When faced with various problems and obstacles, the Buddhist teachings Boaz learnt growing up had little impact on the situations. It was when he met Jesus that his life changed.
Buddhism has played a significant role in Thai society for centuries as the primary religion of over 95 per cent of the population. Thai Buddhism is a branch of Theravada Buddhism, which is the oldest surviving major branch of Buddhism. It was introduced to Thailand in the early Ayutthaya period, between 700 and 300 years ago. Buddhism is intertwined in Thai culture as Buddhist religious sites, such as temples, are highly important as community centres, places of religious ceremonies and sources of cultural learning. Additionally, Buddhism has inspired much of Thai art and architecture through Buddha images, murals and temple architecture. Boaz P. (Thailand) spent three years serving onboard Logos Hope, one of OM’s ships. Here, he reflects on his experiences growing up in a Buddhist home.
I was born into a strong Buddhist family. My mother taught me to believe and follow the teachings of the Buddha. Her principle goal in life is to try to do good things to alleviate the effects of karma that will happen in the future, including the next life.
I had the opportunity to become a monk when I was 25 years old to learn the teachings of the Buddha. Many Thai families believe that a son must be ordained at least once in his lifetime in order to lead their parents to heaven. It is considered a great merit, and being born a man is considered a privilege for Thais in traditional cultural beliefs. I was ordained for three months and spent that time learning the teachings of Buddha and searching for the meaning of life.
However, when faced with various problems and obstacles, what I had learnt from Buddhist teachings did not help heal the situations. I therefore sought to find spiritual support in various forms, such as worshipping images and sacred objects that I hoped would help improve my life. Many Thais, in general, seek divine miracles or famous images –– regardless of what religion they belong to –– hoping that they will find answers and solutions to their problems. It is a belief that has been deeply rooted in Thai society for a long time.
What I found was that these things could not fix anything at all. They gave me hope for a short period of time yet did not create any stability in life, either physically or mentally. But every problem and challenge in my life that I had to face was resolved and improved when I met God through reading Scripture, and I knew the truth of life through God's teachings. My life started to change from the inside out until my family began to feel it.
Being the first Christian in the family is not easy for Thai believers. We have to live a life that is completely different from those around us, including in our family, among friends and at work. I clung to the teachings of Jesus when faced with the many questions, doubts and concerns of people around me. This is probably no different from many new Christians who are facing doubts and questions from the people around them today. But when we cling to the truth from the teachings of Jesus, we will be witnesses to others. My mother and family are starting to realise that God exists, but it may take time for them to believe and understand deeply.
Jesus is the answer
Christianity plays an important role for a number of young people in my country who came to Christ through relationships with other believers, churches and Christian organisations. They see Christianity as a foundation that gives them meaning in life and helps them face the challenges of life with mindfulness and strength.
Factors that keep young Christians committed to their beliefs and faith in God include personal experiences of God's love and mercy, such as receiving God's help in solving problems in life or receiving warmth and comfort from God in the face of adversity. Also, being raised in a strong Christian family and community and studying and learning more deeply about Christianity.
Young Christians in Thailand are trying to adapt and cope with the changes taking place due to technology and globalisation and are trying to present Christianity in a modern and accessible way to attract more young people to the gospel. For example, developing modern and creative Christian media and activities and providing counselling and assistance to young people with problems in life.
Join us in prayer for Thailand. Pray for Jesus followers to be lights in their communities and for the churches and Christian organisations as they reach out to Thais. Pray for those who are seeking answers and everlasting peace to look to Jesus.