Hat Yai, in Southern Thailand, is a land full of idols. Everyone believes that it is better to have more gods to protect them, so that at least one of the gods might be “correct”! Hat Yai is a city where less than 1% is Christian.
In the Bible, Acts 17:16-32, Paul was greatly distressed to see that the city of Athens was filled with idols. Paul went first to the synagogue to reason with Jews and other God-fearing people, and also debated with people in the marketplace every day. Some philosophers also debated with Paul because he was preaching about Jesus and the resurrection. What was the result of Paul’s preaching in a city filled with idols? In verses 32-34, we see that some scoffed at him, some wanted to hear more, while others followed Paul and believed. This passage shows us that when we share the gospel, we may face rejection, scoffers, those who want to hear, and even people who believe.
Beginning in 2016, we received a number of short term missions teams from SCAC. There have been 6 teams over the past 2 years. Many team members said that before the missions trip, when informed that one of the ministries was to hand out gospel tracts, they had thought that handing out tracts was simple. But amazingly, when sharing experiences on the last day, everyone agreed that the easiest job – handing out tracts – had given them the greatest shock.
I remember when I first came to Hat Yai, I was just as terrified of handing out tracts, especially in an environment where I did not know the language. I was particularly afraid of rejection from people who would not only reject me, but also give me angry looks. The 6 short term missions teams mentioned that on the first day, the missionary had made an announcement, saying that everyone had to finish handing out all their tracts, or else no one would go home on schedule. Because of the missionary’s words, everyone was very nervous, and worked hard to hand out tracts. Not only this, but some teams were even required by the missionary to make sure the tracts were handed to people, and not simply placed at shop entrances or car windshields. Also because of the missionary’s requirements, everyone was “forced” to keep a smile on their faces, perform the wai (the greeting in Thailand), and put the tract into the other person’s hand. Even though there were those who refused to take the tract, through the Holy Spirit’s power everyone was able to cheerfully hand out more than 2000 tracts to both Thai people and tourists from other countries.
The greatest gift on earth
Due to the language barrier, some team members did not know the other person was rejecting them, and so would continue to give them a tract, smile, perform a wai, and walk away. Some team members had never handed out tracts before, so they prayed fervently for courage, and finally on the third day, handed out a tract for the first time in their lives to a happy recipient. Some team members, upon handing out the tract, were met with great enthusiasm to hear the gospel, so the missionary was called over to share the gospel. Some team members said they had never been so bold as to hand out tracts in front of all the idols…
All this helped each team experience the power of prayer and the presence of the Holy Spirit, even spurring on each team members to pray before handing out gospel tracts. I was especially thankful that even though everyone had looked down on this ministry initially, in the end it was because of this ministry that all experienced the leading of the Holy Spirit, and broke the psychological barrier of sharing the gospel.
I believe Christians can learn to hand out gospel tracts in any circumstance. For example, when buying something, we can give a tract to the cashier (in a language they can read). When giving presents during Christmas, we can add a gospel tract. During Chinese New year we can add an appropriate gospel tract or Bible verse card into the angpao. When giving employees their salary, bosses can add a gospel tract, or when giving gifts to co-workers we can also add a gospel tract, and so on.
After all, Jesus Christ is the greatest gift on earth. We do not need to worry what the result will be, because Acts 17:32-34 already shows us the result of sharing the gospel: There are those who will reject and scoff, but also those who want to listen and believe. As Paul said, “But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice (Philippians 1:18)