“Did you go the festival? Did you enjoy it?” the restaurant server asked me as I munched on spicy Thai peanuts.
“Yes, I did. How about you?
“Oh, it was very sad for me. The fireworks scared my dog, and she ran away. I’ve been searching for her for two days. I feel very sad that maybe I won’t see her again.”
I was surprised at this man’s willingness to share something so personal. I could feel his longing for someone to empathize with his pain and connect with him.
Over the past few years, we have become more aware of the chronic disconnection between people. We see it when we pass groups of friends eating together—everyone looking at their smartphones. We see it in the face of the lonely girl in the corner of the classroom who is always present but always ignored. We feel it in the tension in meetings when an issue needs to be discussed, but everyone is too afraid. We hear it in the life stories our Thai friends tell us but would never tell to another Thai person for fear of the stigma and rejection that would surely follow.
Thai culture does not emphasize having open, honest relationships with others. Talking about one’s problems too much is seen as imposing on others, so people bottle everything up inside. Yet they can’t escape the yearning to connect, placed in their hearts by their Creator.
A little more than a year ago we began a children’s church in the village. We have been able to interact, share stories from the Bible and build relationships with more than 60 kids during that time. We have a core group of about 15 to 20 kids who come every week along with some parents and neighbors. We have journeyed with them from Creation and the Fall through the stories of the Old Testament, through the death and resurrection of Jesus, and arrived with them in the New Jerusalem. None of this would have been possible without our Thai friends Ming and Noon who helped us translate all the content for the program.
Thai Buddhist religion is highly pragmatic. There is no focus on a relationship with a higher being and no real concern for truth in itself. Rather, everything is focused on right or virtuous actions. People don’t pray to connect to God, but to have wishes fulfilled and receive blessings. There is no concept of being part of a spiritual family, so Thai Buddhists rarely pray for others in the way Christians do. For Buddhist Thais, religion is ultimately impersonal.
With all that in mind, I’d like to share with you the final lesson in the Bible story series that Tonya wrote entitled “God’s Good News—Be Part of the Story.”
God created our world in six days. He rested on the seventh. Our world was beautiful and good. God loved people and connected with them. The first people, Adam and Eve, disobeyed God. This was sin. It broke our connection with God and changed our good world. Adam and Eve had to leave their perfect home.
Now, all people sin. We hurt each other, we hurt our world, and we will all die. God still loves us. He had a plan to reconnect with us. God sent Jesus as a baby. Jesus came to make a way for everyone to reconnect with God. Jesus helped people. He showed us how to live and love each other. Jesus showed us what it looks like when we connect with God. Jesus never sinned, but He died on the cross. This was God’s plan. Jesus’ death made a way for us to reconnect. Now we can all connect with God.
Three days after He died, Jesus rose from the dead. Now He lives forever! He taught His disciples for 40 days. Then he went back to Heaven where He is waiting for us. After He left, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit lives inside us when we connect with God. He gives us the power to love each other and care for our world.
One day, Jesus will come back to our world. God will make a new heaven and a new earth. It will be good and beautiful again. God will live with us, and we will all be connected again. God created you. You are special to God. He loves you and wants to connect with you. Jesus can help you connect with God. Do you want to be part of the story?
It is our wish—our greatest desire—to help the families we minister to in the village to connect with God and have a personal relationship with Jesus, to know that He is preparing a place for them that is real and that His life and death alone purchased it for all of us.
We are also aware of how critical it is for us to have a local Thai worker who understands the culture better than we ever could, who can help others connect to Jesus. We invite you to connect with our team by making a pledge of monthly support to help us hire a local worker to reach the unreached Thai Buddhists of Isan.