Posts

Tripitaka

I am finishing up two months of studying Theravada Buddhism. I have been doing a weekly interview of a well-read devout orthodox Thai Theravada Buddhist as a part of my studies. My seminary class starts in a week and I will need to focus on that so I will set this study aside for a season. I do not have the freedom to share much of what I have discovered and how I feel about it. It is an extremely sensitive issue to broach here. 

What I read in the พระไตรปิฎก Tripitaka surprised me. I had Western understandings and expectations, I’m afraid, and although I have learned about Theravada Buddhism from Thai adherents, I thought perhaps the Tripitaka readings would be different, that perhaps what I had been hearing were distortions and unorthodox expansions. I was mistaken. Reading it in Thai was certainly different than reading it in English. It is possible that in translation there are elements that the translator knew would be rather unpalatable for the Western mind and so perhaps interpr…

Connecting, Locally and Abroad

Thomas was a fellow student in seminary that became a friend. Thomas was unusual in that he was an artist and lived an interesting lifestyle compared to most folks in our little institution. He wore black jeans and Docker boots. He practiced yoga and subsisted on juice concoctions with Brewer’s yeast. He was a creative mind, a most diligent student, and I enjoyed our talks outside of class immensely. That year my husband and I were juicing and abstaining from meat as well. When we left for Thailand I continued to correspond with my friend. In Thailand we began to eat a lot of local food and there was meat in it. I remember in one message reading Thomas’s disappointment with our eating choices. I wrote a long reply. The gist of it was that for the sake of building relationships with Thai people we gave up, among other things, our healthy dietary practices. He wrote a gracious and understanding reply. Years and years later I saw him again. In the passing of time he had transformed into wh…

I am a Transplanted Tree

I do not know what “coming home” means anymore. I step off the airplane, that wormhole between one world and another, and suddenly I am in a space where I haven’t been in 4 years. It feels uncomfortable and strange. I no longer have my kitchen, my bedroom, my garden and my house, but I am a guest in someone else’s space. I can’t do the things I am usually doing at this new time; I will be on a completely different schedule. I will be seeing completely different people, I will be eating completely different food.
Everyone talks to me about how wonderful it must feel to be home, but I am not home, I am in limbo. I don’t know what’s going on in the lives of my friends and family anymore, and I am trying to absorb the changes in my home country that have taken place while I have been away. Things do change; culture and society are not static. When I come home there are big and small changes in everything. I find watching the news on t.v. every evening strange, and as I watch it I feel lost…

Missionary Shoes

Strange things transpire when we step into the shoes of a missionary. We are fitted into this institution called missions as vocation, and in that moment we receive a new identity. This identity has many friends and enemies, and it is much bigger than ourselves, but all of a sudden we are representatives of it, and are identified with it.
The implications of this upon our personal lives are far-reaching, and I do not think that we understand all that will ensue when we slip those shoes on. For one, the expectations are enormous, you could say the shoes are mammoth and we will never, ever fill them. We will never feel adequate or “enough”-who can be the Apostle Paul? Or Hudson Taylor? Or Adoniram Judson?
Our relationships will change. We are entering into lives that are so unusual and weird that no one except another missionary will really understand, and even they won’t understand completely because they are from a different background. It becomes more difficult to share our lives with …

How Thais think about words vs. actions

Image

Appropriate Dressing

Urban Thais put a lot of time and care into their appearance.  First impressions and appearance are very important in Thailand.  Thais are careful to dress appropriately and people who dress well are treated with more respect.     Many expats coming to Thailand are often in the role of a teacher in some form or another.  Teachers are held in high regard and Thai teachers dress very conservatively.  Men wear dress pants, collared shirts, and closed-toe dress shoes with socks.  Some may be required to wear button down shirts with ties.  Faces are clean-shaven, or, if there is any facial hair it must be meticulously groomed.  Even outside the school one is expected to be presentable.  Men should never go shirtless.  For women in a teaching role, skirts must be at the knee or longer, with a slip.  The blouse must be conservative, with no cleavage, flimsy see-through or tight fitting fabrics.  Hair and jewelry should be presentable and neat.  Outside the schools, teachers are also careful n…

Money

Money is probably one of the most challenging aspects of missionary work in Thailand.  This is a sensitive and difficult topic, but one that is of value, especially for people new to this country.  If you ask any seasoned missionary about difficulties they have had concerning money here in Thailand, they will have stories to tell you.  We all have our stories and I will tell you one of mine. In 2001 we moved from the city of Chiang Mai to the isolated village of Wang-Ai-Poe.  This small village was 40 minutes from a decent fresh market and a 7-11, so for Thailand, that’s pretty isolated.  The missionaries who had been there before us remembered the days of no electricity or decent roads, but that was before our time. We embarked on this exciting church-planting venture with Thai partners, something we had been praying for and hoping for from the very beginning.  We also worked with 20-year missionary veterans who had been instrumental in leading the Thai couple to Christ.  In the 3 year…