What a blur!
Wow, has it been that long already? The last few weeks have been quite the blur, with the holiday season kicking into full gear. I’m sure it has been the same for you out there reading this, right? The Christmas season sure does have its way of sneaking up on us, then rattling our brains, emotions, and busy schedules in a such a way that it all seems like a blur. Well, the same is true for us here – but, just a little bit different.
In the country of Thailand, Christmas is not an actual celebrated holiday. Being that this is a primarily Buddhist nation, Christmas really has no place in their way of life. It’s just another work day. However, as we’ve come to know from living in the Thai culture, any reason to celebrate will be welcomed by all! This has lead to the incorporation of otherwise inherently Western holidays into primarily large city culture, as well as some other outlying areas. Due to the larger volume of foreigners in places like the Bangkok region, it is not uncommon to see hotels, store chains, and super-malls embracing holidays like Halloween, American Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter… and, although their decorations may be the same, and special foods and meals are featured to be similar to home, there’s still something missing. It seems all that has been imported is the commercial side of each holiday – crazy costumes & candies, turkeys & bread, Santa & his reindeer, and the Easter Bunny. (Still sounds a bit like home though, hmm? Think about that for a while…)
In addition to the weather still feeling like the heat in August back in the Midwest, the presence of family gatherings and solemn reflection that we are so often used to experiencing back home aren’t there. Speaking exclusively about the season we’ve just come out of, the Thai Christians do not see the Christmas season as a time to celebrate with family, host special meals or traditions, or even reflect on the past year and what it held for them. Nope. This is prime time for evangelism! So, the busyness of our season here comes not from preparing meals, buying gifts, and travelling to the homes of loved ones – our busyness come from reaching out to the community and presenting special programs in the public schools. Yes, I said the public schools!
It seems everyone is curious about this “Western holiday” of Christmas, and teachers love to have foreigners come and explain just what it is to their students. And, as an added bonus, we are also native English speakers – the school is able to provide the children with the opportunity to practice their language skills with real, live foreigners. What an opportunity! We were able to go into these assemblies (usually 3 rounds in each school, by age groups) and teach students about the real meaning of Christmas, no problem whatsoever. There was the story of Jesus’ birth leading into a basic Gospel, testimonies from missionaries about how they celebrate Christmas with their own families back home and what Christ means to them, among so much else. In an effort to not come off as only religious teachers, we also incorporated games and songs in order to aid the children in their English comprehension. We were able to present our message, as well as provide the teachers with what they wanted for their students – English exposure and an explanation of a holiday quite foreign in their own culture. These photos are only from the first event we were a part of, but there were many more to follow – even one this week, after Christmas had already passed! Praise God for such a wonderful chance to get out there and teach the children (and their teachers as well!) when they are most curious!
What kept you busy during your holiday season this year?