That time in Thailand

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It’s ten years ago now. We were sitting next to each other at church when he turned to me and asked, “Do you want to go?”

They were looking for people to support missionaries during the Christmas break. It would take about three weeks. A short reprieve from the demands of a young family to concentrate on something bigger than our lives at home.

“Yes,” I replied.

Our mission group started meeting regularly before we left. Our team leaders carefully walked us through some cross cultural training. They taught us the basics about the country and the culture we would be visiting. The rest we would work out when we were there.

 

Thailand: Theravada Buddhism is central to Thai identity and culture. There are more than 66 million Thais. About 94.6% of them identify as Buddhists. “To be Thai is to be Buddhist.”

Chiang Mai: 700 km north of Bangkok. Situated among the mountains, it is the largest city in northern Thailand.

 

I left my family just before Christmas and came back in January the next year.

We visited the night markets. We talked to monks. Rafted on rivers. And told people about the meaning of Christmas.

The monks were kind. We spoke about the nature of sin and grace. Where I had given up all notions of reaching heaven through my own merit, they believed we were capable of enlightenment through our own works.

They asked me about responsibility. I asked them about forgiveness.

 

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For three weeks we lived a few minutes drive away from where our missionaries lived. We ate local foods and drank local drinks. I talked to my family in the mornings and wrote to them almost every day. But I missed them during the quiet times.

They say there are more than 400,000 Christian missionaries around the world. Many spend years struggling in a country far away from home, because they believe in passing on the message. That God so loved the world that He gave his only son, so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Yet what I saw clearly from this trip was that we are powerless to make anyone believe in God. It was never about browbeating them into submission or forcing them to change. In this country where most of its people were Buddhist, our missionaries spent their time loving their neighbours and telling the message to those interested in hearing it. Whether a person believed it was something between them and God.

Three weeks passed quickly. I left new friends saying that I’ll see them again one day, and came home.

 

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via Daily Prompt: Reprieve

7 comments

  • Other than a couple of facts and a few photos, there isn’t that much about Thailand here. I’d love to read what you learned about Thailand. Not just what you learned they felt or understood about Christianity.

    I have written a post about my time in Thailand, too. I am not religious, but must confess that when I was there I spent most of my time with Westerners more than with Thais. I regret that. Though I did see beautiful sites and landscapes, if I had it to do over again I would have liked to have learned more about the people.

    I spent more time on the island of Taiwan (a ways from Thailand). I did get more of a feeling of that country and it’s people.

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    • Thank you for your thoughtful feedback. Because we were on short term mission, my interaction with the monks, learning about Buddhism was my experience of the place. But yes, I will spend more time in the future telling people about the place!

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      • Just read it. You are brave and honest. Couldn’t help feeling a touch of pain and anger through your writing too. Be kind to yourself. Thanks for the link!

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      • Thanks, AggieSoon. Definitely there was pain at the end. It was the end of a period of manic euphoria. I was left with the pain that I had before I made my trip to Asia. Losing my first love. Returning to my home state to start all over again, unsure. But I recovered quickly.

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