? What would God do? The months of preparation and training for this trip left me feeling challenged, nervous, and yet full of expectation for our team and for the local ministries we would partner with in the Philippines. Amid all the questions that I had in my heart, I knew one thing for sure. As an experiential and visual learner, flying to the Philippines with my camera in my hand and a teachable heart would provide God the perfect opportunity to work in and through me. I knew I would not be coming back home as the same person.

So what was one area of my life I was determined to see shift on this trip? Let me highlight someone in the Bible to help you figure it out. Often he is known for being “the one who doubts” because of his constant questions and reactions to Jesus. Yes, I’m talking about Thomas. Although he was considered close to Jesus (being one of the twelve disciples) the Bible often points out his tendency to question, doubt, and be critical. But you know what? Honestly, even in the face of seeing miracles in my own life, I’ve found that in my own heart I still sometimes have the audacity to doubt and to question God. Although I have seen powerful men and women of God ministering to multitudes, preaching and proclaiming the Gospel, and I’ve seen the presence of the Holy Spirit in my walk with God, there has always been a part of me that has wrestled with the question, “but Katt, can you do that?” As I went on this trip, I would discover more and more of God’s heart as my teacher on the matter of identity, personal gifting, and faith.

There’s this one particular story in the Bible that’s always stuck out to me. In the book of John chapter 20, Thomas doubts Jesus’ resurrected body. He says, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” Jesus responds by saying, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” In many ways I can relate to Thomas. He sounds like a visual and experiential learner, too. But Jesus understands. He doesn’t turn away, but lovingly allows Thomas to learn. Luckily for Thomas and me, remaining in doubt was not the end of the story. As Thomas obeys, as he sees Jesus’ wounds, as he touches them for himself he proclaims, “My Lord and my God!” with full faith and belief. I remember reading this story and thinking to myself, “Lord, teach me to believe just like you taught Thomas”.

So, as the trip began the first lesson was to learn to see what God wanted me to see. It’s no surprise that this was through the lens of my camera. Like a person with blurry vision, as I lifted the camera to my face they almost acted as glasses, helping me actually focus on what was in front of me. Every photo I took contained a story. Whether it was capturing the local slums, the hospitality shown to us, our supernatural team unity, the fellowship with the local leaders, the altar calls where the Holy Spirit ministered, the praise and worship, the worship dances, the testimonies and the preaching of the word, I felt like I was Thomas seeing the love of Christ evidently right in front of me. I found myself being ministered to by the Holy Spirit and as His love poured in, my doubts and fears ebbed away day by day. He reminded me, “do not disbelieve, but believe. See what I am doing.”

The second lesson was to experience what God wanted me to experience. God asked me to put out my hand and make myself available to feel for Him again. I think this was such a vital part of my time in the Philippines. Time and time again on this trip, I felt Holy Spirit challenging me to love genuinely. Whether it was in a hug, in a conversation, or just simply listening to someone’s story, he was bringing me back to the gifts I knew he had placed in my heart. Through past experiences I think I had allowed myself to shy away from the areas I knew I was called to minister in the most. The idea of being empathetic, to being encouraging, to speaking prophetic words of encouragement, were not a part of that “powerful Christian” ideal that I had in my mind. But then, God reminded me of New Philly’s core value number 4 – to be faithful in the small things. I had always thought about this in the context of stewardship of finances or work, but God was revealing to me that this also applied to the gifts and talents that He’s placed in us. As He gave me opportunity after opportunity to exercise this core value, I was amazed to see the fruit.

Perhaps the biggest blessing for me was to have built friendships on the missions field that have lasted even upon returning to Sydney. In particular I feel like I was able to connect well with the local pastors, Pastor Ibay and Pastor, Bob and the youth leaders from Church of God Capas. I felt like the Lord specifically highlighted individuals for each and every one of our team members to purposefully connect with and speak to. I was surprised to find how much power there was in these small acts of love and was thankful he was highlighting this area of doubt in my heart. He reminded me, “do not disbelieve, but believe.”

So, by the end of the trip my question to myself had completely changed from “Katt, can, you do that?” to “Katt, who has God made you to be?” Rather than setting a criteria and checklist in my mind of how I thought I should minister, how I should serve, and how I should be a powerful and effective Christian, God taught me to look at what HE had created me for. No more comparison, no more doubt and fear that I was not meeting the standard of being a “powerful Christian.” He taught me in the most personal and effective way to see and feel a greater love, and how to harness my God-given talents. He taught me that being faithful in the small things could produce great fruit. He taught me how to contend for the kingdom again. And ultimately He taught me how to trust and believe in Him again.

Thank you so much for sending our team out with your prayers, financial support and blessings. I can’t wait to see how God continues to work in and through New Philly and the wider body of Christ!

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