What do I do?
Pastor Brasit at the end of his Sunday sermon asked the music group to play a song and invited the church leaders and missionaries to come up to the front. Having only been at the church for a month, we step out hesitantly and Pastor Brasit then urges members of the congregation who have specific requests to approach us and share so that we can pray. An elderly gentleman comes up to James and, without saying anything, bows down and then kneels with his head at James’ feet. James feels and looks very uncomfortable, not knowing this gentleman, nor what he is thinking. Is this gesture similar to a Buddhist veneration of a robed monk? How to respond? James wants to kneel down with him and reassure him that we are brothers in Christ but does not want to offend any deeply held Thai cultural value. The gentleman rises and returns to his seat, weeping. He then partakes of bread and wine in the Lord’s meal.
Afterwards we asked Pastor Brasit for the gentleman’s name and for advice. His counsel was that Uncle Suwit was wanting to honour James and give him respect. This incident reminds us how easily we fear man and not God. Jesus has reconciled us to God and so no mediator is needed for us to approach and be heard by the Almighty God. We are not to be anxious that demonstrations of the gospel will upset others. Thailand has many religious rituals and social ceremonies which the growing Christian church can redeem for God’s kingdom. As missionaries we want to partner with local believers and help them to understand a complete Christian worldview, affecting every area of life. How much we still have to learn! We want to affirm in our actions that biblical conviction and conscience are higher authorities than any cultural sensitivities.