by Erin Kerber

Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer described Christian community as ‘not an ideal we have to realise, but rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate’.

‘The more clearly we learn to recognise that the ground and strength and promise of all our community is in Jesus Christ alone, the more calmly we will learn to think about our community and pray and hope for it’, he said.

In this broken and often individualistic world, Bonhoeffer’s words may seem unrealistic. That is until we hear a story like Khun Dye’s, a young mother and wife living in Ban Huay Pong village in northern Thailand.

Along with most of her community, Khun Dye believed that the physical and spiritual worlds were intertwined. She understood that the spirits of her deceased ancestors would reward her if she remembered them with offerings and punish her if she failed to do so. These guardian spirits could be appeased by offering food, money and belongings through the medium of a doctor spirit.

The pressure to give substantial offerings to the doctor spirit greatly impacted Khun Dye’s family. They struggled to have enough for their daily lives and became fearful of the response from their deceased ancestors as what they could offer diminished. But the Holy Spirit was making himself known to Khun Dye. After becoming the first Christian in Ban Huay Pong, Khun Dye’s aunty showed her the movie Jesus. What touched Khun Dye most was how Jesus healed sick people and prayed for them, and how he helped the disabled and most vulnerable.

Presbyterian missionaries from Korea placed a sign in Khun Dye’s village, with words about Jesus. When she became sick, Khun Dye remembered the Jesus from the movie and the sign. Instead of giving sacrifices, she prayed for healing from God. She was healed, Jesus began to dwell in her heart, and she began to yearn for baptism.

At that time, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Thailand evangelist Khun Pim was making regular visits to the village. Khun Dye sought out Khun Pim to ask about this powerful God who would heal without sacrifices.

About eight years ago, Khun Dye was baptised.

The night before he was crucified, Jesus prayed to his Father for his disciples. It was not a prayer for great faith or courage. It was a prayer for unity – not only for his current disciples but for all his disciples to come. Jesus knew our ability to love one another, and work together would be the greatest challenge to the credibility of our witness and the advance of his kingdom on earth.

Khun Dye’s story is not about one person telling her about the gospel. It is about a true Christian community who, despite differences in faith practice and theology, are bound together in Christ. As the Holy Spirit worked through their simple actions and humble service, Khun Dye encountered Jesus’ transforming love, peace and grace.

Erin Kerber is LCA International Mission Program Officer.

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