“Christian community is not an ideal we have to realize, but rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate. The more clearly we learn to recognize that the ground and strength and promise of all our community is in Jesus Christ alone, the more calmly we will learn to think […]
“Christian community is not an ideal we have to realize, but rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate. The more clearly we learn to recognize that the ground and strength and promise of all our community is in Jesus Christ alone, the more calmly we will learn to think about our community and pray and hope for it.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer
In this broken, often individualistic and sometimes confusing world, the words that Bonhoeffer used to describe Christian community may seem unrealistic. That is until we hear a story like Khun Dye’s, a young mother and wife living in the village of Ban Huay Pong in northern Thailand.
Along with most of her community, Khun Dye believed that the physical and the spiritual worlds were intertwined. She understood that the spirits of her deceased ancestors would reward her if she remembered them with offerings and punish her if she failed to do so. These guardian spirits could be appeased by offering items such as food, money and belongings through the medium of a doctor spirit.
Over time, the pressure to give substantial offerings to the doctor spirit greatly impacted Khun Dye’s family. They struggled to have enough for their daily lives and became fearful of the response from their deceased ancestors as what they could offer diminished. But the Holy Spirit was making himself known to Khun Dye. After becoming the first Christian in Ban Huay Pong, Khun Dye’s aunty showed her the movie Jesus, which had been dubbed into the Thai language. What touched Khun Dye most was how Jesus healed sick people and prayed for them, and how he helped the disabled and the most vulnerable. She was struck by how open Jesus was to diaconal work and she began to ponder on his love for the marginalised.
Presbyterian missionaries from Korea placed a small sign in Khun Dye’s village, with words about Jesus. Khun Dye read the sign and was curious about the Jesus who was spoken of. When she became sick, Khun Dye remembered the Jesus from the movie and the sign. Instead of giving sacrifices as she would normally have done, she prayed for healing from the Christian God. Khun Dye was healed and as Jesus dwelt in her heart, Khun Dye began to yearn for baptism.
At that time, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Thailand evangelist Khun Pim was making regular visits to the village. Khun Dye sought out Khun Pim to ask about this powerful God who would heal without any sacrifices being offered to him.
About eight years ago, Khun Dye was baptised. After her baptism, Khun Dye noticed she was not becoming sick so often. She wondered if, rather than helping her to become well, the doctor spirit had given her ‘medication’ which kept her sick, so that she would be required to give more for her cure.
In John 17, the night before he was crucified, Jesus prayed to his Father for his disciples. It was not a prayer for great faith, courage or sound theology. It was a prayer for unity- not only for his current disciples but for all his disciples to come. Perhaps Jesus prayed this prayer because he knew that our ability to love one another and work together would be the greatest challenge to the credibility of our witness and to the advance of his kingdom on earth.
Khun Dye’s story is not about one denomination, or even one person, telling her about the truth of the gospel. It is about a true Christian community who, despite their differences in faith practice and theology, are bound together in Christ. As the Holy Spirit worked through each of their simple actions and humble service, Khun Dye encountered Jesus’ transforming love, peace and grace.
Khun Dye’s journey as a disciple of Jesus has not been easy. Many of her neighbours and friends have told her to turn away from God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and return to ancestor worship. But the peace which Khun Dye has in her heart now is unrelenting and she cannot imagine living without God’s grace in her daily life.
Many of our partner churches are working in new territory for the kingdom of God; therefore, spiritual attack is their everyday reality. As a member of a congregation, school, or family, or a couple or individual, you are invited to commit to praying for our partners in mission. For regular prayer point updates, go to www.lca.org.au/international-mission/act-now/pray
Read more stories about our partner churches in Thailand at https://www.lcamission.org.au/category/stories/international-partners/thailand/