I remember distinctly the first time it happened
The first time we got locked out.
We had just arrived into Malaysia the day before and had decided to spend our first full day in Kuching settling into our apartment, getting acquainted with the city and then come sundown, go prayer walk at “waterfront” which was a meandering walkway next to the river in downtown.
We parked in this colorful parking garage with each level painted a different pastel color, walked to the top and got a good view of the city and then walked around town. We grabbed some local food for dinner and discovered so quickly how Malaysians love having their photo taken with foreigners. We felt like celebrities, walking around and being stopped to pose with locals every so often for selfies. We talked to a lot of people and didn’t pray as much as we’d hoped but this was only our first day here.
By the time that we were ready to go home, it was dark and getting late. All ten of us traipsed down the cobblestone streets back to the colorful parking garage only to find that it was locked. We walked all the way around it, trying every door that we came across but all of the doors were locked. We finally had the genius idea to walk up the ramp and to our van. We paid our parking fee and drove down the ramp. Success!
We drove the ten minutes to our apartment. Our host had kindly shown us how to use our key cards to get inside of the two locked gates leading up to our apartment and then the key attached was for each of our rooms individually.
As we climbed out of the van that night, we noticed that the gate to the girls’ side of the apartment was latched closed, so we decided to all go up on the guys’ side and then cross over to our side from up there. Everyone except for my co-leader, Nathan, ascended the stairs but when we got to the next gate, the key cards weren’t working. I turned around to say, “Hey, don’t close that gate behind us.” Just as it latched shut. Great, now we were stuck on the staircase locked between two gates. I started to jokingly scope out which step I would sleep on that night. But inside I was panicking. Day 2 of leading a trip to Malaysia and I’ve locked myself and all eight of the students into this stairwell!
Thankfully, my co-leader was still getting his belongings from the car because he rescued us from our dilemma. He figured out how to unlock the girls side of the apartment and came through to where we were stranded and unlocked it from the inside.
“That was a close call.” We all laughed.
Throughout the next couple of weeks, we got locked out of our individual rooms or out of the apartment AGAIN or out of the church that we were staying in or out of our van.
It was frustrating.
Were we just being careless? Is that why we were getting locked out?
I shared how we were getting locked out of everything imaginable with a friend over the phone while I was on outreach, “It’s pretty crazy isn’t it? I just don’t understand how it’s possible that this keeps happening. At first it was humorous, now it’s just annoying.”
“Do you think that this is a spiritual attack?” My friend asked me. It stopped me in my tracks. It honestly hadn’t occurred to me until then that it could be the enemy trying to keep us from being effective.
Isaiah 22:22 “I will place on His shoulder the key of the house of David; what He opens no one can shut and what He shuts, no one can open.”
As a team, we asked God, “What are you trying to tell us through getting locked out?”
Slowly, the mystery started to unravel.
God started to speak to us about it and we started to gain clarity about the symbolism of why we kept getting locked out.
We began to intercede more earnestly for the city of Kuching.
Each time we’d set off to a new village, we’d go downstairs from our apartment to a little cafe called, “Harmony Corner” where we’d made friends with the Chinese owners, Sophie and Timothy and we’d order some “Kopi Pang” (iced coffee with so much sugar in it). We’d sit around the tables on plastic chairs with our team prayer journal laid in front of us and we’d set goals and pray over the coming days in a new village. We learned early on during our outreach that each village was unique in its needs and this meant that being in tune with the spirit was absolutely necessary in order to have effective ministry in each place that we visited.
As we prayed, we began to recognize that the things that we were locked out of; our apartment, the church we were staying at, our van, were all places that we had authority to enter into! We had been given the keys, we just didn’t always know how to use them.
The first key to overcoming these locked doors was walking in that authority and claiming entrance into the places that we had access to. God started revealing to us that this was something that we could prophetically claim over Malaysia. God was going to open doors that had previously been locked. Specifically with the Christians in Malaysia, we felt like there was hesitancy to step out and be bold in their faith. They had the keys to eternal life but they were “locked out” in the sense that they feared that their faith would get them in trouble, whether with the law or with family members and friends.
We started praying that God would help the Christians in Malaysia to gain access to boldness, just as He was helping us to get in each time that we got locked out.
There was one time that we simply couldn’t find the keys to the car. My co-leader and I had alternated driving responsibilities each day and I thought that I had given the keys to him. But neither of us could find the keys. We were headed out the door to hang out with some of the youth from the church at Ranchan Recreation Center and we were going to be late if we couldn’t find this key!
We looked everywhere; practically turned the church building (where we were staying) upside down. We emptied our bags, looked through the trash (ewwww), through every pocket and purse and still, no key. Where was it? We were all frenzied and stressed as we looked for it. Finally we stopped and prayed about it.
“God, if you want us to go hang out with the youth, please help us to find this key.”
We kept looking. It was less than five minutes after we prayed when we found the key tucked inside of one of our Bibles.
THE KEY IS IN THE BIBLE.
All these weeks of praying and asking God for the answer to why we were getting locked out so many times and here was the answer, hidden right inside of the Bible.
The key to gain access to things that we have authority to walk in, is to open the Bible and ask God to fill our minds and hearts with truth so that we can be strengthened and equipped in our faith to engage in spiritual warfare.
Instead of getting frustrated when we would get locked out once again, we would take that as a sign that we needed to look to God in those moments and really engage and intercede on behalf of people who are “locked out” in a spiritual sense of the word. Instead of being a constant frustration, it shifted into a reminder that we needed to pause and to pray.
We didn’t keep count of how many times we got locked out in Malaysia, but it wouldn’t be exaggerating to guess that it was more than 25 times.
I wanted to share the story of being locked out in Malaysia as an encouragement to anyone who may feel “locked out” in some area of your life.
We use the metaphor of “open doors” and “closed doors” loosely in regards to things that we are pursuing for our future. Sometimes God does close doors that we would rather see swing open and we have to surrender our hopes and plans to Him. It’s important to hold our plans for the future with open hands, to release control.
But other times, God gives us clarity to move forward into something but we run into a locked door and while it is frustrating and hard, I believe that God does allow these locked doors to test our faith and perhaps to teach us how to depend on Him more fully. It requires a whole lot of faith and persistence to continue to move ahead and trust God even when we feel this resistance.
“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.”
This experience in Malaysia helped me to understand that sometimes God wants us to take time to seek Him, not only when things are going wrong (like when I run across a locked door) but also to seek Him when things are going right and when doors are flinging wide open in front of us. It’s easy to recognize our need for God when we feel our desperate need for help but having the sensitivity to recognize our need for God when things are going well is actually a way of living with a continually grateful heart.
During our time in Malaysia, we had so many opportunities to share our stories and to build relationships that created a safe place for people to share their stories as well. I think sometimes God allows us to walk through things to refine our character and then later brings people into our lives and gives us the opportunity to speak truth and hope into their hearts.
If you are feeling “locked out” of some area of your life and would like prayer, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I can’t promise that I will have answers but I would love to pray for you!
Stay tuned for my next post where I will share about a specific village experience that really revealed how powerful and impacting it is when we share our own stories.
Until next time, Gretta