This past Sunday, May 15th, I and 12 of my friends from UBC left the United States for Thailand. Most of us were nervous and excited for the trip and all of the things we would be doing there. We sat in airports and in planes for 32 hours in anticipation of landing in Chiang Mai, Thailand. When we landed, we were greeted by our ministry partners. After talking with them, I could tell that their hearts were on fire for the Gospel and that they were excited we were here to come alongside them in their ministry.
During our first full day here, we had an orientation on Thai culture and how we would be interacting with the people here in Thailand, who are mostly Buddhist. We learned the three staples of Thai culture: having a heart of water, a cool heart, and a heart of fear. A heart of water meaning that they went with the flow, and a cool heart meaning they tried to avoid conflict of any kind. These excited me because these are attributes that I hope I have, but the third one was interesting to me. When the Thai people say that they have a heart of fear, they mean that the have a reverence or respect towards people of authority, which I thought was very different than the rebellious America that I know. I thought in retrospect that the other two hearts weren’t exactly the American expectation either. The point of teaching us this was to point out that we would be in a very different culture, but to me it was reassuring that the people we would be talking to would be agreeable.
So far, we’ve gone into the market twice and both times I felt that when I walked into a shop I wasn’t intruding or interrupting anything that was going on. They were the ones that were interested in us and where we were from. It was surprisingly easy to jump into conversation, which was my biggest worry going into the trip. The Thai couple that we met where extremely kind and wanted to know where we were from and what our story was, which made it very easy to tell them our story. We got to connect with that family because her son apparently went to school at the University of Texas to study aerospace engineering. It was amazing to me that we could connect with the people of Thailand so easily.
Going into the market is very strategic because there are people there that come from other countries and go back after 3-4 years. People that come from all over the world to raise money for their families back home. This means they get to build relationships with people who can go back and spread the Gospel in their home countries, which might restrict the Christian faith. When we go into the individual shops we see if they are receptive to talking about faith or if they completely shut us down. This helps our ministry partners by establishing relationships in the market and letting them prioritize possible long term relationships. After the first two days, they told us that we had talked to four shop keepers that they had yet to establish relationships with. This may not sound like a lot immediately, but the time it takes to create meaningful relationships can be measured in years, so to have something in mind before going into a shop is very meaningful.
It hasn’t been just our ministry partners who are reaping the benefits of this trip though, many of us have had formative conversations with people here that we wouldn’t be able to experience in America. We went on a tour of 3 different Buddhist temples where we learned the basics of the Buddhist faith, and had an amazingly energetic tour guide named Bee, who we could tell loved what she was doing. Learning about Buddhist faith was interesting and personally I can see how people are attracted to it. Ideas like karma have penetrated even our society and it was interesting to see where those ideas come from. We also got to see how different our faith is from there’s. The basis of their faith is that when their good works outweigh the bad, they can reach enlightenment. I love that our faith begins with enlightenment (having an experience with God) and continues with good works afterwards. It drives home for me the importance that these people are having the Gospel shared with them.
Thank you to everyone who supported us on this trip. We are eternally grateful.