Showalter: Thailand testimonies
Thailand has Anabaptist Christians of many stripes. In Western terms, there are churches related to Mennonite Brethren, Brethren in Christ, Mennonite Church Canada, Lancaster Conference, Virginia Conference, Mennonite Church USA, Conservative Conference, Hopewell Network and more.
These believers speak Central Thai, Isaan, Khmu, Lao, Bru, Burmese, Cambodian, English, Spanish and more.
Forms of worship vary from translated Western music to traditional Isaan folk tunes with complex storytelling lyrics written by local believers.
This autumn they got together again, a group of about 150 people, for their third biennial conference. They call it the Thai Anabaptist gathering — a kind of national expression of Mennonite World Conference. This meeting was double the size of the previous two.
What a gathering it was.
The platform language was Central Thai, but when a speaker slipped unconsciously into his Isaan mother tongue, the audience roared with appreciation. And when a Central American missionary broke out in untranslated Spanish prayer, no one minded.
The theme of the meeting was Acts 1:8: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses . . . to the ends of the earth.” No one doubted that, and testimonies abounded.
“I was dying from HIV-AIDS. I weighed only 60 pounds, and my body was covered with sores. The hospital turned me out to die. I was alone, and no one cared. Even my family didn’t want me. But the Christians prayed for me, took me in and loved me. God healed me, and now I want nothing more than to find broken people and love them to Jesus. My house fellowship consists of the blind, crippled and destitute. But Jesus has transformed them.”
We knew she spoke the truth, because there they were beside her — on crutches, blind but radiating joy, performing worship music.
“I was a Buddhist religious leader in my village, and I wanted nothing to do with Christianity, that foreign religion. My sister-in-law was bleeding heavily for a long time, and the doctors could do nothing for her. Then God spoke in a dream to a believing woman in a village nearby and told her to go find a bleeding woman and pray for her. She found my sister-in-law, prayed for her, and she was healed. My sister-in-law told me her story, and I began to read the Bible.
“There came a time when I had rice for only one more day, and my employer had withheld my wages for a long time. I went into my room, shut the door and prayed, ‘God, if you are real, send me money for rice, and I will serve you the rest of my life.’ I walked out of the door, and two minutes later my employer drove up with my wages. My hair stood on end.”
When he told us how God then confirmed his new faith in a series of dreams, which freed him from old religious bondages, we marveled. It was worldview transformation by divine revelation. He had met the living Christ.
Three times a day the hosts served up sticky rice and tasty Thai curries cooked over charcoal fires. A local church leader hosted 20 overnight guests in his home. “I would have been glad for more,” he said. Many others slept at the church.
In the middle of the gathering we all went together to revel in the beauty of one of the world’s most picturesque waterfalls, where Thailand, Cambodia and Laos meet.
At the end of the meeting: “Shall we get together again two years from now?”
The unanimous answer: Yes!
Richard Showalter lives in Irwin, Ohio, and travels in Asia, Africa, the U.S. and beyond as a teacher, preacher, writer and servant.
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