The smoke of a thousand villages

“The haunting specter of the smoke of a thousand villages in the morning sun has burned within my heart”, David Livingstone once wrote in his journal. A while ago I had an experience like that. I sat in a small plane over Isaan. I looked out of the window, and enjoyed the view. Green paddy fields stretched out in irregular patterns. The darker green of trees provided a beautiful contrast.

Then dusk set in.  Nature disappeared. The faint white lights shining from houses became an undertone to the  bright orange light of street lanterns. As it got darker, more and more lights became visible. When the last sunlight had disappeared, I started to count. From my window I could see over a hundred villages. I bent over to look out of the window on the other side of the small propellor driven plane. I saw another almost hundred villages.

I thought of David Livingstone. “The haunting specter of the smoke of a thousand villages in the morning sun has burned within my heart.” It is very well possible that there is not a single church in the two hundred villages that I saw. When will the light of the Gospel break through in the Isaan night? I shut my eyes to spend time in the darkness with God. “Lord, send people to this area to tell the thousands of villages in Isaan about you.”

Who is going to be the answer to this prayer? “…that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

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