Bangkok and Bali

Posted on July 11, 2011 by Dr. Jerry Rankin in Down Home in Mississippi

When we lived in Indonesia we were only a 2-hour drive from the Bali Straits. At least twice a year we crossed on the ferry and enjoyed a few days on the beaches of this beautiful, exotic island. There were few hotels at that time but comfortable accommodations could be found in seaside, thatched-roof cottages for less than $20. That’s no longer the case, but we just had to take a couple of days on our nostalgic journey back home to enjoy the familiar scenery of Bali and relax under the shade of swaying palms and a cool ocean breeze while nibbling exotic fruit.

Then it was on to Bangkok where we lived from 1984 to 1988. At least this is where the family lived while I traveled around Southeast Asia and spent extended times of ministry in India and South Asia. Each of our children completed high school there, and we had the painful experience each missionary family eventually goes through of putting them on the plane to return to the U.S. for college.

Now a congested mega-city of 12 million people, you don’t have to go very far before encountering traffic gridlock. My office was rented space at the back of the international church; we could get there in seven minutes on Sunday, but the trip never took less than 45 minutes during the week. In fact, I could walk home quicker than driving, though I seldom opted for that long trek in the heat and humidity. Each afternoon we also had the nostalgic experience of monsoon rain showers that temporarily flooded the streets and some homes.

It was a privilege to preach for the international congregation at Calvary Baptist Church last week (pictured). In the heart of Bangkok, the church has effectively been a mission platform with Burmese, Karin and Nepalese congregations also using these facilities as well as the work of Thai Baptists. It was in the youth group at Calvary where our son, Russell, met his future wife, Angela…and the rest is history.

We were pleased to fellowship with many IMB personnel, not only those who serve in Thailand but families who came from surrounding countries, including India and China, for visa renewals and medical needs. It was a special blessing to connect with our YWAM friends, Yvonne deSantos and Steve and Marie Goode, with whom we bonded years ago and have continued to be a support and encouragement to us. Steve is currently global director of YWAM Mercy Ministries; Bobbye has maintained the relationship that began in a prayer group with Marie and Yvonne and other ladies 25 years ago.

As with other stops on our trip, Bangkok was the climax of a culinary journey. We could not get enough of the Thai cuisine; fearlessly eating at street stalls, whether mealtime or not, renewed the lifestyle we still cherish. Sticky rice and mango was in season–those of you who have been blessed to indulge in this delicacy, eat your heart out! We devoured the luscious rambutan, papaya, mangos, pompelo and other fruit unique to Southeast Asia, but were disappointed to miss the durian season. This large, hard-skinned thorny fruit is controversial among foreigners. It has a repulsive odor that some have described as rotten onions in an outhouse. But if you get past the smell, the pasty, pudding-textured pulp inside around the seeds are heavenly.

I don’t think we ever lost a sensitivity to the lostness of the Thai people, but having been away the pervasive spiritual darkness seemed more evident than ever. The temples and ubiquitous shrines were beautiful, but the cultural bondage of the Buddhist faith continues to be a formidable barrier to the people knowing God. The blatant carnality and hedonism of such a massive, pagan city was heart-breaking and reminded us that our life-long devotion and compulsion to reach a lost world must not cease.

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