It’s been eleven years since Spring of Water International Ministries (SOWIM) launched in 2009. To date, SOWIM resources are being used in churches and mission fields across 38 countries in the world! One thing that has never changed is God’s guidance and provision, in season and out of season, every step of the journey. Tracing the footprints, I am filled with thanksgiving for God’s faithfulness, abiding presence, and amazing ways. It is God’s grace and mighty arms that have carried his ministry forward through these years; my heart overflows with gratitude and awe.
It was the morning of December 12, 2009. As usual, I began the day with a time of devotion with God. I prayed and was just about to open my Bible when I experienced a voice command coming from above, as if through the ceiling directly to my mind. The voice commanded, “Susan, get up and produce multimedia Bible study resources again!” This command, completely unexpected, took me and my husband Raymond by surprise, and we were troubled. Toward the end of the day and hours of earnest discussion, we pleaded with God, “Please would you not call us into the work of making multimedia Bible resources? There are many other ways that we can serve you, and we are willing to do any of them!”
In reality, what can I do for God that he cannot accomplish himself? What can I offer to God that he does not already have? How vast his grace, that our Almighty God would invite me– a lowly, weak, and ordinary person– to participate in his work! Out of my fear and folly, I ran away from him. Out of his lovingkindness and mercy, he did not give up on me. Praise be to God!
The following week, on December 16, also at morning devotion, God called again. I had just finished reading the scripture passage for the day and about to enter a time of quiet reflection when I heard a gentle whisper coming from inside that asked, “Susan, do you love me?” I was stunned and speechless. I didn’t know how to respond, and I dared not to respond, because I knew that I didn’t want to enter the ministry of making multimedia Bible study videos. But the still, small voice asked again, “Susan, do you love me?” This time, the Holy Spirit continued, “You sang loudly in your worship! You expressed passionately that you wanted to dedicate every breath of your life and every step in your days to me. Do you really love me?” When I was asked, three times, by the Holy Spirit if I loved him, I felt deeply ashamed, and wept.
All these years, I saw myself as a person who loved God with my full heart and was willing to surrender my whole life to full-time ministry. Yet, when God’s calling arrived, all I could see was how difficult and terrifying the path seemed. I turned away from his call, fumbling for spiritual excuses to justify my reluctance and disobedience.
As my eyes were opened to how weak, undeserving, and faithless I was, I knelt before God in tears, repenting of my folly and sins. Sobbing and in tears, I asked God for his forgiveness. “Lord, you know I love you. Help me love you more! Since this ministry is your calling, I am willing to submit myself and obey your will, but I’m afraid I only have little strength!” When I prayed “I only have little strength”, it was no longer an excuse like before, but an honest confession to my God, for I knew how limited I was.
The very next morning (Thursday), my devotional schedule led me to the book of Revelations Chapter 3. In Revelations 3:8, Jesus said, “I know that you have little strength.” I was stunned. The words that Jesus spoke to the church in Philadelphia were the exact words I prayed the day before! Just yesterday, I was confessing my fear about having little strength, and today Jesus told me he understood. I could hardly believe it! Before the foundation of the earth, God knew the deepest pains and greatest fears in my heart. In this tiny phrase “I know that you have little strength”, God showed me his fatherly love, one that perceives all things and yet is so gentle and so patient. God reassured me: I know you, Susan, and I completely accept you just as you are, with all your weaknesses and limitations. In Jesus’ tender love, I can rest fully known. Overwhelmed by God’s love, I cried loudly before him. Only then did I realize that Jesus cared less about my little strength than about my “keeping his word and not denying his name”. Jesus called me not because I was strong, but because he wanted to cultivate in me a heart that obeys his will and perseveres to the end.
In the same scripture passage, Jesus showed me another key promise. He said, “Look, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut.” No one can deter the will of God, and no one is able to shut a door that God opens! In his Great Commission, Jesus entrusts to every Christian the call to bring the truth and salvation of God to all nations, even to the end of the earth. I may only have little strength; and neither my husband, Raymond, nor I had any idea as to what the path ahead would look like. What we knew clearly, however, was that God was entrusting this ministry to us. Therefore, the only thing we were to do was to lay down our own considerations and faithfully respond to God’s calling with all of our hearts. As long as God opens the door, we will march forth with courage and faith.
Lacking in resources and connections, we turned to God for our every need. Even when I did not know what to name this ministry, the Holy Spirit turned my eyes to John 4:14 when Jesus said to the Samaritan woman, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” (NRSV) Indeed, the living water that Jesus gives is the only thing that can nourish us for eternity and is the very source of life. Those who drink his living water will be satisfied and never thirst again. God showed me his desire to use multimedia Bible study resources to bring his words, as living water, to people in the world across boundaries including race and culture, language and nationality. God wants his grace to flow to every individual on the earth as a spring of water that gushes up to eternal life. This is how Spring of Water International Ministries (SOWIM) got its name.
Given my Chinese heritage and burden for the Chinese people who have settled in countries around the world, I went on to pray for God to give SOWIM a Chinese name. With a touch of humor, the Spirit had me write “Spring of Water” on a piece of paper and asked: What do you see? I replied: The first three letters of each word: S, O, W. In excitement, I realized that the action of “sowing” was embedded in the letters. In this way, the verb 播種 (bo4 zhong3), or “sowing seeds” became the Chinese name for the ministry. Not only are the words of God like living water; they are like seeds being sown in our hearts, filling our emptiness with his truth and freeing us from bondage with his love. Jesus himself said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35) In this way, God used our given name to reveal his plan to bring his blessings and salvation to all peoples and nations through multimedia Bible study resources.
Soon afterwards, God met me in prayer twice to show me his Spirit hovering above the earth like wind, with SOWIM resources being carried on this wind to land on nations all over the world and sown in the hearts of multitudes. As promised in Isaiah 55:10-11: “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” God is also calling SOWIM into something extraordinary. May we obey God in faith and respond to his call with courage and perseverance. Whether we are being called to pray, donate, film, write, engage in missions, or preach the gospel, God does not care about our little strength but simply asks us to “keep his word and not deny his name”.
Behold! God has set before SOWIM an open door to bring his word to all peoples and nations. How blessed we are to serve our eternal God, who is full of lovingkindness, power and majesty! Will you join in and sow with us together?
Reverend Susan Chen
May 8th, 2020.