The monk, proud and confident, smiled encouragingly at me. Every morning, tourists came to his monastery to see one thousand monks receiving breakfast. He was on duty, sharing the Buddhist road to extinction with gullible westerners. We talked a bit more, and he confided that he was superior to those villagers who donated the food today. Giving alms is just the beginning. Meditation is the true way! He meditated most of the day; at times for months far away in the jungle. We chatted some more and I asked him whether he thought he had achieved Nirvana yet. Silence, a sigh, and then he said softly that he would need another 1000 lives to reach that faraway goal.
A modest, bright girl, 17 years old and a devout Buddhist, was lying wide awake in bed, crying; she was convinced she would go to hell when she died. As a Buddhists she believed that good deeds are needed to get to heaven, but nobody could tell her how many good deeds were needed. She was only a teenager, but already without hope, and afraid to die. Today she is a joyful young lady and she mentors new believers to walk with God.
Two people. Two lives. One changed and the other too proud to change.
Maybe, that’s too easy to say. I will never know. I met the monk only once, and the girl was our first convert who we mentored for more than 4 years. That one conversation with the monk got him thinking. I did challenge him with Christ. But one-liners won’t work. To say “Jesus died for you, believe in Him and you’re forgiven”, may be technically correct, but it is totally immoral in the ears of a Buddhist. Bad deeds, words and thoughts deserve punishment. A free-out-of-jail card is cheating and creates lazy, immoral characters. All you need is one Christian doing something immoral and there’s the proof: Christianity is immoral! Buddhists who hear the one-liner gospel have to choose between a virtuous religion without hope and an immoral one.
Church-planting is not about large numbers or quick decisions. It is tiresome work. It is all about being there for individuals; not just once, but for several years! We are called to make disciples, to train them to obey Gods teachings. Nothing is more fulfilling than seeing Christ break through in someone’s life. Nothing makes you prouder than seeing a disciple start to care and share with others. Nothing hurts more than one of your disciples falling back. Without love, all is meaningless.
Myanmar has over 50 million people; some are proud, some arrogant, some humble and unassuming. But almost all are without hope. They need someone to come alongside and show living hope.