For approximately 12 million people in the “City of Angels”, waking up to a rush of traffic and the smell of incense offered at spirit houses, shrines, and Buddhist temples to appease the evil spirits is the status quo.
Temples and idols are visible everywhere. Whether in the bustling business centers or in remote back streets of the city, where people openly engage in rituals and merit-making to futilely save themselves from the misfortunes of life and consequences of sin. During the journey to school or work, one will certainly spot some monks in their bright orange robes collecting offerings of food in their earthen pots… Providing for the daily necessities of the receiver as well as giving an opportunity for merit-making to the giver.
An impressionable teenager may walk past over 12 shady nightclubs and massage parlors along a 2 km stretch to school. Countless beggars – many of them disabled, orphaned, homeless, or victims of human trafficking – sit along the walkways and on the steps of buildings with outstretched hands or little cups begging. Others, trying to eke out a living, arrive at dawn with their food carts to set up on the busiest footpaths to catch peak hour traffic. Others resort to selling trinkets, gadgets, or services such as fortune-telling.
At night, the city comes alive with a shower of lights to lure customers into nightclubs, discos, bars, massage parlors, and other male entertainment businesses with gambling, liquor, drugs, ladies, and “lady-boys” in return for “a piece of the golden pie”. Contributing a huge chunk of the income for such establishments are thousands upon thousands of foreign tourists who come to Thailand for all of the wrong reasons…looking for a fleeting thrill or “good time” where evil lurks to enslave her unsuspecting victims.
Sometimes it is hard to find hope in the midst of these surroundings where the population seems numb to their spiritual plight.
All the while, the devil whispers in my ear: “Give up. Why even bother? There is nothing you can do here. There are too many people and some of them are too far gone. Go home, you have a bright future ahead of you. All of your friends and your family will be so glad if you go home. Your biological clock is ticking anyway, and it’s almost time to start a family. Do you want to raise children in a studio apartment without a kitchen? In a place like Bangkok?” His words breed doubt, fear, and anxiety.
But the Word of the Lord pierces through the darkness of the enemy and brings hope:
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” [1 John 4:18 KJV]
By His grace, Jesus died for me on the cross; but He also died for those still trying in vain to save themselves by earning salvation through their own works. Sadly, they live in darkness unaware that Jesus has already come to pay the debt for their sin. If we listen to the devil whispering in our ears, we miss Jesus whispering into our hearts. He is alive. His perfect love is our hope.
If we walk by sight and focus on the negatives in Thailand, we can become overwhelmed by the despair, bondage, hurts, and pains of the masses. Furthermore, we could lose sight of the fact that the birds are still singing and that some of the most beautiful flowers in the world are growing on the same dirty sidewalks.
Sometimes, hope flourishes in the middle of seemingly hopeless situations.
All we need is to walk by faith (for “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”), to believe in His promises, and to pray that He will teach us how to love others as He has loved us, with a love that “beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things”. I believe with all of my heart that God is at work in this city and all over the world, writing new stories of hope in the lives of those who choose to trust Him. These stories of His great works transcend time, borders, cultures, languages, and denominations. I believe He is, and was, and will always be the only Author of Salvation. And He deserves all the glory!
May my life be nothing but a pen in His hand to write His stories of hope..