Now that I’ve been back in the United States for a couple of weeks, I’ve had a chance to recover from the jet lag (which is no joke!) and reflect on the major things I learned during this incredible trip. The reason for the trip was to see the Christian work which is currently going on in Thailand and seek God’s will for my church in how we might best partner with one or more of the missionaries over there in the future. With that in mind, I believe my thoughts can be summed up in three words:
In a previous post, I wrote about my first experience with a Buddhist “temple” in the central part of Thailand. On our last full day in the country, our team visited a more classical form of a Buddhist temple when we traveled to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep outside of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. The story behind this temple features the legend of a white elephant carrying Buddha’s shoulder bone to the top of a mountain, trumpeting three times, and then dropping dead. Based on this omen, the story goes, a temple was immediately ordered built on the site.
Sunday night we travelled to Chiang Mai in northern Thailand where we would be stationed for the rest of our trip. This is a beautiful part of Thailand because it is in the mountains. However, that also means that people are much more spread out than in the towns and cities in the rest of the country. It is estimated that there are about 55 “hill tribes” in northern Thailand and surrounding areas and most of them speak their own language.
On Saturday, our team was in southern Thailand around a town called Songkhla. We met with a pair of missionary families there and spent the morning doing door to door evangelism in a nearby village. We drove to the village and then split up into three teams. As we got out of the cars, we could hear the chanting of a Buddhist monk from a nearby temple in the background, which seemed to add an urgency to our mission.
On Friday, our missionary host took us to a Buddhist temple near Songkhla, Thailand. In my mind, I visualized this as simply a building dedicated to Buddha. What I saw was extremely eye-opening. The “temple” was more of a very large park with various areas with different idols. It seemed more like an amusement park than a place of worship, although unfortunately there were forms of worship happening there.