Surprising Sprouts

Jan 27, 2021 | Sports Friends Thailand/SE Asia

Growing up in a nation that has deep roots in religious tradition, Thai men will commonly spend a portion of their youth or young adulthood as Buddhist monks. Their time dedicated to the temple can range from days to years, though few make a lifelong commitment. During this time, the future leaders of family and society practice humility, simplicity, and turning their attention to spiritual things instead of the material. This may be done out of personal desire for spiritual growth, as a way to build up good luck, to earn favor and respect in the eyes of others (such as future in-laws), or to express gratitude and honor for their parents. The boy’s time as a monk is held in respect, sometimes celebrated as a “coming-of-age”, an expected milestone.

About 10 years ago, a young boy named Lawmae was growing up in the mountains of Thailand. He was ethnically from the Karen hill tribe people group, and his family was very poor. Both of his parents worked on farms but also had to forage in the jungle to find enough food. Coach Somchai got to know Lawmae and invited him to play on his Sports Friends team. For three years, Somchai spoke into his life, encouraging him as he grew. The coach also shared the good news of God’s personal love for Lawmae, the magnificent rescue of Jesus’s sacrifice and resurrection, and the eternal hope and joyful purpose that Jesus offers to all who will believe Him.

Lawmae was able to finish primary school while living with his family, but when he approached middle and high school years, his family could not afford to pay for his education. Thus, it was determined this was the time for him to be ordained as a Buddhist monk and continue his growth and training in the temple.

For years, Lawmae was discipled in the ways of Buddhism, living a very simple and structured life. He would go round the community in the early mornings to collect alms or food donations for his daily meal. He would participate in Buddhist practices and train himself to focus his attention and energies on the unseen. He would orient his life around spiritual awareness. And finally, he would finish his middle and high school studies.

Once Lawmae completed his time of temple service and study, he returned to his village. He soon sought out his old coach, Somchai. Even during years dedicated to his development as a respectable Buddhist, the seeds of the gospel grew. Lawmae asked Coach Somchai if he could take Jesus as his Savior. What he had discovered during his absence was that he wanted to follow the living Messiah!

In late 2019, Lawmae was baptized as a disciple of Jesus. Now he leads as a youth minister in his local church. How amazing it is to walk with faith, sharing Jesus intentionally along the way, and watching how God takes every seed of truth and so willingly brings forth life.

“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish His work. Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together.” – John 4:34-36