God’s surprising gift to a discouraged evangelist
One of the most difficult tasks for missionaries in Thailand is to continue to share the Gospel when few people seem to be interested. In recent years, the Thai church has been growing more rapidly than in the past, but it is still a long, laborious slog for many evangelists. Thai people are generally friendly and even happy to chit chat about religion and spiritual matters. But professing faith in Christ is quite another matter. Many concerns, distractions, and entertainments crowd people’s hearts and those who show an interest in Christ are often few and far between. For that reason, it can be easy for missionaries to lose motivation to keep sharing the Gospel. It feels like NOBODY is interested, so why bother? But God knows those who are His and His Spirit often works in mysterious and surprising ways. Just when we think that God’s isn’t doing anything, He lifts back the veil and shows us how He is at work.
Just such a surprising revelation of God at work occurred in Trang (Southern Thailand) in 1931. Kenneth Landon, an evangelistic missionary, was coming to the end of a long day of handing out tracts and talking to people, without any visible results. That’s when something surprising happened. Landon relates his providential meeting with a certain Mr. Laiat in his own words:
“I had spent a whole day traveling from house to house telling of Christ and giving Gospels to all. As the day drew to an end I felt rather discouraged, for although I had met many who were friendly, I had met none who were deeply interested for Christ.
As I walked across the fields toward the market at Tung Song I saw a middle aged man standing by a small field hut. I called to him and when he came I gave him a Gospel of Luke and told him what it was about. He there told me that when he was a boy of ten a foreign man – whom I judged to be the late Dr. E.P. Dunlap – came along and preached to the people. He went away and left no books and for over thirty years that young boy never heard or read anything about Christ. Yet all that time he had worshipped Christ in his heart and had held himself apart from other forms of worship in spite of his family.
As the years rolled by his memory grew dim as to the content of the message, but he ever held clearly in mind that the one true God was named Christ and that He alone was able to save from sin. After over thirty years Nai Laiat was considerably startled to have a foreign man begin to talk to him where the former man had left off and tell him more about Christ. Naturally he was excited and wanted to hear as much as could be related. Here was a Faith that was uncared for and yet was sturdy through many silent years. Faith is a tenacious thing when it seizes upon the heart.”
(Source: Kenneth Landon, “Nai Laiat,” Siam Outlook, July 1931, p. 112-113, Payap University Archives, Chiang Mai, Thailand.)