Thai festival Loi Krathong, like many other holidays around the world, is the perfect mix of joy and sadness.

Above me float a thousand rice paper lanterns. Flickering orange flames dot the darkness, puncturing the Asian sky with prayerful afterthoughts.

I am reminded of E. E. Cummings’ poem, Sonnet IX from Tulips (1922):

 

the hours rise up putting off stars and it is
dawn
into the street of the sky light walks scattering poems

on earth a candle is
extinguished      the city
wakes
with a song upon her
mouth having death in her eyes

and it is dawn
the world
goes forth to murder dreams…

i see in the street where strong
men are digging bread
and i see brutal faces of
people contented hideous hopeless cruel happy

and it is day

in the mirror
i see a frail
man
dreaming
dreams
dreams in a mirror

and it
is dusk      on earth 

a candle is lighted
and it is dark.
the people are in their houses
the frail man is in his bed
the city
sleeps with death upon her mouth having a song in her eyes
the hours descend,
putting on stars…

in the street of the sky night walks scattering poems

 

Our family lit three lanterns with our Thai friends this evening, one for me, one for my wife and one for my daughter. My 11 month old child watched in awe as our lanterns rose slowly, joining the symphony of thousands of Thai celebrators.

Only a few hours earlier today, we joined our Thai friends in Wat Faham—one of the 268 Buddhist temples in Chiang Mai—as they burned incense and bestowed gifts upon the orange clad monks.

My daughter crawled on the carpet as monotonous chanting echoed within the 500 year old wooden frame of the temple.

 

 

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I whispered to my infant missionary kid, “It’s good to be here. Many Christians would tell you, ‘you shouldn’t go to a Buddhist temple.’ But it’s good to bring light to the darkness. Enjoy being the light!”

Like our Within Reach Global partner pastor, Richard West, says, “Don’t run from the darkness. Simply turn on the light!”

I was happy to be part of the Loi Krathong festival by joining our unbelieving Thai friends at the Buddhist temple. It made me think of Dave DeVries’ tweet earlier today:

 

 

Christians who are weak in relating to unbelievers might want to consider the scandalous ministry of Jesus, who thrived in the midst of non Christian crowds!

 

 

I am sitting on a sidewalk in Chiang Mai, Thailand writing this. The once brightly lit lanterns of Loi Krathong are waning as the dark night sky consumes their flames. Hollow gray carcasses of a thousand prayerful lanterns are ebbing toward death in slow motion. One just landed in front of me, crumpled and lifeless.

An unanswered prayer.
A hope deferred.

The eyes of the nation are lifted toward the sky tonight. Some are hopeful. Others are breathing their last hope in 10/40 Window wind.

Loi Krathong, like many other holidays around the world, is the perfect mix of joy and sadness.

But the Light of the world is still flickering in the night sky, scattering hopeful poems of salvation and redemption and life. And I am determined to be light in the darkness with him.

 

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Photo credit: wikipedia

David Joannes
Founder/President at Within Reach Global
David Joannes is the co-founder and president of Within Reach Global, Inc, which serves the advance of the Gospel in some of Southeast Asia’s most difficult places. He is the author of The Space Between Memories: Recollections from a 21st Century Missionary. David has a love for language, culture, and creative writing, and for the last 20 years, he has witnessed God’s Kingdom established in forgotten parts of the globe. David lives in Chiang Mai, Thailand, with his wife, Lorna, and their daughter, Cara.
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