Returning to square one is a humbling experience.

After over 13 years as a missional starter in China, I speak fluent Chinese and I know the ins and outs of the ancient culture. I have built a successful and growing ministry, Within Reach Global, alongside the underground Church. I am not as foreign as I once was.

Or am I?

Our transition to Thailand has been a unique and wonderful new season in the most humbling of ways. 

Fluent Chinese doesn’t do me much good in a new culture. I am barely confident of my pronunciation of sawadee krap, and I do not know how to ask where the bathroom is. This new culture is as mysterious as China’s once was in 1995. I am foreign again.

I’m green again, and I have to admit, it’s a little frustrating.


People have called me a “seasoned veteran” on the mission field, and I came to believe it. Some have even said in jest “The Great Missionary to China.” But back to reality: we are all on a journey of discovering God and what it means to live missionally wherever we are, and God forbid I ever become a professional missionary.

I never want to overlook the wonder of life, and humility is a doorway toward simple awe. [CLICK TO TWEET]

As I come to understand my roles as a husband, father, advocate and missional starter in a new culture in a deeper way, I’m learning humility.

In the meantime, I’m as green as they come.

I am starting at the basics of Thai language.
I am still getting used to driving on the left hand side of the road.
I snap pictures everywhere I go—a dead giveaway of a newbie.

But being green again is less about being ignorant or out of the loop. It’s about newness and a fresh start. Is about the changing of seasons and life and hope and the cycles of experiences that God takes us through on this journey.

“A lot of people resist transition and therefore never allow themselves to enjoy who they are. Embrace the change, no matter what it is; once you do, you can learn about the new world you’re in and take advantage of it.” – Nikki Giovanni

In my case, being green is about being childlike in many ways: new steps on a new path, new language and culture, new humility in my missionary calling. [CLICK TO TWEET]

So, yes, I’m green again. I’m the newbie in Thailand. But God loves to surprise the world with greatness via the most humble of beginnings, and I pray that he might use me to display his greatness to those around me. 

“How strange that the nature of life is change, yet the nature of human beings is to resist change. And how ironic that the difficult times we fear might ruin us are the very ones that can break us open and help us blossom into who we were meant to be.” ― Elizabeth Lesser

David Joannes
Founder/President at Within Reach Global
David Joannes is the co-founder and president of Within Reach Global, Inc, which serves the advance of the Gospel in some of Southeast Asia’s most difficult places. He is the author of The Space Between Memories: Recollections from a 21st Century Missionary. David has a love for language, culture, and creative writing, and for the last 20 years, he has witnessed God’s Kingdom established in forgotten parts of the globe. David lives in Chiang Mai, Thailand, with his wife, Lorna, and their daughter, Cara.
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