In a village where more than 95 per cent of people are baptised and actively involved in the life of the church, it would be easy for the local congregation to lose a sense of urgency about mission.
But not so for the Lua people of Banden in Thailand’s Nan province. Knowing what it’s like to live without the hope of the gospel, our brothers and sisters in the Lutheran congregation there remain passionate about local mission even though only a handful among them don’t yet believe.
In May I had the joy of seeing the fruits of this tireless commitment while visiting with some recent converts. Tont and his wife Mi were baptised just a few months ago as God answered years of prayers from their daughter Wat and evangelist Pim who is supported by the LCANZ.
Tont was a spirit doctor and with Mi lived under the tyranny of spirits who demanded their total allegiance. The spirits demanded all they had – each moment of their days and every possession. Home life was confined to a darkened room where they lived in fear of upsetting the spirits, and despairing of the life their children would inherit when they could no longer appease the spirits through daily obligations.
The spirits had forbidden Tont to allow Jesus’ name to be spoken in their home and so the opportunity for nearby Christians to share their hope in Jesus was limited. However, as the couple’s health failed, they finally asked for the church’s prayers and were open to the gospel. The Holy Spirit provided physical and spiritual healing as they came to believe that the story of Jesus included them!
Mi shared that, as they were preparing for baptism, the efforts of the spirits to drive them away from Christ intensified. Plagued with illness and overcome with the spirits’ threatening voices, Tont and Mi were unable to sleep for days and described how a dark shadow enveloped their lives. Convinced they would not survive until the Sunday service, they called on the pastor to baptise them immediately. On their humble, rickety porch, this ageing couple received new birth by water and the Spirit and became our brother and sister in Christ.
Mi explained that after their baptism the shadow lifted, the spirits were silenced, and she was at peace for the first time. After a lifetime as strangers in their village, they formed friendships and were finally free. Mi’s greatest longing each day now is to sit in church and listen to the word of God that has changed her life. No longer living in the shadow of demanding spirits, they now live in the light of Christ’s love and face the future with the certain hope of eternity in that same glorious light.