I was in a friend’s wedding right before my mission trip. On the wedding day, we spent the morning taking pictures. As much as I love my friend, it was quite difficult to bear both the heat and my slightly baggy pants with suspenders (you don’t know what that means until you actually feel your legs and your pants moving separately). We had about two hours to spare before the wedding ceremony, so we ate a quick lunch and waited at the backstage. God was surely teaching me patience! When our pianist began to play a prelude, we knew that it was time to prepare ourselves. The ceremony was about to begin—the groom and the bride were about to become one.
A pastor once said, “This life is a prelude to the real life.” What a wonderful quote: eternity awaits. We are currently listening to a prelude to the Holy Matrimony of Christ and His Church. The “prelude” is not always pleasant, but God uses everything together for good to those who love Him. Our physical death in this world is a mere beginning of the best life that will never end. Christ has lived, died, and risen for us to grant us eternal life with Himself. Suffering and pain are temporary, but joy and peace are unending. Isn’t that amazing?
Why do I talk about this when I am writing about my mission trip? It’s for one reason: I saw so many people to whom this is simply a folklore. I saw many spiritually-dead men walking around as if they are alive. The darkness has blinded their eyes, and this temporary life is all they have. They’ll do whatever it takes to feel secure in this vain life. To them, this life is not a beautiful prelude to eternal life—it’s a dreadful requiem for eternal death.
Ironically, the land of Buddhism does not follow the teachings of Buddha. The general mindset of Southeast Asian people is “do good get good; do bad get bad.” Their goal is to live the best life right now (sounds like a book in the States!). They worship the ancestors and go to Buddhist temples as they hope for material blessings. They’ll try “Christianity” if they can get money out of it. “Why aren’t you coming to church anymore?” a missionary once asked. “Because,” the man replied, “you stopped teaching English. Why would I be a Christian if I don’t get anything out of it?”
For them, religion is a philosophy or a way of living rather than the world’s relationship to a deity—it’s a manual for How to Live a Nice Life 101. A Cambodian student said to me, “I want to study all religions because it seems like every religion teaches to do good. . . We see corruption in the government, and we want to change it. But we can’t. We’re not the government. We’re not the religion.”
As we were looking down at the city of Bangkok from a skyscraper, my friend commented: “I guess… all these people will just populate hell in the future.” More than 8 million people live in the city and 70 million in the entire country of Thailand; about 1% claim to be followers of Christ. It’s a wonderful place to live—food, attractions, shops… you name it. But what’s the point of life without Christ? Is there life?
I remember attending a funeral as a high schooler. People put the body in a coffin and placed it inside a small wooden Buddhist tower. We watched two men as they poured gasoline all over it. When they lit it on fire, we silently stared at the enlarging flame while the widow cried in agony. Ash began to fall from the sky like snow. His physical body burned very quickly, but his soul continues to burn even today. Even though the widow stopped crying, he will cry in agony forever.
The world needs Christ. People need the Savior who will snatch them out from the flames of hell. The “requiem” continues to fade as eternal death approaches them. But how will they hear about Him without anyone telling them? Am I being faithful to the Lord who has given everything to me? Am I being faithful in sharing the Gospel, which is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Rom. 1:16)?
This is a small portion of what I’ve learned during my trip in Southeast Asia. God has taught me so much through it. Even though I lived there for 11 years of my life as an MK, I barely scratched the surface of the deep spiritual darkness. After learning so much more about the region during my trip, I have a greater burden for lost people and a greater view of the Gospel. I thank God for the opportunity and for His faithfulness to His people.
You are worthy to be praised. You have every reason to pour Your wrath on us, but instead You sent Your only Son to die for us. We ask You that You will send more laborers to the harvest. Thank You for Your willingness to use sinners like us even though You don’t need any help. We are willing, so please use us to share the message of eternal life for the sake of Your Name. We love You, and we want to love You more.
In Christ’s Name we pray. Amen.
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The CGO Blog
Written by the CGO staff, with guest posts from students and other faculty/staff at BJU to provide thought leadership for missions in a new millennium.