Monday, March 12, 2012

Thailand Report

From Sunday, February 19, Blanca's report (listen to audio):
I am so grateful that I was able to visit Thailand and I appreciate the hospitality that the people and the university leaders at the Payap International House provided for us.  Regardless of the fact that I am allergic to the hot and spicy food, the lunch and dinner dishes looked so beautiful and appealing.  The meals looked like something out of a magazine, at least until I took the first bite.
I really appreciated my experience in Thailand and I was determined that I was going to enjoy it and learn as much as I could while I was there. Thailand will be in my heart forever and I would go there again if the opportunity ever presents itself in the future, as long I will be able eat in the western restaurants.

The reason for this trip to Thailand was to learn more about other religions, to have religious dialogue with the Buddhist monks and Islamic Imam, and also I wanted to learn what it would be like to be a Christian in Thailand.  In this country the Buddhist religion is dominant and there are also strong Islamic religion and Animism influences. The people from Thailand have built spirit houses all over their country.

I want to share with you what I learned from our Buddhist and Muslim teachers, and then the impact of this trip on my faith in Jesus, particularly through the Christians in Thailand.


Buddhists: One thing that impressed me was the conviction of their monks and the tremendous sacrifices that the monks make in order to find their enlightenment and their dedication to the people in need which is similar to Jesus’ teachings.  
The Buddhist monks go out every morning with a bowl on their hands to the streets and people come to give them food and the monks eat whatever the people give them each day.  They are not permitted to save any food for the next day and they only eat two meals per day. Many men and most recently a few women have become Buddhist monks in order to get a college education, but some of them become monks for life.
What does it mean to be human to a Buddhist Monk? The Discipline of a Buddhist monk is distinguished and is intended to be conducive to the arising of mindfulness and wisdom or the attainment of spiritual knowledge or insight, which they believe frees a person from the cycle of rebirth. What this means to a Buddhist, is that death is not the end of their life, it is merely the end of the body we inhabit in this life, but their spirit will still remain and seek out the need of attachment to a new body and new life.

Most Thai people do not believe in God, as Buddhism is the religion for the majority of the Thai people and Buddha did not believe in God.

I also learned that what matters is not to study about Buddhist, Islamic or any religious ways, what really matters is how we view our own religion after studying other religions and I am so grateful that to be a Christian.

Muslims: Islamic Masque Pictures.

Pam is a courageous Islamic woman who gave us a lecture about Buddhist and Islamic dialog. She is an assistant professor and head of the department of peace studies at Payap University, where we were sponsored in Chiang Mai, Thailand.  She explained about the problems of the ethnic groups who have closed minds and they cause disturbances, corruption, and violent conflicts.  Children and youth are victims of this. 

Also monks have been killed when sacred areas have been attacked in southern Thailand, as these border areas are being tremendously neglected in Thailand. There are also signs of tension between the Buddhists and the Muslim minority. The Islamic people only make up approximately 5% of the population in Thailand.

It was very impressive to see so many men at the masque; I have never seen so many men exhibiting their faith.

Pam said that Islamic people do believe in God, however, they believe that Mohammad is their prophet. They also believe in the virgin birth of Jesus, and that Jesus was a messenger of God. To them Jesus is the Christian prophet, but Jesus is not the Lord or the Son of God. However, in the book of Hebrews chapter 1:3, Galatians 1:3, Mathew 22:44 and Luke 1:35, Jesus appears to be of the same essence of God the Father. He is our Lord.

To us, Jesus Christ is the Word of God, whom from all eternity was with God and was God (John 1:1), God the Son, was born as a human being, lived, ministered, and was crucified and died, paying the price Himself for the sins of the entire world.

I have learned so much from the religious practices that I witnessed in Thailand and I admire the faithfulness of the people and how devoted they are in both religions.  There is so much to learn from them that we can apply to our own Christian faith such as how they effectively reach out to the needy and how they spread their beliefs. I learned from them that we need to be doing so much more to spread the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ as well as reaching out to the needy in the world. There is no doubt that they are doing their job, but the question is, "Are we doing a good job of spreading our own Christian faith to the world?"
Faith in Jesus: Refugee Camp Pictures, from the border between Thailand and Burma:

I was really touched in so many ways by this experience; it has changed my perspective of my own faith in Jesus, especially as I witnessed so many poor people in the refugee camps. I hope and pray that God will continue providing for them, but most of all that their faith will be strong enough to see that there is hope for them and that there are people in the world who care and are praying they will be physically free and also someday they will be able to look back and say the nightmare is now over. Romans 5:2-5

I hope that we will be able connect with the organizations that are providing services for them and that we would serve as God’s instruments to bless the people in the refugee camps in any way that God may lead us to do.

I want to share how I was touched by being in a small Christian church when I saw their large choir singing to the Lord Jesus in their native Thai language. I had tears in my eyes when I saw such a huge choir in such a small church congregation. It was at that time that I really felt that somehow God is at work in Thailand.  It brought memories to me of when I first came to the USA. At first, I did not know enough English to understand the message in church here in this country and I cried a few times as a result, but I knew that God would understand my efforts to be in church even though I didn’t understand most of the message. 

As we sang the familiar hymns in this small Christian church, I heard the Thai people singing in Thai, my leaders and peers singing in English and I was singing the same hymn in Spanish; that was a beautiful moment of reflecting on God’s creation for me. 

As you can see in these pictures, God created us all in different shapes, different features and different skin tones and furthermore in different languages, He understands them all, but the beauty of knowing the Lord in all of this is to understand that He does not discriminate against the human soul regardless of what we look like, He loves us all.

Another point that made me reflect on the beauty of God’s creation was when I saw the sun set at the Watana Village Resort Hotel in Mae Sol. There was no doubt that there were spiritual mysteries that lead me to feel the presence of the Lord in my heart and soul at that moment. 

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