“Bang, Bang! Bang, Bang, Bang, Bang…Bang!” We woke up to the sound of strings of firecracker explosions. Today is Chinese New Year! Soon the doorbell was ringing. Buk, our neighbor was bringing plates of food – Geng Ke-ow (Green Curry); Gai (chicken); Noodles; and Chinese Dumplings steamed in banana leaves. A feast was being shared with us. Later, another neighbor came by, bearing a large bag of fruit – bananas, green mango, apples, and something we don’t yet know the name of. Again we find ourselves overwhelmed by the hospitality of our Thai neighbors!
Here in Thailand, Chinese New Year is celebrated with gusto. Chon Buri will be celebrating in an even larger way, as King Bhumibol’s daughter will be here for a visit. The Princess will attend ceremonies at Rua Sam Pau, a Chinese Buddhist monastery, located near the seaside. Rua Sam Pau’s walls are built to resemble a large ship, representing a vessel meant to transport faithful Buddhists to Nirvana. (We’ll explain Nirvana in a moment). It is also believed by older residents that to die at Rua Sam Pau brings good fortune. Many of the older Chinese women believe that when they die, their souls will be carried on the sea back to China.
What is Nirvana? To understand this Buddhist concept it is necessary to understand Buddhist views of life and death. Buddhism teaches that people cycle through stages of life and death (reincarnation). The purpose of reincarnation isn’t ‘to get to live more.’ Buddhism teaches that it is necessary to ‘earn merit’ in one’s lifetime, and if enough merit (good points) isn’t accumulated, a person has to ‘do it again’ – going through cycles of life and death until enough merit has been earned to warrant release – Nirvana. Buddhism teaches Nirvana is not a place, but ‘a state of being freed of personal desires’ – and essentially becoming ‘one with the cosmos.’
Recently we had a very heartwarming moment a few weeks after a woman (Bayn) gave her life to Christ while visiting Pradumri Church. She shared how she felt so ‘clean’ and ‘free.’ She had no anxieties trying to earn favor or appease her Creator. Understanding that Christ died for her sins, and knowing Jesus was what she was needing ‘all her life.’ This woman’s experience reminds us of various portions of Scripture which highlight our human condition, and what Christ accomplished through the cross. In Hebrews 9:27 we’re reminded: “Everyone must die once, and after that be judged by God.” And later, in chapter 10 of Hebrews, we read: (v.12) “Christ however, offered one sacrifice for sins, an offering that is effective forever;” and in verses 19-23, “We have, then, my friends, complete freedom to enter into the Most Holy Place by means of the death of Jesus. He opened for us a new way, a living way, through the curtain – that is, through his own body…So let us come near to God with a sincere heart and a sure faith, with hearts that have been purified from a guilty conscience and with bodies washed with clean water. Let us hold on firmly to the hope we profess, because we can trust God to keep His promises.” God’s Word is also comforting to us, in that we know that when we die in Christ, we will be with God in the heavenly place He has prepared for us (Heb. 11:16; John 14:1, 2)!
A final, interesting note, is that the spiritual change in Bayn is impacting her life in many ways. Recently we attended a party she gave at her business, to thank all of her customers for their support. The highlight of the evening was that Bayn invited the praise team from Pradumri Church to come and provide a Christian concert. It was such a blessing, to see this young woman eager to share her love for Christ!