By the time you read this, we will be somewhere in the air over the Pacific Ocean. We leave Thailand on Tuesday at 6 AM, which is 6 PM Monday in Tupelo. So with the time change and the 28-30 travel time, we should be somewhere in the air when you read this entry.
Let me add one final note about our trip. On Sunday I preached at a Baptist church in Bangkok. By American standards, the church itself is quite small–just a small, unassuming building on a narrow side street. To one side there is a junkyard, down the street an apartment building. But the building itself is immaculate–clean, bright, well-kept, freshly painted. And the 80-90 people who crowded the sanctuary came with glad hearts, ready to worship God. We began by singing “Holy, Holy, Holy” in Cambodian and English–a profoundly moving reminder of God’s multicultural church. A woman played the organ, Charles Holmes played the trumpet, and our songleader was a man who formerly was a Laotian police officer. Later Lourdes Holmes translated for a woman from Laos who had been imprisoned for her faith. She was thrown into a cell with Laotian prostitutes. Their plight struck her heart so that when she was released, she began ministering to the prostitutes in her city. Later we sang “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” in Cambodian and English, another reminder that what unites us in Christ is greater than what divides us. Lourdes then interviewed a man who had been in a Thai prison for over 16 years. As she said, he wasn’t ashamed to admit he had been in prison. He came to Christ through the prison ministry and now witnesses for the Lord. I looked around and saw men, women and children from Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and the United States plus a man from Germany named Marcos. The singing was heartfelt and deeply moving. At one point we stopped the service and spent ten minutes greeting each other. Then we sang again–this time “Count Your Blessings.” After the offering I preached through an interpreter on the blind man who received his healing in stages from Mark 8:22-26. When the service was over, they moved the chairs back to set up tables for the lunch we shared with the congregation. At one point Lourdes called me over to Marcos, the man from Germany. “I’ve just accepted God into my heart,” he said. Lourdes had shared the gospel with him and he prayed to receive Christ. As a side note, he had come to Thailand from Germany to meet Vanessa, one of the Christian women incarcerated at the Bangkok Women’s Prison. She is a vibrant believer in Christ. We met her there last Wednesday. So it all came together on our last day in Thailand. Lourdes (from the Philippines) led Marcos (from Germany) to Christ. He had come to meet his fiance Vanessa (from South Africa) in a Thai jail. As we sang at the conference earlier in the week, “It’s a Small World, After All.”
God is at work in this part of the world in a big way. I haven’t even mentioned meeting the Campus Crusade team from one of the leading universities in Thailand. We met them completely by chance during our visit to the floating market on Saturday.
Frankly I found it refreshing and challenging to be around believers who live in a nation where Christians account for less than 1% of the population. While we in America have an abundance of resources, they have an abundance of faith that reminds you of the church in the book of Acts.
By the way, it’s the only time I’ve ever preached in socks. The Thai custom (at this church at least) is for both men and women to remove their shoes when entering the church. So I preached in socks and enjoyed it and didn’t slip a single time.
So our trip is over and we’re on the way home. Thanks again to everyone who prayed for us. We went to encourage the believers in Thailand and they ended up encouraging us. We’re tired but not exhausted and very glad we made the journey to the other side of the world. We have rarely met so many warm-hearted believers as we did in Thailand.