THE KINGDOM WORK IN THAILAND: THE BAD NEWS AND THE GOOD NEWS
Thailand has the oldest Protestant Chinese Church in Southeast Asia – the Maitrijit Chinese Church, now 160 years old. It is ironical, though, that up to now there is only 1 Christian in 500 Thais. There are more Buddhist monks than there are Thai Christians.
Why is Thailand such a stony ground? Why are the Thais very resistant to the gospel?
First, the Thais still see Christianity as very much the Westerner’s religion. To embrace this western religion is to betray one’s country. “To be a Thai is to be a Buddhist” has been ingrained in them since birth.
Second, to become a Christian is to betray one’s parents. This is most acutely felt among the Thai-Chinese who practice ancestor-worship. “Who will offer merit for us when we die?” Who will enter the monkhood (even if it’s only for 3 days) to help us gain merit for heaven? Who will offer incense and food to our spirit on religious days? It is not only the parents who ask these questions, the whole neighborhood asks them! I was asked these questions. Good opportunity for witnessing, yes, but I did feel the you-are-to-be-blamed tone of their questions!
Third, the hold of spiritual demonic forces among the Thais is very strong. Parents of a few weeks old baby usually call on a village elder and ask him to summon or call down a spirit who they will ask to be the guardian spirit for their baby. This is like forming a contract signified by a piece of string tied around the baby’s wrist. A frequently ill child is offered to a monk in the hope of a permanent cure. The monk is then considered to be the spiritual “adoptive” parent of the child. Buddha amulets worn around the neck, “sacred” writings tattooed on one’s back, a small or a sizeable collection of idols housed in a small cabinet or in a whole room in one’s house – these all form a binding relationship or contract between the Thai and the hosts of spiritual forces. These spirits don’t give those they own up that easily either.
I know of a young factory worker whose finger got caught in a machine the day after he had signified his desire to become a Christian. Another’s father died soon after she made a commitment to Christ
necessitating her to go back upcountry to help her family. The unbelieving community could have taken these “misfortunes” as “warnings” for them not to meddle with Christians.
But the fragrance of Christ continues to be spread throughout the land. In Nang Rong, a flourishing town in the northeast of Thailand, the wife of a soldier became a Christian through the witness of the Nang Rong New Life Church. After a while, her husband met an accident and the church members visited him in the hospital. The pastor talked with him and he committed his life to Christ. When he was discharged from the hospital he asked the church to help him get rid of his idols. What they thought to be a small collection of carvings and figurines turned to be a whole floor full of wooden and metal images and idols such that the family had been sleeping in the living room on the first floor because there was no space left on the second floor. The husband said he and his family had thought that owning these images would solve their health problems. He disclosed that his family of four had been regular patients of the provincial hospital, visiting the hospital at least once a week for this or that ailment. The wonderful news is that since the time they turned their lives over to Jesus, they had hardly had the need to visit the hospital at all. Not only that, this soldier’s mother had also become a Christian, followed by a host of other relatives and neighbors.
Yes, the Thais may be hard and resistant; but in God’s power, there are those who still respond to the gospel. For this Thai Christians and missionaries alike continue to spread the aroma of Christ in the villages, towns and cities of Thailand.
Submitted by Steve and Flor Taylor
Missionary-Teachers – Bangkok Bible College
Involved with 13 New Life Churches in Bangkok and in the Northeast of Thailand.