When we moved to Isaan a few years ago, we had some contacts, who seemed genuinely interested in the gospel. But after some months, most of them were gone. Later, we realized that they were afraid of their community, because there were people who told them that if they became Christians they would not be able to use the village Temple and would not have people help them or come their or their near ones’ funeral. This is the fear that is instilled in would-be Christians and it continues to disturb some of our new believers.
When we heard of a church member’s death last month. He and his wife had been active members of our church for almost three years. But when he died, his children wanted to have a Buddhist funeral. On the day that he passed away, we went to their house and helped with making arrangements in the house. When we talked to the family, it was very clear that they did not want to include us in any of the ceremonies. We had hoped that we would at least have an opportunity to pray at the house and share the gospel, for after all, he was one of us, but no, none of us from the church were given any recognition, and no mention was ever made of the deceased being a Christian. We told the wife that we would be praying for her and her children, and that we would come to the funeral. His body was cremated in the village temple. It was a humbling, and at the same time, a thought provoking experience for us.
This incident started a series of discussions among our believers. “They got his body, but his soul rests with God” but was this enough? When some of our members heard that our very own church member was given a Buddhist funeral, they seemed more relieved that we didn’t make any claims to the body. But at the same time, some others started telling their children that if they should die, they wanted a Christian funeral.
In a society where you cannot really decide where the culture stops and the religion takes over, because they are like links of a chain and you can’t take out one without touching the other, it is often hard to decide how far we should go. And death and the funeral that inevitably follows it, is still a big concern for new believers and also a huge block for those who have an interest in Christ. So we pray for wisdom in dealing with things that we do not know lest we make unnecessary blunders.