in thailand 2006 – iii

Coming in from Cambodia was strange, as all of us whities got shunted off to one place (Poi Pet) where we had to wait over 2 hours for our bus to come.  I knew the casino bus was running to Bangkok for a cheaper price, but knowing how things often don’t go as expected, i decided to play it safe and take one company all the way to my final destination.  Mistake this time.  Oh well, i arrive in Bangkok probably around 3 or 4 hours later than necessary, and in the middle of a demonstration against the current prime minister.  Just glad to catch a bus to the Chinese Church, where the pastor insists i stay with his family instead of in the primary room at church.  It sleeps very well, except that the covering sheet is more like a quilt, and causes a bit of sweat in the 29degree Bangkok nites.  Having a real bed to sleep on is quite a luxury, thank you pastor 🙂

Wanting to sleep, but knowing that things need to get done, i wash the red Cambodian dirt out of all my things, and go to Khao San area to get a visa for M, then over to Pantip plaza and get some CD-Rs to burn the movie i hope to make of some of my travels.  I’m really looking forward to meeting the two young men who come to English lessons, and who join readily in Bible reading and singing worship songs, but only one of them is here tonite.  I go out to eat with the Filipino teacher, and when it is time to pay, he acts like he will pay it all.  I insist on paying my part, and then he says “It’s my birthday”, so i happily pay for both of us, even buying a little sweet and giving it to him.  After taking a bite or two, he says laughingly, “It’s a joke, it’s not really my birthday”.  This is one of the rudest, most unchristlike things i’ve seen on my whole trip.  (No, he didn’t offer to pay either.)  I tell him that we as Christians must always speak the truth, because the liars will be outside the New Jerusalem.  He just smiles.  I forgive him, and pray that he repents.

Still feeling a need to relax, i take a 2 hour mini-van ride up to Mission College the next day.  I re-meet some friends first met in Sabah, and am very glad to see everyone again.  Having wireless internet access is just icing on the cake 🙂  We have a worship service in the evening where several of us share things, and they make plans for a spiritual-week seminar at the elementary school.  Speaking of, the principal of the school found me and asked a few pointed questions about the original 1858 GC, showing that she is really into it, and understands some of the issues with just one quick explanation.  She wishes all her teachers to have a copy, and i promise her i’ll get them to her as soon as they arrive from America.

An empty house is made available for me in the evening, and it is super nice to be able to sleep in, and not worry about fitting into someone else’s schedule for a change.  The air-con was lovely too, but i think i lost more red juice to mosquitos in this one nite than any other nite on my whole journey – ouch! itch! ouch! itch! itch!

The next day i give my transformer to one of the Japanese guys, and he seems really happy for it.  I hadn’t used it even once, and it was very heavy, so glad to be rid of that.  Not so happy for the 4,000jpy wasted, but that’s living and learning.  Now i’ll probably need it next week – ha!  I meet the Iraqi again, and ask what’s happening with the Arabic GC translation.  Nothing.  What about the 2 emails i sent you? eh?!  I send him one right there, and he looks at it in his Yahoo box, and exclaims, “You’re Daniel Winters”? haha. ouch.  Hopefully we can keep in contact better now.  His computer got some virus that fried his hard drive, so he has been having some problems to deal with.  The Vietnamese pastor’s GF’s sister goes to school here, so i hand over the present i’ve carried from Vietnam.  She is ecstatic about it, making the little extra weight and space it took up all worthwhile 🙂  While waiting for her in the girl’s dorm lobby i meet the Thai GC translator’s best friend, who just happens to be very close with the pastor up in Chaing Rai who has been imploring me to come visit.  Hmmm, God might be trying to tell me something here….  I’m introduced to my first Burmese person, and ask some questions about the country, quelling some of my doubts and fears.  Sure wish the kids would show some respect during the prayer meeting, as many of them were talking and playing with cell phones and reading magazines etc.  The white kids seem to be among the worst! 

I’m told by the man who recommended the Thai translator that the words cannot be translated into Thai because it is too different from English, that just the basic meaning needs to be translated.  Telling him that i know how translation works, and have translated into a much harder language than Thai, and yes, the words CAN and MUST be translated just rolls off deaf ears it seems.  Sure am glad the Bible i read was translated by people who believe in translating the words (formal equivalence) than in just the meaning (dynamic equivalence).  Dynamic equivalence means that in some instances we are reading the ideas of the translators instead of what God was really saying – not good!  But this is the “modern” way to go, and most all of the new Bibles in all the languages, including NIV, RSV, TEV, etc. etc. in English are translated that way.

We watch Ron Wyatt’s dvd and have a good talk with the friends from Malaysia.  A fan blowing directly on me in the nite reduces the mosquito bites to zero, and except for closing the bathroom door which automatically locks it (from the outside!?!) i sleep well in this empty, nice house.

The Thai translator the next day has translated “God could not blot it out” (in referring to Satan’s sin, as “God would not forgive it”.  She readily sees that “could” and “would” are very different, but has a hard time understanding that “forgive it” does not equal “blot it out”.  Yes, in this instance, it PROBABLY means that.  I think so too.  But that’s not what is written.  Just put in the words for “erase it” or something like that, and let it be.  We should not be interpreting it for the reader.  She gives the same spiel that the man who recommended her did, about Thai being very different from English.  But thankfully she seems much more receptive to the idea of translating the words, and after another explanation, and this concrete example, i think she understands.  We pray, and i believe God will use her to make a nice translation.

The Iraqi doesn’t mention a need for help, but seems worried that there is no email from his brother, so i ask if he needs help, and them give him a bit of this world’s goods.  Sure do wish someone would take this man to heart, and help him out with his school needs, and his daily living needs.  Here is a man who will probably one day be a great leader of the SDA church in Iraq, and he is in danger of falling completely out of school….

Before leaving MC, i go back over to the elementary school to say my thank-yous and good-byes.  The principal has a Filipino pastor in her office, so i just make a quick bow and “thank you”, but she calls out to me and i talk with them for a few minutes.  She really encourages me, more than anyone in a long time, as she calls me “Johnny Appleseed” (^-^)  I mention to her that JA didn’t get to enjoy the fruit of his labors, and she smiles knowingly.  She recommends the GC highly to the pastor, so i happily give him one of my dwindling copies.  Sure hope that box from America comes soon!

There is a man from Australia, a graduate of Avondale, who is passing thru on his way to do some volunteer missionary work in Ireland.  We have a nice discussion, and it sounds like things in Australia are as bad or worse than i thot in our SDA church.  The next day he stands up strongly for Spurgeon, causing me to pray to God that his eyes may be opened soon.

Sabbath i’m driven over to the B-K church over at the Mission Headquarters by a teacher at “St. John and Mary’s”.  He’s an American, and is quite the typical SDA.  I’m really getting more and more concerned as i see the role-models given to the native people is a far cry from the early Advent believer’s strong faith.  The “I’m OK, You’re OK” type philosophy, with its attending “unconditional love” theme is brought over and taught the people by word and by practice, so it’s no wonder the natives often keep their altars and work on Sabbath etc. etc.  Whatever happened to “Repent and follow Jesus”?  Guess it never was all that popular…..

The pastor at the B-K church is adamant that i do not have the original Great Controversy, that it is a different book i have, and that the original GC has been translated into B.  Nope, sorry pastor.  I get perhaps a bit frustrated and tell him that if he wishes to doubt, that is his privilege, but that i’ve been doing this work for many years and know this book very well.  Not until i go thru basically the same routine with another young man there, finally telling him that most of us SDA’s call this book “Spiritual Gifts Vol.1” today does he understand.  OK, good!  I find out later that this man used to be the manager of the SDA publishing house in his country!!!

A young man in the afternoon seems very interested, and spends around 3 hours with me talking about this book, and asking deep questions.  This is a great encouragement to me, to see people interested in this book.  You know, i’ve quit my country and my job and left everyone i love to spread this book.  You would think that there might be some important reason that would call someone to do this.  It sure isn’t for the money!!!  But most people shrug it off with a “Great Controversy?  Nice book”.  So i cannot go into much detail with them about the wonderful things God has shown me from that book.  And this attitude gets worse with the more theology training someone has (usually).  OK, enough feeling sorry for myself,,,pull yourself together Danny! ha!

At the AY meeting in the evening there is a lady from SA/USA who talks about marriage basically from a wordly viewpoint (check their money, are they stable etc. etc.), then i talk about the 3 Angels’ Messages, and show the anime on a TV screen to around 25 people.  The young man sends a email saying his retired pastor father may be interested in translating this book.  Actually, i want him to do it himself, but he is quite busy.  Please, if it is your will, impress on his heart God!

Sunday i did something. (i guess).

The American Embassy is one crowded place!  I get my tax forms, and walk down the street a few meters past the Netherland’s Embassy – no one – not even a guardman.  The US Ambassador’s house is in a huge garden, no doubt from a 100 years ago or more.  It reminds one of a plantation in the Old South – lovely.

Finally i do what i have been putting off, dreading.  Ever since about the second day into the first Cambodian trip, my tooth has been hurting.  What’s with that?  I’m somehow steeled for the worst, and when told i need a root canal with a pin and crown, it doesn’t surprise me, but the 16,000thb (400usd) cost causes an intense pain, OUCH!

I tell the doctor supporting the English language school at the Chinese Church, and he recommends his dentist friend just a short walk away.  This nite is spent praying quite a bit about what to do – to have the tooth pulled and save the money to use in God’s work, to just do the root canal for around 150usd, but not the pin and crown, risking a split tooth someday, or just doing the whole thing.  I email a few friends and relatives, and get some advice, and basically decide in my heart to go the 150usd route, and if the tooth splits later, just have it pulled.

With some trepidation i step into the dentist’s office the next morning.  His kids are sitting around the TV set, and his office is just four walls with glass door, not even reaching the ceiling, and with an old fan etc., not exactly inspiring confidence that he’s going to be on-the-ball here.  He bangs on a few teeth like the other dentist did, and says the old filling is cracked like the other dentist did, and says that there is food impacted under the filling causing the pain which the other dentist didn’t.  Uh?  I give him permission to take out the old filling, and it fills a bit better immediately.  He puts in a temporary filling, and says that if there are no complications, to come back next week for a permanent one for 500thb (15usd).  Thank you Lord!!!  I’m willing to sacrifice for you, but you did not call for that this time.  I know this body will turn to dust one day if you don’t come in my lifetime, and i will get a whole new body when you do return 🙂
I was able to find my American friend’s house.  We have been in contact by email for maybe a year or so, and it is really cool to actually be in his home after a bus, then mini-pickup connector ride – I found it!  He treats me royally, and we have some deep talk about spiritual things which both of us are thirsting for.  So nice to be with a kindred spirit.  His son is dying for attention, so we play with him a bit and read the story of Samson to him – more killing going on than in his slash and slice video games…

They insist on my taking a taxi back to Bangkok, and while the extra 3usd seems like a huge waste to me, they pay for my fare, and i accept, knowing that it will give them peace of mind to know that i arrived safely.  Funny that the taxi driver seems to have no idea how to get to this very well-known part of Bangkok, and relies heavily on my map, and seems to be frustrated with me for his taking the wrong bridge.  Sure wish he would learn to do his job well.

My M visa is supposed to be ready after 6pm.  I get there around 5:15 to see the shop closed, so finding a chair across the street, i sit down and wait.  What a parade!  This is like the pagan celebration prancing by with all their tattoos, pierces, half-nakedness etc. etc.  What happened with you Europeans??? (no doubt a few Americans too).  Why do even your old men run around outside with your shirts off?  It makes you and all your culture stands for as pretty backwards.  A man rides up on a motorbike around 6:05 and fortunately i see him pull out a blue thing just the size of my passport, but it doesn’t hit me for a couple of seconds that i have to go to the telephone center that is behind the closed travel office to pick up the thing.  I give thanks to God for letting me see that blue squarish thing, or else i may never have gotten a clue about what to do or where to go, as the travel office wasn’t going to reopen that day.

Instead of paying some travel agency an extra 5usd to do my Indian visa for me, i decide to go to the Embassy myself.  It is nice to see they have a system for affixing numbers, and then calling them off in a red LED sign above the appropriate window.  It took me a little while tho to figure out that the number didn’t mean anything, and people were just going up and getting there stuff done whenever they felt like it.  haha.  Welcome to Indian style – a semblance of order, but no, not really.  They soak me for over 75usd for a 6-month visa because i’m American.  I try to get some action on the 5 or 10 year visa that they do especially for Americans, but the man at the desk is quite gruff, and after asking me why i need such a thing, tells me to apply for it in my own country (then why the asking sir?).

I take a 200baht ride up to Chaing Mai in an ice-box, leaving at 7pm and arriving just before 7am.  Thankfully i was prepared, but still it is very cold.  Maybe i sleep 1 1/2 – 2 hours?  Then a ride in the back of pickup for 30thb to a bus terminal (knew something was fishy with that all-whitey bus), and pay 94thb for a 3 1/2 journey in a naturally conditioned bus to Chaing Rai.  There is a lovely Romanian/German lady who does camera work and plays etc. next to me telling me about her trip to a Persian country.  It is fascinating, and the time flies.  Fortunately i don’t forget to give a witness for Jesus too.  While not against it, she doesn’t say anything positive about it either.  Lord, may that seed sprout and bear fruit some day.

My pastor friend greets me, and while i’m in sleep-deprived shock, eat lunch with him, and then ride the back of his motorbike down a nice hiway, then up some dirt ride up into the mountains where it is quite nice 🙂  After a shower and nap, i feel like a new man, and give a talk at one of the church members’ homes in the evening with around 15 in attendance.

Sabbath is a beautiful day, and i go to the only SDA church in the world geared for the Mien people.  There are many SDAs among some of the other tribes around, but almost zero among the Mien.  The pastor is Mien, and is energetically trying to apread God’s word among his people.  Adventist Fronteir Missions has put a lot of work into this area also, and it is good to see a concrete example of how the Lord is working here.  As with other super-remote places i’ve been, everyone seems to have a cell-phone.  Sure glad no one gets excited because i don’t have one 🙂  The song service is around 45 minutes, then i give a talk about creation, then the pastor gives the main talk.  Everything is done orderly, and there are quite a few young people there.

It is difficult to do evangelism there, as the older people aren’t real comfortable with the young people’s language, and there are many who cannot read.  So some things are done in Thai, some in Mien, and some songs in English.  The pastor is wanting very much to study Chinese, and walking thru his village, i agree with him that knowing Chinese would widen his field of service tremendously, not just with his Mien people, but with many others.  He learns quickly, and we have a fun time with me reading the stuff with a Japanese pronounciation, and he with a Chinese one 🙂

We take a jungle walk in the afternoon, probably something that some foreigner would pay hundreds of dollars for, just trampsying over the hills and thru the banana trees etc.  Sad to see that much of the forest is being burned up, giving way to coffee and tea trees.  Well, guess they have as much right as anyone to do what they will with their property, and it is good to see them trying to better themselves, and make money to send their kids to school etc., but it is a bit sad at the same time to see the air here browner than most anywhere i’ve ever seen, except one time in Los Angeles, cough cough.

The next day we take a nice motorbike ride down the dusty road to a village around 15km away where the pastor has heard that a girl is interested in learning about the Bible and Jesus.  We stop in one village where it looks like everyone raises pigs – yucko.  We find her relative, who shows us his old house whose demolished ruins are lying about 3meters in front of his current house.  What?  Seems that he had back pain, and the witch doctor told him that’s what he needed to do.  Sure enough, it worked! (maybe the exercise is what he needed?!)  We go down the road some more, and find some workers on the steep hillsides hoeing away in the hot sun.  When we were riding thru the jungle, it was pleasant, but here where there are no trees – hot!  We find the mother and sister and brother of the girl, and pastor gives his first witness to this lady.  She seems receptive, and we pray with her before leaving.  The road home always seems faster than going out, and after getting my daily minimum requirement of red dust in my system when i take a drink from my water bottle (no cap), we arrive home where i beat my stuff into a cloud of red, and then wash it all out of my system.  Beautiful scenery in places, wish i could share it with everyone.  It would be a pain to live there tho, as the place we went to today is at least 2 1/2 hours away from the nearest town.  Like what do you do with a pregnant lady going into labor pains?  Put her on the back of a motorbike and ask her to hold on for dear life as you go up and down the rutted, dusty road?  I just praise God it isn’t the rainy season, as they say you lose shoes and things in the muck when you get stuck – yucko!

In the evening we visit almost every church members’ home.  It is interesting, that all 5 houses where the members live are all within about a 30 second walk of each other.  No members from across the road or over the little rise about 100m away.  Some of the members look to be serious, and some could care less.  One man has shot a beautiful hawk on the Sabbath for food, altho he isn’t in need – just hunt for the fun of it.  No wonder the jungle seemed devoid of life yesterday…  We go to a Sunday keeper’s house, and she is super-interested in what we have to show from Revelation, as her pastor never opens it.  We go over the 3 Angels’ Messages, and she accepts them.  The problem is, she works closely with and is closely associated with the Sunday church, and going to the Sabbath church, well, that might not sit too well……. We pray together, and i have a hope that she will be the one to open the floodgates for many of her fellow church-goers to come into the truth.  We really need some Mien churches in America, and seeing her video of one Sunday-keeping one in California inspires me with what could be done among us SDAs one day.

The 13th finds me on the back of the motorbike again, saying goodbye to this lovely place.  I pray that the Filipino workers here will want to stay and lead many people to Jesus, and most especially that the pastor can work to ground the young people in the faith, and lead them to a deeper walk with Jesus so that they will become on fire to work for their own people, so that the 3 Angels’ Messages can go among the Mien people also.

A 94baht ride to Chaing Mai where i guess there is a 200thb bus awaiting me.  No such luck.  The cheapest thing i can find is 403thb.  I wanted to take the train anyway, so pay 30thb to a motorbike rider (no haggling after the pickup guy said 60 and one other guy said 50, but after the 3 minute ride, i see i should have asked for 20, oh well)  There are no more sleeper-trains today unless i want super-deluxe – 1200thb.  No way!  I buy a 341thb ticket for a train leaving at 9:30pm, arriving Bangkok 12:30noon, and with no sleepers at all!  Should be interesting.  Now i’m in the waiting area where the advance tickets are sold, and the cool breeze when the air-conditioned room doors are opened is very welcome.  But the blood on my hands from squashing the swarms of mosquitos around me isn’t, ha!

NOTE: Post written March 13, 2006

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