It’s 2 a.m., and I can’t sleep. Not surprising, really, figuring it’s my first night back in Thailand in about five years.
I’m jet-lagged (20-plus hours in planes), dehydrated (highs here in Thailand and Myanmar are low 100s), and I miss my family (I’m here, and they’re not).
But somehow it’s all worth it. And I’m grateful to be here. This trip, I’ll travel mostly through Myannmar, a place I haven’t visited in nearly 10 years. A place where once, a military junta ruled the country (at least most of it), and visiting Christian pastors was either done in the middle of the night or under a tarp in the back of a pickup around military check points.
Now, with a more democratic form of government in place (heck, even the Christians are now holding local positions, who would’ve thought that?), I can’t wait to see some old friends and new places.
But I’m nervous. Not for my safety. No, I’ll be fine. I’m nervous for the growth of Christianity here. Because anytime there is a loosening of restrictions against Christianity, it seems the collective faith suffers. Numbers may surge, but commitment to faith often weakens. Jesus promised suffering for those who truly follow Him, and when that disappears in a people who have known it for generations, then I wonder how that changes the spread of Christianity.
I know I’m talking in extremes here. There are those who will and do follow regardless of the surrounding state. But hardship culls the crop, so to say, and those who really believe Christ as Savior, do not turn away at the tightening of the screw. I think the easier way to slip is when it’s easy to follow.
I’m not advocating a return to a harsh dictatorship, where imprisonment was at the whim of those in charge, and routinely soldiers visited Christian villages on Sunday mornings just to break up services and “hire” convenient (i.e. forced) labor. But I am advocating and encouraging a new look at how we share Christ in a more open country.
What I do believe is necessary is more opportunity to not just grow numbers but grow hearts. In Myanmar, like Thailand, people are mostly Buddhist or animist or some combination. Fear of retribution from their families and their gods often makes it difficult to leave an oppressive and false faith.
Perhaps these are just 2 a.m. musings, and they don’t mean much. Really, I’d rather be asleep. Regardless, I feel blessed to be here once again, traveling through a country I never really thought I’d see again.