Soon after arriving in Thailand, Danielle and Jacob attended the wedding of Danielle’s friend from her previous assignment in Bangkok. In this excerpt from their autumn newsletter, they write about this new cultural experience which offers an insight in Buddhist traditions and worldview. These types of encounters help RI workers to better understand underlying cultural values, felt needs, and ways to effectively share the gospel.
The day before the wedding ceremony was a busy time of preparation. The women spent most of the day preparing food. They showed us how to make a banana and rice dessert that is cooked inside tightly-folded banana leaves to make a sweet treat. The men also helped prepare food by slaughtering a pig and cooking it over a fire to make the meat dishes, such as larb (minced pork) for the festivities.
The wedding ceremony began at 7:30 a.m. when a group of monks arrived at the house and directed the ceremony with burning incense and chanting. The leading monk would chant a phrase, followed by the other monks and everyone else (except us) repeating the chant. We wanted to be an encouragement for the marriage of our friends without endorsing beliefs that are contrary to our faith in Jesus. We hope that we were able to walk this fine line as Jesus does; meeting people where they are, and leading them into relationship with him and the Father.
“We wanted to be an encouragement for the marriage of our friends without endorsing beliefs that are contrary to our faith in Jesus.”
The next part of the ceremony was a ritual of giving things to the monks, or “making merit.” First, the bride and groom gave each monk money and a handful of sticky rice. Next, each person in attendance took turns grabbing sticky rice from their own baskets and loading the monk’s baskets with the rice. Then, the bride and groom gave each monk trays of food. The last part of the ceremony with the monks was a ritual of pouring water into a bowl and passing the bowl to each monk for him to put reeds into the water and shake the liquid onto the couple as a symbol of blessing.
After the monks left the house, a dowry of golden jewelry and money was given to the bride’s family. Then, a respected leader of the community led some more chanting and blessing of the couple. Again, a liquid, this time we think some type of white wine, was spritzed over the couple as well as everyone as a symbol of blessing. Everyone seemed quite surprised by this, since usually they use water. Rings were exchanged, and sai sin, a string-tying ceremony followed. Everyone in attendance was invited to tie strings around the couple’s wrists and speak words of blessing to them. This was also the time when people gave gifts of money to the newly married couple.
After the ceremonial part of the wedding, the wedding feast and festivities began. After the meal, most of the guests left the house. We were invited to rest so that we wouldn’t be tired for an evening of more food and karaoke!
On the day after the wedding, we drove with the newlyweds to another province on the eastern border of the country. We went to the top of a mountain where we could see for miles around. At the mountaintop, we saw two huge statues: one of Buddha and one of a dragon.
After a month of living in Thailand, we have continued to learn about and realize the prevalence of Buddhism and animism and how these affect people’s worldview and culture. We are looking for ways to share Jesus in this culture that is so different from what we’ve ever known. We want to share how Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection is good news, specifically to the Thai people, and how he wants to bring healing and transformation to all of creation.
Please pray for Jacob and Danielle as they continue learning how to best live out their faith among Thai Buddhists. We also invite you to ask Jesus to point out the people in your life who you need to “meet where they are.” Ask Jesus to help you overcome potential discomfort and challenges to bring encouragement and light to them.