Pray for Our World: Thailand

Thailand has been a kingdom since the 13th century, has the longest reigning monarchy, and never been ruled by a Western power.  Thailand is a Buddhist state but they do have freedom of religion.  Only one percent are Christian, but it is growing.  The Thai culture is tolerant and relaxed, and I found the people to be very polite on my visit there.  The young people like American things – music, clothes, shopping, but there are not many American women who visit there, and so my female co-workers and I quickly became a tourist attraction on our visit.  People were eager to ask us about American movies, especially Elvis and John Wayne, and they asked my co-worker, who is African-American, if she was Obama’s wife.  They thought we were rich, though they didn’t ask us for money.  It was an eye-opening experience to a different culture.

I loved the climate and the people, but for Christianity to take root in a Buddhist culture that has stood for centuries, Christians must understand and be sensitive to Buddhist worldviews.  Buddhists believe that you should not to try to change your fate in life, even if you live in poverty, because suffering in this life is essential to being reincarnated into a better next life. You have to pay your dues, so to speak. This thinking is counter-intuitive to the Christian view of helping the poor, charitable aid, and having a new life through Jesus Christ.  It becomes a struggle for them to understand the teachings of Jesus Christ.  Pray that they may know that Jesus Christ has already died for them and been resurrected, so that they can have a better life now and for eternity in heaven.

The One Percent Christian

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Before leaving on my trip to Bangkok, Thailand, I asked God to show me His people while I was there (“I have many people in this city”).  Bangkok is a Buddhist city of 8.5 million people and less than 1% are Christian.  A couple of days into my trip, I wandered into this shop.  I had found the 1%.

I asked the young Thai girl in the shop about the Jesus picture hanging on the top shelf.  With very broken English, she told me she was Christian. Wanting to know more, I asked her if she attended the Catholic church I saw down the street. She said no, she was Christian (probably indicating Protestant) and she gave the name of her church but I couldn’t understand.  There are a total of 2 Protestant churches and 4 Catholic churches in all of Bangkok.  I asked her if I could take a picture of the Jesus picture in her shop, but she misunderstood and thought I wanted to take the actual picture.  She offered to take me in a taxi to a Christian shop where I could buy one.  Finally she understood that I did not want to take the actual picture, and then she offered me a smaller one that she had stapled in her notebook.  I told her thank you, but no, I wanted her to keep that one.  She told me  “God bless you” as I left the shop, and I was very humbled by her generosity and eagerness.

The first Christian church in Bangkok was founded by Portuguese missionaries in the 1780’s and was provided through a land grant from the Thai King.  I wonder what made the King give the land to a group of people who probably seemed very strange to their customs.  For the thousands of years prior to that, Thailand had only known Buddhism.

I thank God for that beautiful young Thai girl who proudly said, “I am Christian,” with a smile on her face.  It made me realize just how important our missionaries are to the world.  They bring beauty and smiles and hope, in the name of Jesus Christ.

“I am the light of the world.  Anyone who follows Me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life.” Jesus (John 8:12)

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Look for Hope

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My first experience after arriving in Bangkok was the taxi driver who was taking me from the airport to my hotel, at 1 AM, after having been in an airplane for 24 hours.  He got us lost.  We wandered through the dark and narrow one-way streets of Bangkok, circling around and around, looking for my hotel.  It is supposed to be a large, well-known American hotel chain.  How could he not find it?  “It must be on a main road,” I said.  “I’m sure there is a large entrance sign leading up to it…”, my voice trailing off as I look around at the streets that appear to be nowhere close to where we should be.  That was my first cultural surprise.  I was expecting large American style.

The taxi drove by the same obscure street at least four times.  I remember it well because I saw a Christmas tree in the window of a café every time we passed by.  How strange, I thought.  It’s early November, and in a city full of Buddha statues on every corner, here is this lone Christmas tree in the window, which seemed to shine off a light so I could see the silver garland appearing through the dark, unlit window.

When in distress, look for Hope.
In the dark, look for Hope.
Hope wins over fear.
Hope wins over evil.
Hope wins over despair.
Hope is Faith of better things to come.
Hope brings Peace.
Hope is Jesus Christ.

The taxi driver eventually found the hotel.  How did he find it?  He changed his view. He got out of the taxi and looked up into the sky so he could see the hotel towers rising above the dark buildings that were surrounding us.

This picture is not that same Christmas tree or hotel, but it is one I saw outside the window of my office building when I arrived back home.  In this old hotel converted to  apartments, one window stood out with a Christmas tree in it, in early November.  It reminded me again to always look for Hope.  Do you see it?

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