So wat di, khap! (hello in Thai)
We’ve been in Thailand for about a week now. It seems crazy because it feels much longer than that.
In America, there’s a saying that says ‘there’s a church on every street corner’. Imagine that, but instead of churches it’s Buddhist temples, and I would say that there are even more of them here. In fact, there is a saying in Thai that says ‘to be Thai is to be Buddhist’. Pretty much everywhere we go we are surrounded by statues of Buddha adorned in fresh flowers. This country is about 96% Buddhist, with between .5%-2% of the population being Christian depending on who you ask. Very different than America.
With these facts in mind, I began preparing a teaching for one of our ministry days. Our contacts here in Ratchaburi started a ministry where they brought the gospel to a prison nearby. The ministry has grown and there are about 120 male and 40 female Christians that they know of in the prison. They’ve even run a couple of Discipleship Training Schools inside the prison with inmates as students. Our involvement with the ministry was to go in and provide some worship songs, a testimony, a dance, and a teaching.
There were probably 40 inmates in the worship area with us, with many more walking around outside who stopped to watch what we were doing. They did a few worship songs in Thai and our translator, Pi Noi, gave a brief teaching. Then it was our turn.
I was in charge of the teaching. It was supposed to be about 20 minutes (about 40 when you account for the translation) and I could talk about whatever I wanted. When preparing, I really felt God saying that I needed to focus on the truth of the gospel. I felt that in a culture that was surrounded by a lot of spiritual oppression and fear, I needed to remind the believers in the prison of what they received when they accepted God in their hearts. The main point of my message was that there are many lies from the enemy and the world that constantly bombard us, but the truth of the gospel is what gives us hope as believers.
After I concluded my teaching, we began praying for the inmates. I prayed for a handful of men in English. I trusted that even if they couldn’t understand my words, the Holy Spirit would be communicating to them. As I was praying for a couple of guys, our translator called me over and said that there was a group of men who wanted to accept Christ as their Savior. (I didn’t even know there were men there who weren’t believers. I thought all of the men there had already accepted Christ. I wondered why God wanted me to focus so much on the basic message of the gospel. Here’s why!) He began to explain to them what it meant to accept Christ into their lives. In a Buddhist culture heavily influenced by Hinduism, it’s important that new believers know that Christ is the only way for them to be saved, not just another god in their ‘religion rolodex’. The translator allowed me to lead them in praying for their salvation. I had to fight back tears the entire time. I would pray, the translator would translate, and they would repeat it. It was one of the most amazing things I have ever experienced. I don’t know the exact number because I wasn’t keeping count, but we think there were about 12 men in the group that accepted Christ today.
I can’t describe the feelings of reverence, joy, and honor that I feel after being able to witness those men accept Christ. I got to be an instrument of God’s love today, and I was blessed with being able to lead people in praying the most important prayer of their entire lives. It was so incredibly awesome. God is so good!
I can’t even imagine what else God has in store for our team while we are here. Please keep our team in your prayers as we are still adjusting to the culture here. Also, please pray for more energy as we are working the fields for God’s kingdom. Whether we are planting the seed, fertilizing it, or reaping the harvest, we are truly blessed to be here with the sole mission of doing God’s work.
Thanks for all of the support and praise God for the awesome things He’s doing!