Thailand and all of Asia was shocked by the huge blast in Tianjin, China on August 12, but then Thailand’s attention was diverted a few days later by the joy of setting a world record for bicycle riders with 150,000 participating in Bangkok to mark the 83rd birthday of Queen Sirikit. This made headlines for just one day, for on August 13 the heart of the tourist district near the Erawan Shrine in Bangkok was rocked by a horrific explosion which killed 20 (including foreign tourists) and injured 125 people. The Erawan Shrine is familiar to all missionaries, because as you approach that intersection, taxi drivers routinely take their hands off the wheel to “wai” the spirit within this shrine. The influence of this Hindu shrine to Brahma is so powerful that some call it “the Shrine of Bangkok”.
As the news broke, I immediately thought of an incident that happened to me in Yala, South Thailand in October of 2011. I had just finished speaking at a regional camp and was relaxing with six local pastors at a local restaurant. Suddenly a large blast on the street outside interrupted our meal. I remember how people were screaming and running frantically around the hotel lobby. When the commotion calmed down, being the typical American-tourist type, I grabbed my camera and started for the door to capture whatever had just happened on film. One of the pastors said to me, “Ajarn Rawi, I wouldn’t do that if I was you. Here in Yala, the first bomb is to draw people into the street so they can trigger a bigger blast when people gather.”
That night there was a total blackout in this large city with a total of 16 bombs planted. A number were killed and many more wounded. The next morning my host took me to breakfast and we passed some of the carnage including a Karaoke restaurant, which had a large number of burned out motorcycles in its parking lot. As I stood there, a Thai woman arrived at the scene, her jaw dropped and she became pale. The woman was staring at her charred motorcycle. She had been at the restaurant the evening before and at the last minute decided to spend the night at a friend’s house and so left her motorcycle at the restaurant. She realized at that moment how close she had come to death.
As missionaries we constantly pray 1 Timothy 2:2 for Thailand, “Pray for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.” Yet when that peace is disrupted by natural and man-made disasters, I often think how God may be using these incidents to allow the Thai (as well as my fellow Americans) to see that whatever they have relied upon, be it shrines or material wealth … all of these are bankrupt when it comes to finding security in life. My prayer is that they would see that the only true security and hope of peace in life is through a personal relationship with the Prince of Peace, Jesus.
Photo source: firstname.lastname@example.org