“I am just calling to order books, right?” replied the confused secretary, taken back at why she would be asked such a strange question. She had simply been asked to order some books for a professor, and now the publisher wanted to know if the professor was a Christian?
Uncertain about where the conversation was headed, the woman on the other end of the phone explained, “Yes, that’s right. We are a Christian publisher, but this title can be used by both Christians and those who are not Christians.” The secretary didn’t say whether the professor was a Christian or not, but did proceed with an order of 40 books for the students in a Southeast Asian Studies course at a well-known state university in Thailand.
When you publish a book, there is no telling whose hands it will fall into. At Kanok Bannasan (OMF Publishers Thailand), where I assist with editing and translation of Christian books in Thai, the majority of our customers come from the less than 1% of the Thai population who are Christians. Our books are Christian books, mostly aimed at a Christian audience, but there are also many titles intended to be used for evangelism. But even the evangelistic books are intended to be bought by Christians and then shared with others. So why did a professor from a state university in a Buddhist country want Christian books for a course that didn’t have to do with religion?
The book that he ordered was “The Tears of My Soul” (Thai title: ชำระแค้น) by Sokreaksa Himm, a Cambodia man who lost his family in the killing fields of Cambodia. The majority of the book is his personal account of life and death in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. As the story unfolds, he eventually flees Cambodia and moves to Canada, where he becomes a Christian and struggles with anger, depression, and bitterness. Through great heartache, he learns to forgive, and then returns to Cambodia to minister to the people there. Kanok Bannasan published the Thai translation of his story in July 2012.
Presumably, the professor wanted his students to read this book because its relevance to Southeast Asian history. But when these students read “Tears of My Soul”, they will not only be getting a first-hand account of history but the message of forgiveness in Christ as well. And perhaps God will be pleased to use this book to pique an interest in Christ in their hearts, that they might seek out a church where they can learn more about Christ. All because of a book that they had to read for class.
In how many more university classrooms in Thailand might this book find a place in the syllabus?