Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Today was a Buddhist holiday (I am still trying to figure out exactly what it was and will update the blog as soon as I know), so we all got up early to get dressed up in traditional Thai clothes (see pictures below). We also had the pleasure of getting to visit with Wow (our coordinator) who was here visiting her father, Wat (our host), for his birthday.
From my understanding, this holiday is about alms giving to the monks at the temple as a way to remembering those who have passed and to earn good merit/luck for your family presently. Wat and his mother had prepared 20 baskets filled with rice, snacks (and other food items), paper, pencils, soap, shampoo, and other various sundries. Basically the baskets contained all that one would need, including a stick that had money tied to it. This tradition is like nothing I have ever seen before in my life. When we pulled up to the temple and found the family spot, which they reserve each and every year) we unloaded the baskets and I was in awe at the vast number of families who also brought 20+ baskets of their own. The entire inside and outside courtyard was filled with people, families, and baskets.
A prayer done over the loud-speaker so everyone could hear and then the monks began walking around the temple grounds. People would invite a monk (whether it was their favorite monk, a revered monk, an old monk, a poor monk, etc) to their table. The basket would be placed in a chair next to the monk who would then say a prayer over the basket and for the family/person, water from a bottle is poured onto the ground, and then the monk takes the basket and the money stick.
This morning was a beautiful display of kindness and generosity and goes right along with our experiences here thus far. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity, for myself and my family, to experience this wonderful tradition. Our host family also provided us the opportunity to not just be a spectator today, but also a participant. They gave one of the baskets to us and I made the money stick (with a lot of help and guidance from grandma and Wat). Wat then wrote down, what I understood as a prayer request for safety and protection. When we invited a monk to sit down with us, he read from the note card, I poured the water on the ground, as he continued with his prayer, we bowed and thanked the monk, he took the basket and disappeared into the crowd.
As we sat as a family and listened to the monk pray over this basket and our family, I was overwhelmed by a sense of peace and grace, something that I could only describe by the Holy Spirit. I am so grateful for God’s plan and the strength He has given to our family to follow His path. Even in this completely different culture, amongst people who believe and follow a very different religion than me, I don’t feel anything other than peace. My family has been welcomed by these wonderful people and God has continually provided for our needs during the last 3 months and I am amazed that we have already completed 1/4 of our time-serving others abroad.
Another neat thing happened yesterday, as we were visiting with the family members at our table, we were approached by two people that we found out were American Peace Corps Volunteers. I felt a little bit of home talking with these folks and it was wonderful to hear about their programs and what they are doing here in Thailand. One was working at the government office helping with youth leadership skills and the other was teaching English.
Today was a beautiful day for our family. We were able to experience an important Thai Buddhist tradition and I pray that our children were able to soak in a bit of this beautiful culture.