Thai Tempo January / February 2017
One of many challenges for Christians in Thailand
Mrs. C. from our church came to the prayer evening with joy and reported how she had had the opportunity to tell a Buddhist priest about Jesus and what He had done in her life: She was just ready to deliver the clean and ironed laundry to her customer. With her motorbike she drove out of the house entrance and saw the priest, who had stopped there to receive the alms of her mother and to bless her for it. Because their house is quite far off the village and the next houses, she offered to give him a ride on the side wagon of her motorbike. So the conversation started!
A few weeks later, the same woman reported, this time quite discouraged, how she, on the order and out of obedience to her mother, kneeled down in front of the priest, gave the alms and took the blessing on behalf of her mother who was prevented to give the offering herself.
This short story is about the big challenges a lot of our brothers and sisters in Isaan face. Mostly, as the only Christians in their family and in their village, they are challenged not to give in to the daily, often long lasting pressure of their Buddhist environment. If, like Mrs. C., as a widow with a son, depending on the benevolence of her parents and the family, who have religious expectations and according to Thai tradition are required to take care and to support the parents, this is extremely difficult.
Rolf&Elfi Gerber, Sahatsakhan, Kalasin Province
- That God would help the believers to stay firm in their faith.
- That they would not give in to pressure, but be strengthened by the Holy Spirit and the word of God and be able to endure.
- The Lord will do according to his promise in Ezekiel 36:26: That He will remove the hearts of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh in the parents and family members of our Christian brothers and sisters in Isaan.
What churches and banana trees have in common
In February, we bought our banana tree. “When will it have bananas?” I asked the shop owner. “After about a year and a half;” she answered. At that point, I was noticing that it only had three leaves; with one of them turning brown already.
Ewoud planted the tree in our garden and at first nothing appeared to be happening. However, after a week the first new leaf came and soon many leaves started growing. It wasn’t before long we noticed the tree had already started growing shoots as well! We separated some of the shoots from the tree and gave them away to our neighbors. We also decided to grow another tree for ourselves. We’re so impressed by the growth of this tree!
When we think of this banana tree, we also think of the church that is growing in Na Dun. Do we want all the Christians in this district to gather in one building? Or do we aim to grow house-groups, spread out over the whole district? If we aim for house-groups, they will be small but have the benefit of growing ‘in their own soil’. The old and the poor will be able to attend such a church more easily. It would also be easier for the Thai to visit other believers and evangelize in our absence, than it would be if we chose for a central church. Further, reproducing a house church would be do-able for the Thai. We see this with a healthy banana tree; that the shoots come by themselves.
Some small green leaves are starting to sprout in Na Dun at this point in time. We hope to see the church of Jesus Christ grow shoots of its own in every village of the Na Dun district. We pray for believers who will want to know God’s plan for their lives. We know the growth of this plant is not dependent on our work or our ideas. In the end, it is God who makes things grow (1 Corinthians 3). In faith, we are looking forward to see what God will grow!
Ewoud&Gerjo Koning, NaDun, Maha Sarakham Province
- For small groups of believers to grow into mature cells reaching out to the people around them – neighbours, extended family etc.
- For villages (and whole areas) where there is no church yet – maybe not even a Christian – to hear the Gospel.
- For perseverance for missionaries to “plant, water, fertilise” – work for the best conditions that new churches could emerge.
- At the same time for patience for missionaries – that they will wait on God for the growth, neither getting discouraged when there is no growth to be seen yet, nor getting into activism as if they could make the growth themselves.
A Feast – not a means to some end
In Wiset lives Prajuab, a faithful member of the church. She lives with relatives who make and sell rice cakes (see picture). As they dry in the sun they look impressive sitting in rows-but at that stage in the process they are hardly edible. Even milk and sugar wouldn’t help them go down! But after they go through the next stage-deep frying-they are a real treat, even plain out of the bag. What is the step that makes the Christian life not just something orderly and good looking, but a treat? What is the oil that deep fries? In Prabaht, Lamnarai, and Wiset there are believers who seem to experience life in Christ as an orderly means to some end rather than a feast in itself. What should we do to help them?
David&Anne Sheahan, Provinces of Lopburi, Saraburi and Angthong
- For Christians to experience their life in Christ as “a feast”, to see the riches they have in Christ.
- For God to open the eyes of people who live their Christian live in a religious way – in the sense of: what do I need to do to receive what I want from this “higher power”. May they see that Christian live is not religion but a relationship with the Creator.
- For clear communication of the Gospel that addresses this worldview of contractual relationship that most Thais have in regard to Buddhism and bring with them when they become Christians.
The ups and downs of missionary life
“I sat and began meditating. I focused on emptying my mind and becoming one with the universe. I became one with the universe, and then I was sure, it would not rain before I got to work.”
So went part of the conversation that Brian had with Don, a young man who has been coming to Baan Santisook for the past number of months. Brian has been meeting with Don occasionally to talk about Christ, but Don remains a staunch Buddhist.
“I’ve been coming to learn more about Christianity to see how it can help me in this lifetime, to attain Nirvana in my next life,” he stated.
As you can imagine, remarks such as these can put a damper on the day. The Lord was good to Brian, however, in balancing this conversation out with a phone call from Joe, a former language helper, the very next day.
“Brian, I just wanted you to know, I went to a Christian camp a while back. Since then, I’ve been reading my Bible, and I’m listening to sermons online when I can’t go to church.” Brian met Joe a few years ago. At that time, Joe was working at a coffee shop in Ayutthaya. He told Brian he hadn’t been to church for a long time, although he was a Christian. He was more than willing to study the Bible with Brian as part of Brian’s language lessons, but we never saw much growth or change. How encouraging to hear of Joe’s returning to the Lord.
Brian&Bekah Farber, Ayutthayaa
- For God to prepare the hearts of the people that we will meet and share the Gospel with.
- For the Word of God not returning empty but that it would bear fruit in the lives of the people – in His time.
- For missionaries to be content in God, knowing His will and living according to it, not to be discouraged when nothing seems to happen nor to become proud of their work when people are turning to Christ.
- That any situation (difficulty or joy) would draw missionaries only closer to the Lord.