The longer I live in Thailand, the more I realize just how far 8,500 miles really is. At first glance, Thailand seems almost exactly the same as America, except for the building structures and the muggy smell. But when you take a closer look, you begin to see just how different everything actually is.
However similar things look, they are very different underneath. Influenced by Buddhism and spirit worship, Thailand doesn’t have the same values as America. The people of Thailand are often quite nice and smile every time you pass by, but if you pay close attention you will find a spirit house on nearly every corner and will surely find somebody praying at it, and if you really think about what they’re doing, it breaks your heart. One time, when I went to the night market, I saw a person eating a cup of pudding. Nothing huge, right? Well, right before they finished it off, they walked by the spirit house, left the cup there and kept on walking. The strangest part of this was that it wasn’t done by a Thai person at all. It was done by a foreigner trying to get the “full feel” of being in Thailand.
Instead of churches scattered everywhere, there are Buddhist “wats,” or temples containing large statues painted gold. On our vision trip (the trip you take before you move to another country so that you can see where it is that you’re going) we visited the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. We took off our shoes and walked inside quietly. I was shocked to find people bowing down to the small, green statue, whispering prayers with their hands folded against their forehead. A sense of evil, sadness and emptiness washed over me, and I wanted to get out of there as soon as possible. When leaving, I realized that, though it was just a tourist location for me, these people really do worship statues and pray to fake gods, just like they talk about in the Bible. It was then that I really began to understand it and picture it in my mind better.
Often, I find myself thinking that nothing actually is different. Teenagers go to the mall, I go to youth group like I did in the states, they have McDonalds and Pizza Hut. What’s the difference, right? Wrong. It’s easy to discover this by paying close attention to things like holidays. The first year I moved to Thailand, we went down to the riverside to watch lanterns fly up into the sky. I thought, “Okay, cool! It’s just like Tangled!” When we got there and tried to make our way through the giant crowds, I immediately wished that I had stayed at home. However, I was excited to watch the lanterns go off. As we walked along the bridge, I peered over and looked into the river. There were floating floral arrangements sitting on banana leaves with decorations and candles on them. I thought they looked pretty… Until later, when I learned that they were offerings to the “water spirits.”
Like the song goes: nobody’s perfect. Though, with a little bit of Jesus, things might be in better shape over here. You walk the streets and can feel an overwhelming sense of sorrow for the lost people around you. Every day I wish I could help these people, but then I think to myself, “I’m just one kid.” As I listen more and more, I realize that, yes, I am only a kid. But, I am a kid that has one thing that can never be beaten. One thing that can never lose. I have the Almighty God, and He isn’t going to leave my side in anything. He won’t be leaving yours, either. Pray for the countries around you, your home country, cities and towns. The people in them need your help. Begin to pay attention to the people around you. See them as people that God loves, and know that your prayers for them can make a difference in how you understand them and how they begin to know the love and power of Jesus.