From Darkness Into Light

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“Now this is a s’more!” JJ exclaimed proudly to one of his Thai friends as he carefully smashed his flame-browned kosher marshmallow and a square of Hershey’s milk chocolate between two coconut-flavored crackers (graham crackers are hard to find here in Thailand).

“And why do we call them s’mores?” I prompted JJ to continue his exposition. But he had already moved on to his favorite part of the campfire cooking demonstration—the how-to-eat-it part. “Because if you eat one, you’ll most surely want s’more!” I answered my own question while JJ chewed. And, boy, was that the truth for JJ and many of his friends that night as they assembled and ate s’more after s’more.

My family and our pastor’s family along with the KKSDA church youth group and some of our special friends from our music school and other government schools were having a one-night campout in the Phu Phaa Maan National Park. Along with the newly introduced s’mores, they roasted fish balls and mushrooms on wooden skewers over our little charcoal stove.

Everyone was having fun eating and sharing together when suddenly the heavens opened and heavy rain poured down, abruptly ending our meal and sending us all scattering for shelter in our little tents. But it was no use, everyone was already soaked. The night was young anyway, and no one was ready to sleep. Besides, we still had our Bible activity to do before bed. So we all ran up and gathered under a large shelter where I told the Genesis story, starting with creation and ending at the flood where the rains really came down! Afterwards, we played a game in which each person answered an appropriately difficult question about the Bible story. If anyone was unable to give a correct answer, their neighbor would “reward” them with a creative application of bright-red lipstick somewhere on their face. At the end of the game, before we prayed and retired for the night, the young people (along with Shannon and me) posed for some very funny photos!

The next morning, after a simple breakfast and a worship thought from Psalm 91, we took the youth to a nearby waterfall and cave. After the recent flooded cave rescue in Chiangrai that galvanized all of Thailand and much of the rest of the world, some in our group were a bit scared to enter a cave. But I assured everyone that this cave was different. The entrance was high up on the side of a mountain, and it had only one passageway that went upward until it opened at the top of the mountain. So, barring another worldwide flood, which I had already told them God had promised never to allow, it would be impossible for this cave to flood.
But it was still a thrill to climb into this cave together. It was steep and dark, and there were a few spots where finding footing was a challenge, and we adults were very watchful for the safety of some of the younger ones in our group. Not everyone had remembered to bring flashlights, so those who had lights shared them. Of course, that required people to stay very close together. One of the Buddhist girls named Srawy Mook, who has been attending our youth group for a few months, saw a spiritual lesson in this. “Teacher,” she said, “I now see a great lesson for life here. We should always try to stay close to people who have light.”

“Yes,” I replied. “That’s so true!” Jesus, the light of the world, has given us His light, and He calls us the light of the world. When life drags us down, and our lights grow dim, it is especially important for us to stay close to people who have light, not “forsaking the assembling of ourselves together.”

The cave was amazing. It held many interesting and beautiful formations. But in the end, the view that met our eyes when we emerged from the cave was the best part of all. After two hours of stumbling and climbing in the dark, a panorama of nearby tree tops and far-off rice fields, orchards and sugarcane plantations opened before us, bathed in glorious sunlight. The colors were so vibrant and alive—greens, blues, yellows, reds and more! Pointing to it all, I said to Srawy Mook, “This world is so beautiful! But someday when we lay our eyes on the beauty of Heaven, it will make the beauty of our earth seem, in comparison, like that dark cave. You don’t want to miss that, not for anything!”

I love camping and trekking and just about any kind of adventure in nature. But it’s especially awesome when we get to take city kids from Khon Kaen into the wild outdoors and learn together from God’s first and second books. Not only is it great for helping to nurture new spiritual life in others, it also revives our own souls. Many lessons to learn and re-learn await us there. As for me, after coming out of that cave, my prayer is, “God, help us not to forget how wonderful Heaven will be! Help us not to get so comfortable and content here that we grow lazy and cease to follow our leader Jesus as He guides us out of this dark world to the bright land above. Though the climb is steep and difficult at times, help us remember that Jesus opened the way for us to get there at infinite cost to Himself.”

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