It grieved me to hear what she was saying. After the split of an influential church in Thailand, she was more than disillusioned. She and her daughter both.
Her adult daughter was the first of the two that I met. Sometime late last year on a trip to another city. She’s a friend of a friend. When the daughter found out that I was a Christian missionary, she immediately told me that she used to be a Christian too. Her church split. It was messy. Incredibly messy. And she left the church and returned to Buddhism.
She said it so matter-of-factly. But I wondered where her heart was really at.
The mother moved away to a larger city down in Central Thailand and was warmly welcomed to her new neighbourhood by a loving group of Mormons. They came to her house and helped her with various things that needed fixing. They showered her with love and support. They gave her another book – in addition to the Bible. The Bible alone wasn’t enough. They taught her, equipped her, shaped her thinking, hopes, desires, future dreams.
I heard all this in the middle of a street market on Sunday evening. Crowds streamed like a river around the small cluster that we formed in the middle of the walking street. Mother and daughter were enjoying a few days together in a city in which neither of them lived anymore. Introductions were made, jokes were shared, smiles and laughter floated up into the night sky. And then the daughter told us that her mother was also a Christian. And so the story unfurled.
Heartbroken I listened. Desperately wanting to say something, anything to encourage her to return to the one and only Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Grace and nothing else but grace. Jesus Christ alone.
“Mother,” I said, calling her the polite title in Thai. “The Bible that you had when you went to church here in Chiang Mai, do you still have it?”
“Yes,” she replied, smiling. “And the Mormons gave me another book as well.”
“I think the one that you used when you lived here is better. You only need that one.” My words fell flat.
“Oh the Mormons use both.” And still she smiled at me. Polite. Polite as ever.
It was time to start heading home and we all began walking in the same direction. I told the mother that I would pray for her. She, in her friendly way, put her arm around my waist and I put mine around her shoulders and we walked and talked some more.
I reminded her of the words in the Bible that say not to add or take way from the words that are written there.
“If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” Revelation 22:18-19
“Yes!” she answered enthusiastically.
“And,” I said, “thank God for the truth that Jesus spoke. His words are true.”
“Yes, thank God for that Jesus’ words are true.”
I knew her thoughts hadn’t changed by what I’d said but I hoped and still hope and pray that at least she would think about what we had talked about.
By this time, we had to part ways and as we hugged I told her again that I’d pray for her. Her daughter hugged me as well.
Dear Dear and I talked about what had just happened and commented in how it had seemed that the daughter, our friend, had purposely revealed to us her Mother’s new found faith in Mormonism, as if she too was concerned for her mom but didn’t know how to address it. We talked about how it was the beginning of a relationship with her mom and a continuation of one with her daughter and how we can build on what we shared tonight. We talked about how quickly the mother taken to me. Even in the silence that then followed we talked; our silence communicating the depth of the sadness over what we had heard.
Days later the silence is with me in my truck. At work. In my home as I cook dinner.
And I pray. For the mother to return to the only true Gospel. For more opportunities to build on these relationships. For the daughter, our friend, to return to following the Lord Jesus Christ with all of her heart, soul and mind.
For others who were so deeply affected by a church split that shook the lives of Thai across many areas of at least Northern Thailand.
For me to grow in loving others better – believers and non-believers alike. For the body of Christ to step out of our comfort zones, out of our routines, to risk getting messy by being involved in loving ways in other people’s lives.
And my list continues…
10. Bundling up in cosiness sent from Canada with love.
11. Unexpectedly cool weather in hot season.
12. Rain washing all things new.
13. Cats who cuddle up on laps.
14. New-found coffee shops with close close friends.
15. Finding new corners that produce great productivity.
16. Hot Earl Grey Tea on cold days.
17. Cold, iced Earl Grey Tea on hot days.
18. Dry weather for getting laundry done after days and days and days of non-stop rain.
19. Last minute get-togethers with fun friends.
And now for some of those ugly things that turn beautiful…
20. Things that shake us and spur us on to know Him deeper and share Him more broadly and boldly.
21. New awakenings.
22. Opportunities just waiting for redemption.
23. Stories that aren’t yet finished.
24. Transformation in process.
25. The smoothing out of the rough bits in one’s life.
26. Diamonds on the verge of being formed through high-pressure, high-temperature conditions.
27. Waiting and relying on Him to move because that’s the only way forward.
“Now to him who is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine, by the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever.” Ephesians 3: 20, 21
28. His love.
29. His power.
30. His thoughts and imagination.
31. The Word of God.
32. The Gospel of grace.