It was the middle of the night when Miss M woke, aware that someone was in the room. As she lay there she saw a man, dressed in white, standing near her. She was not afraid of him. She asked him two questions – ‘who are you?’ And ‘why have you come?’ He didn’t answer the first. To the second he said he had come to take away her worries. This was the beginning of her journey to faith. Prior to this, she had stopped attending the Buddhist temple and was not really following her Buddhist religion. She had only recently moved from Thailand to Scotland to study for a PhD.
Miss M decided she should look for a church. She had seen churches in the city where she was studying but did not know anything about them. It was Easter and she was wandering around looking for a church to attend when she saw the lights on in one church so she decided to go to there. It turned out that a member of the congregation was the daughter of missionaries who had served in Thailand! Wonderfully, she had returned to Thailand for a visit a few years previously, and brought back some Thai/English Bibles. She gave one to Miss M and so from the very early stages of her journey she had a Bible in her own language.
Miss M is very competent in English but being able to read God’s word in her native tongue was important. Miss M also discovered that one of her Thai friends in the city was a Christian, which was a great help as she considered the Christian faith.
Miss M came to faith and a short time later was baptised. At this stage she did not tell her parents back in Thailand that she had become a Christian. When I asked her why she just said that she did not think that it was necessary to tell them. She began attending a house group and also had contact with the local Friends International workers. We connected on Skype and it was good to discuss the meaning of various parts of Scripture together.
As part of her studies Miss M has to return to Thailand from time to time. On her first visit back after becoming a Christian, I was wondering how it would all work out. It is often difficult returning home with a newfound faith. We have a wonderful ‘returnee network’ in Thailand, however, so Miss M was linked up with them. They made contact with her, looked out for her and cared for her. She attended a church in Thailand and was discipled there as well. It was a very positive experience for her.
While back in Thailand, she did share her faith with her parents only to find that her mother had also stopped being involved in some of the Buddhist rituals and seemed to be seeking. Miss M was very excited when her mother prayed her first prayer to God. Her mother’s journey continues and we pray that she, too, will come to faith. Miss M is praying that her father will show interest and come to believe.
Returning to Scotland to continue her studies was difficult for Miss M. It took her a long time to settle back into church life in the West. It seemed very complicated and, culturally, she sometimes could not understand the reasons for the way things were done. She needed a lot of support in adjusting back to life in Scotland.
It’s hard for westerners to appreciate just how different life is in Asia. When people come to the UK do we really understand the massive cultural differences there are? Are we willing to befriend other nationalities and do our utmost to make them feel at home? What do we expect of them? Do we expect them to make all of the adjustment or are we willing to adjust too? If we are willing to make changes too, we can be a much better support to them in what they are facing.
At the time of writing, Miss M is back in Thailand for another part of her studies. She will be glad to be at her Thai church and meet up with the many friends that she made there last year. May God hear her prayer for her family. How will it be this time round when she returns to Scotland to continue her PhD?
How can the church help her with the adjustments?
Will you pray for East Asia’s Diaspora?
Give thanks for how God drew Miss M to himself and helped her to grow in her faith in Thailand through the church there and the returnee network.
Pray for churches in the West to think carefully about the adjustments they need to make to welcome, disciple and support East Asians away from home and to take practical steps in that direction.
Pray for Miss M’s family to come to faith as well.