The Surprising Work of God

Iven Hauptman

Iven Hauptman’s story is one of finding God in unexpected places—like Reed College in Oregon, ranked by the Princeton Review as the college at which students are most likely to ignore God.

Though Iven attended church with his mom growing up, he had no intention of seeking Jesus at Reed. But when he arrived on campus, the first person he met was Melinda, an InterVarsity staff member who invited him to a Bible study. He went, and still remembers talking about the value of the kingdom of heaven from Matthew 13: “I was left with this challenge: This kingdom of God thing is everything.”

After that he never missed a study. “I continued to say yes to Jesus a Scripture at a time,” he said. He also said yes to every opportunity that would help him know Jesus more—including leading a Bible study, participating in an InterVarsity Global Program to Albania, and attending Urbana 2000. “I still had lots of questions,” he recalled, “but there was life with Jesus, and there wasn’t life anywhere else.”

His faith was costly in some ways, however. At the time there was a lot of tension between Iven and his dad, particularly because of Iven’s faith. “It cost me my dad’s help paying for school. I had to drop out [and work], and when I went back I was paying for it myself,” he explained. “But [that] helped me grow up a lot.”

Iven graduated and worked at a missions foundation before moving to Seattle in 2003 to serve with a program focused on urban kids and the homeless. It wasn’t quite what he’d thought it’d be, so he headed to Urbana 03 hoping God would send him somewhere else. But at the conference he sensed God saying, “Go back to Seattle. I have something for you there.” Today Iven sees what he couldn’t see then: “His actual plan was much richer and more holistic than I…expected.”

What God had was someone—Kashmira, now Iven’s wife of 10 years. They had met before Urbana and started dating soon after Iven returned to Seattle, which set him on another surprising trajectory: Kashmira had a clear call from God to reach men involved in prostitution in Bangkok.

What God had was someone—Kashmira, now Iven’s wife of 10 years. They had met before Urbana and started dating soon after Iven returned to Seattle, which set him on another surprising trajectory: Kashmira had a clear call from God to reach men involved in prostitution in Bangkok.

They married in 2005 and moved to Thailand in 2006. The move was challenging, for Iven especially. “I didn’t have a clear calling to Bangkok,” he said. “There was a sense of ‘it’s good to marry this woman’ and ‘it’s good to serve internationally.’” But going took faith.

Serving with YWAM, the Hauptmans joined a team of others ministering in Bangkok. They spent the first year doing language school and going into neighborhoods where men were involved in prostitution. After a year they moved on their own to one of the least churched parts of the city, with a high rate of freelance prostitution and homelessness, and started to get to know men in the evenings.

After several years of ministering alone, the Lord clearly led Iven and Kashmira to start a family. He also started to form a team of others around them to serve the neighborhood. Kashmira’s ensuing pregnancy, as well as the focus their teammates brought to the homeless, women, and deaf in the area, meant the Hauptmans were not out as much at night meeting men. Their focus shifted less to a specific demographic and more to simply loving their neighbors—all of them.

“Okay, God, what do we do today?” has become the question they live by. Often the answer is simple: taking people to the doctor or to get an I.D. card. Other times it’s heavy, like walking with friends through death.

Earlier this year, the Lord miraculously provided a building with a large meeting space, so there’s now a church that meets in this unlikely section of Bangkok. Each week the Hauptmans gather with a few adults and children from the neighborhood, sing worship songs, and look at Scripture. And together, they meet God. Iven said, “Neighbors always have testimonies of, “This was going hard and I remembered to pray and Jesus did this.’”

Looking back, Iven said, “Most of the journey has been, ‘God, you really love me?’ …It’s out of the overflow of how loved we are that we’re able to love people sustainably. And we get to witness what God is doing. Neighbors are being cared for, this church is gathering. That doesn’t come from our effort. It comes more from sticking around and not leaving.”

And it comes from saying yes to Jesus. “The little nudges we say yes to one at a time without knowing where they’ll lead actually do lead somewhere,” Iven said. Often somewhere unexpected, but always to places where God is at work, inviting those seemingly outside his kingdom—the homeless, those involved in prostitution, hell-bent 18-year-olds—to find him right where they are.

You can keep up with God’s unexpected work in the Hauptmans and their neighbors at www.ivenandkashmira.info.

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