2015 Bangladesh – Emily Suen

Who Says Melancholies Can’t Have Fun?

For the joy of the Lord is your strength. – Nehemiah 8:10

Before I learned my new team assignment, I got a very strong word from the Lord that no matter what team I would be on, it was going to be marked with joy. When I heard that I was going to be the team preacher for Bangladesh, I already knew it would be a trip marked by joy and indeed there is no better word to sum up our trip other than joy! Time and time again, we could testify that the joy of the Lord truly was our strength.

However, in the natural, it seemed like God was trying to tell a different story. Our entire team took the Personality Plus test and ALL of us tested as strong melancholies. Melancholies are known to think a lot before they talk, are more self-critical, and may be at times less expressive. How would God exude joy through our team if popular stereotype says melancholies are not the most joyful people? Despite this, I still shared this vision of joy with our team at our first meeting. Knowing we were predominantly melancholic, one of our team members asked me, “What is this going to look like!?” To be honest, I didn’t know. But by faith I knew that I had heard right from the Lord.

As we left for Bangladesh, I grew considerably worried about our team. No one was exceptionally talkative, no one was particularly outgoing, and not everyone was expressive. As a melancholic myself, with just a few days of ministry to display God’s kingdom culture to those who have never heard the Gospel before, a tension rose in my heart. How was this team going to be a joy-filled team? But as we began ministry, God’s joy was unmistakably present. God quickly showed me that joy is not dependent on personality types. Joy was not something we strive for but simply something we possess. As I militantly held onto my joy after realizing this truth, I saw my entire team do the same. As melancholies, the enemy wanted us to think that joy was our weakness but in reality, joy was our strength.

After arriving to Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, we traveled for 6 hours to Jessore where we did most of our ministry. Everyone stayed in a place of joy. I personally have a history of carsickness, but not once did I feel even remotely sick throughout the entirety of our trip. The joy of the Lord truly ushered in God’s grace during our travels. After arriving at our accommodations in Jessore, I was surprised by the state of the hostel. The manager did not smile, the lights were dim, and the locks on the doors were ancient. But no one talked about it and no one complained. We were in a very remote part of a developing country. We were not here on vacation, but rather as ministers of the Gospel. Therefore nothing could steal our joy.

During ministry, for our first and last service, right before we began, our VBS player failed to work. We could have allowed this situation to easily stress us out, but instead we knew God’s ministry was untouchable. Without hesitation and with excellence, Izelle (our gentle and quiet melancholic VBS director) went into beast mode with high spirits, a loud voice, and dramatic hand gestures. The whole team stepped up in unity to sing the song loudly with her. Where melancholic perfectionism could have caused panic, we used our strength of excellence to roll with the punches because truly the joy of the Lord is our strength. On the streets, when we saw child beggars being hit with sticks and shooed away like flies, although our melancholic compassion went crazy, we knew that God was still in control. Firm in our relationship with God, as the Apostle Paul says, even in suffering we can rejoice. We would pray prayers of hope and salvation as a team on the street and the Lord continually replenished our joy.

The nature of our ministry called for extreme efficiency, speed, and even confrontation. Melancholies tend to me more gentle, slow, and sensitive. But rather than getting offended, people did not allow the devil to touch their joy. One specific memory I had was the police coming and disturbing the service shortly after I stepped up to preach. The Muslims attendees were full of fear began chaotically running out of the building. Although the situation was confusing, our team was not moved. I tried my best to finish up the message as quickly as possible, and afterwards we still ended the service with prayer and fellowship- with the inclusion of the police! At night, during our nightly debrief, we laughed off the devil’s attempts to disturb our ministry showing that clearly nothing could touch our joy.

At another service, as I shared the Gospel, our audience of 50 grew to 200. Amidst the crowd, the Holy Spirit highlighted a teenage boy and we called him up and prophesied over him. He gave his life to Christ and afterwards, he brought his friend up to receive Christ as well. Our team was filled with such joy! However, the message of God’s raw love really provoked the Muslim leaders. Although we were not moved by their anger, our team was told to be more careful in our approach of sharing the Gospel. We were not apologetic, nor did we feel guilty. Instead, we walked out in greater wisdom and continued with our ministry with joy. We gladly submitted to the culture knowing that there is nothing that the Gospel cannot penetrate. As a preacher, although this was a hard pill to swallow, I could sense God telling me, as long as I keep my joy I would be strong!

As the team was sensitive to the culture and became more strategic in our Gospel sharing, the Lord continue to release beautiful fruit. We knew that even though we were limited to gender-specific ministry or had to use the words “Allah” and “Isa” in place of “God” and “Jesus” when preaching in English, there is no restriction that the power of the Gospel cannot penetrate. In fact, we saw more hands raised for salvation and healing come in the name of “Isa” (Jesus) when we prayed. As our ministry continued, I was reminded that prior to the trip, I was hit by a car while in a taxi and suffered a head injury. The enemy tried to steal my joy before even leaving for the field, but God would not allow this. I was miraculously healed 1 week prior to departure. Remembering this, towards the end of our ministry, at every service, I called out a word of knowledge that someone in the crowd had head pain. Many filled the altar responding to the call, and many of them getting healed. The enemy truly comes to steal, kill and destroy but all his schemes, all his plans, and all his weapons failed to even come close to touching the joy of our salvation found in Jesus Christ.

The joy of the Lord is not defined by how much we talk, how loud or boisterous we are, or even how expressive we are of our joy. These are all criteria associated with earthly joy. But the joy of the Lord comes from our relationship with Christ and Christ alone. Each of us carried this eternal, everlasting, unmovable joy. Rather than being filled with insecurity, awkward silences, or trying to be people we were not, our entire team embraced the way God made us. As a result, our trip was filled with deep relationship, profound affirmation, and utmost sensitivity to the Spirit. These are all typically melancholic strengths, and served as fuel for our trip. Truly God’s promise was unshakeable that our team would be marked by His joy.

Thank you to everyone for your prayer and financial support in making this trip not only possible, but also a great success for the Kingdom. Continue to keep the nation of Bangladesh in your prayers, that all the seeds sown would bear fruit 30, 60, 100-fold. Pray that all those who received Jesus Christ in their hearts would become living, breathing testimonies to the transforming power of the Gospel. Pray for anointing, joy, and protection over all the native pastors. And lastly let us pray that each of us continue to walk out in the way that God has created us to be, that we may glorify Him in the way that only we can. Thank you and God bless you!

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