As soon as my feet touch the floor my head begins thinking about my upcoming language lessons. I make my way downstairs, open up the computer, and sign into Skype. I see an incoming message from my language teacher that says her internet is not working. Yes! I run upstairs and put on my running clothes. I have enough time for a nice long run and workout this morning. I lace up my shoes, open up my Bible app, put on my headphones and step outside. Right across the road I see my neighbor, who happens to be part of the police/immigration department. He is in his running clothes too and stretching in front of his driveway. He sees me come out and I go speak with him.
He says, “I’m about to go run to another village where there is a big temple. I am going to go buy food and take it to the monks there. Would you like to come with me?” I think to myself, “No thank you! I am really looking forward to listening to my Bible this morning and getting some quiet time on my run.” Out of my mouth comes, “Yeah man! That would be great!” So, I take my headphones off and put my phone inside. Then we head off.
It’s still dark outside this morning, but the birds make it obvious that it’s time to wake up. The tropical birds that all used to sound so strange have become a familiar sound as I begin my run this morning. The air is surprisingly brisk, and I am the only one in a t-shirt and shorts. We set out at a good pace, and before you know it, we are out of the sight of our village and crossing the major highway that splits through Khon Kaen. As we enter into the new village we are greeted with a seemingly never ending crow of roosters and bundled up villagers just starting their days. The closer we get to the temple, the more monks we pass. They are headed towards the temple too, but at a much slower pace. The houses give way to a large temple, which looks very familiar now too.
Our pace has gotten us here a little too quickly, so we run past the temple and do a lap around the neighborhood. Each person I pass does a double and triple take. Every set of eyes I see meets me with shock and confusion, which is often followed by a raising of their right arm and pointing of their finger in my direction. Then, without fail, I hear each person mutter either to themselves, or the people around them, “farang”, which is a common word here for foreigner. This too has become a very familiar situation for me. It bothered me at first, but now I have just come to realize that that is the way things are here.
We make our way back towards the temple, and as we get near, we can smell the food carts staged around the temple gate. The people come and cook the food here so that those who are coming to feed the monks can buy the food to feed them right here. We approach the carts and my neighbor begins buying plate after plate of food. The first three plates are ready, so he hands me one and says “come with me”. I follow his lead as we approach the first set of monks, dressed in their saffron robes and bare feet. They are carrying pouches in their hands and they open up their pouches to receive the food. My neighbor then says, “just do whatever I do”. “Ok”, I say, but then to my discomfort and surprise, he kneels down and puts his hands together in a “wai” to honor them and show them great respect. I am torn, but I reluctantly follow his lead, mostly because I don’t want to ruin all chances of sharing the Gospel with him or the people in this village. As soon as I place the food in their baskets, they begin chanting over me, but I begin praying for them and for the people around me. Once they finish praying, they move on to the next people who have food for them. We go and pick up the rest of the food he ordered and repeat this process monk after monk until the food we ordered is gone and all of the monks have received something from my neighbor.
As we set off back towards the house, I cannot keep my mouth shut about Jesus. I do my best to explain the Gospel to him. I say, “Every single religion is the same, in that they all lay out their offerings before God. They bring to the offering table their good works, money, possessions, prayers, rules, excuses and hard work to try and prove to God that they are worth His favor and mercy. Everyone tries to prove themselves. Jesus is separate from every other religion though. He is the one true living God, and He is the only one who says, ‘No, my child, you can’t prove yourself to me! You will never be able to be perfect. I’m the only one who can be perfect. I offer myself to you. I lay my life down and wash you in my forgiveness. I have paid your debts. I offer you eternal life, love, forgiveness, a new start, and a never-ending relationship with me.’” His response was one of lots of confusion, but I continue to try and explain these things to him. Once we cross the major highway he is still not fully understanding, so we stop running, and I demonstrate to him the entire picture of what I am saying. It seems as if he actually understands what I am saying. After I’m sure he understands we pick up our pace and run back towards the village. He tells me that he needs to go get ready for work, so we run back to his house. I go on and finish out my run and workout for the day.
We all have two responsibilities when it comes to our interactions with people. We first must discover whether or not that person is “lost” or “found”. If they are lost, then we must help them find their way to Jesus. Once they are found, or if they already are, then we must teach them how to help others find their way to Jesus, and then teach those people how to teach people the same thing. We have found a strategy for destroying the works of Satan that is fast and effective. Please reach out to me if you would like more information about this process. I would even be happy to host training with a group of people or even one person on Skype. We are determined to not stop until all of Thailand, Southeast Asia, and the rest of the world has an opportunity to know, love and follow Jesus and becomes fishers of men.