Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Welcome to Thailand: A Prolougue and an Introduction

Endless offerings.

Endless prayers.

Endless chants.

Endless cycles.

This sacred "naga" or snake is over 400 years old

Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai's sacred mountain is just the place to sit and contemplate eternity.  You are confronted with it everywhere you turn.

It's bejeweled body slithers alongside 306 steps up mountain to the temple. Climbing this is said to earn merit.

 I am surrounded by antiquity.  Chiang Mai, itself is an ancient city dating back to the "new city" capital of the Lan Na kingdom, built in 1296.  Not quite a hundred years later, this mountain was marked by the legendary white elephant as holy ground.  The sacred beast was given a shard of bone, said to have been the Gautama Buddha's shoulder, to carry.  The elephant wandered about the mountain until reaching the summit, where it trumpeted three times and fell down dead.  A shrine was built on that very spot.

Over the next 700 years, the temple complex blossomed like a tropical flower.  Today it is an enormous in scope.  Golden domes glisten and jewel encrusted idols glitter.  Gongs and bells, chimes and chants keep time with the march of centuries, the march of souls.  Souls seeking eternity, souls lost for eternity.

I hold my breath as I enter the first shrine.  The air is thick, but with what I could not say.  The giant statues of Buddha hold my attention until a slight movement in the corner catches my eye.  A saffron robed monk is seated cross legged on the floor.  I panic for a moment, my head is not supposed to be above a monk's, but I have no intention of kneeling.  I slowly edge towards the door.  Seeing monks on the street is a novelty, seeing them inside a temple suddenly feels very different.  This is not a costume party.  This is life and death.  Eternity is at stake.  He is on the other team and I'm on his home turf.

Deeper into the complex we forge.  In the very heart of this mountaintop temple sits the Golden Chedi.  I suspect this is the final resting place of the moldering shoulder bone.  Faithful pilgrims march around this glistening dome with lotus buds and tapers clasped devoutly between praying hands.  Around the perimeter of this holy walkway others are lighting tapers and bowing to jade statues.  This is my first glimpse of Buddhist worship and it is sobering.  Further still, along the walls of the courtyard are many niches and rooms.  In each room there are cringing, crawling devotees, looking for a sign, a favorable fortune, a healing, a blessing.  There are idols of all shapes and sizes.  Monks are in abundance, some solemnly receiving adulation, others jovially sprinkling the grateful worshipers with holy water.  The incongruity is jarring.

I stand in the corner, overwhelmed, burdened.  I can do nothing but pray  

"Father, send someone to this woman.  The one over there, shaking the fortune sticks.  Show her You are the answer.  Here's another one, lighting tapers.  Lighten her darkness, Lord.  This one, right here in front, bowing before the giant, cold Buddha.  Liberate their souls.  You only are God.  You only are Savior."
You can see some of the votive offerings placed in the hands of this statue. A giant moth reposes on it's shoulder.

I wonder about the monks.  Do they sense the Holy Spirit when His people visit this place?  Do they recoil from the Light like I do from the Darkness?

One woman glances over her shoulder at me as I pray.  Is it my presence that is intrusive? Or is it Christ's?

It's time to go.  But there is one more opportunity to bear witness in this silently deafening place.  A roll, to be signed and wrapped around the sacred pagoda.  I inscribe, "Jesus is Lord and Savior."

Doi Suthep belongs to Him.

"Ho, every one that thirsts,come ye to the waters!"

Welcome to Thailand!  Land of Smiles.  I certainly was smiling a lot during my three week visit. I feel so incredibly privileged to get to know firsthand the many faceted ministry of my good friends, Paul and Susan Brown.

As much as I relished the beauty of the mountains and jungle, it's the people who have stolen my heart.  I don't want the above description of a Buddhist temple to make you think I have contempt for Thai culture or for Thai people.  To be an emissary of Christ does not mean you have to reject a beautiful and ancient culture.  Jesus is not a "white" savior.  He died for all sorts of people throughout all times and all regions and all cultures.  Truly the Gospel is Good News for everyone!

Join me as I attempt to relive the adventures of the last three weeks.  I will introduce you to some unforgettable people in remarkable settings.  I hope to clearly explain some of the exciting opportunities to share the Gospel throughout South East Asia.  And, I hope to challenge each one of us to share this good news right where we are at, in our own corner of the world.   I dare say, there are many lost Baptists who are no closer to the Kingdom than a Buddhist.

Truly the fields are white unto harvest!

"Pray ye therefore that the Lord of the Harvest will send forth laborers"