The work is progressing well in Chiang Mai. We do seem to have busy and not-so-busy periods in terms of the number of students. Right now the numbers are down, so we need to continue to explore ways of increasing awareness of our facilities and free Bible-instruction programs.
We gained a new student last week. An older Lawa man (the Lawa are a small ethnic group from Burma). He is coming 3 times a week for 2-hour sessions; he is using the 40 lesson course. Joe, our Thai student (who rides his push bike several kilometres to the BEC) is very keen on showing others the things he is learning about the Bible, even putting together a small advertisement. We spoke with him about it on Sunday and he has decided he wants to teach himself, but he doesn’t know enough yet to be able to do so.
I have had some interesting conversations with a couple of our students recently. For example, Bhintan, who I visited recently at his home, has been grappling with the teaching of the trinity with me. He is beginning to budge ever so slightly in his view. His wife, Hallah, a former student of a theological school, now with 3 young children, was sitting with us while we talked. Her English is quite poor to the point of almost being nonexistent. Occasionally, Bhintan would translate something for her. She evidently maintains some independence from her husband on theological matters as Bhintan mentioned to me that she does not accept the trinity. Often when I hear something quite startling, I need to have it repeated to ensure I haven’t heard something I wanted to hear. Bhintan assured me I had heard him correctly. I asked the obvious question. Turns out, Hallah cannot make any sense of it and therefore does not accept it. “1 is not 3 and 3 is not 1,” she evidently says. She also apparently has said that just because the son died that doesn’t mean the Father has died, as well. We talked for 3 or 4 hours about various things and I still hold out hopes that Bhintan, a Pentecostal pastor (though without the bombast and certitude) will cease to be fooled by this aspect of the 2 Thess 2 deception of God.
Then there are some recent conversations with Ebenezer, a 21-year-old Lahu we met back in February. He is also teaching us that there are still independent thinkers in this world of ours. Fairly recently, Ebenezer covered the Trinity in the 40 lesson course. He has had some questions about it, but the true, Biblical declarations about the nature of God and the nature of His son, seem to be settling with him. He came last week intent on further understanding the wilderness temptations of our Lord. We spent about an hour talking about it. He then asked me about baptism and what is involved. We got onto understanding of Bible principles and teaching. I mentioned that the subject of the devil and evil spirits was important. Ebenezer became quite serious at that point and told me he had covered that before here at the BEC, even stabbing his index finger on the table for emphasis. I took the opportunity to ask him, if he has already covered those subjects, whether he believes in a fallen-angel devil or in evil spirits. He said he did not. We then had quite an interesting exchange, Ebenezer speaking in his slow, deliberate English. It went something like this:
“So you don’t believe in evil spirits or demons, Ebenezer?”
Shakes his head. “Others tell me about them, but I am not afraid.”
“You are not afraid of them? Do you believe they are real?”
Shakes his head again. “Other people say so, but I am not afraid.”
“Do you think evil spirits or demons exist?” (We had already used the term, “exist”, earlier in the evening.)
“No,” shaking his head for emphasis.
“So when you say you are not afraid you mean you do not believe they are real?”
“I find that amazing, Ebenezer. You say you do not believe in evil spirits or demons, but all around us in this part of the world, everyone believes in evil spirits.”
“As a boy I was not afraid.”
“You mean you did not believe evil spirits were real even as a young boy?”
“Yes. I will tell you story. When I used to walk to school [in Burma] I would pass a large tree. Bats would eat the fruit of the tree. Below the branches were little houses. People would bring food to the houses.”
“They were houses for the spirits, were they?” I interrupted.
“People would take food to the houses for the spirits, would they?”
“Yes. And when I would walk past I would eat some of the food.”
“You would take food from the houses and eat it?”
Smiling broadly: “Yes.”
“Didn’t anyone see you?”
“Yes. Some people saw me.”
“What did they say?”
“They said a Christian should not take something like that.”
Eyes twinkling: “Yes. But I said the food will go to waste. It is there to be taken.”
“I find that amazing, Ebenezer.”
“So you don’t believe in evil spirits or demons.”
“How about Satan and the devil. Do you think it is supernatural; a fallen angel?”
“What is it then?”
He points to his head.
“Really. That is amazing. What about the trinity teaching.”
He looks at me.
“Do you think Jesus is God?”
“He is not God.”
And so it went.
Since then, Ebenezer has asked again about baptism, wanting to know what happens when the Christadelphians baptise someone. He questioned me in some detail. During the same conversation he also asked about our Memorial Meeting – how it is conducted, what happens, etc. So if I’m not being overly optimistic Ebenezer is certainly giving deep thougth to the the things he is learning.
So it may well be that we are making progress with our teaching. We plant and water and God gives the increase. May our Heavenly Father grant us an increase in this part of the world.
Karen and I caught a bus the other day to Mae Sot, on the Myanmar border in central Thailand. We went to talk with Pooneh again. Last time here – about a month ago – Pooneh for a second time mentioned speaking in tongues to me and asked my opinion of it. Pooneh is associated with the evangelical churches here in Thailand and has been taught by others how to speak in tongues. He has had difficulty speaking in tongues, though others have been able to in his presence. So when I spoke with him earlier in the week to let him know we would pay him and the others another visit if he and they were available, he said they were available. I then told him we would talk about what the Bible tells us about Spirit gifts and speaking in tongues. “Praise the Lord,” was his reply. So we’ve got 2 days to begin to talk about Spirit “gifts” in Old and New Testaments.
While we are away, Dan and Gaye do a great job of holding down the fort in Chiang Mai.