At the Wat Chedi Luang temple in the center of Chiang Mai, Thailand, there is a program that provides the opportunity for monks to practice their English…and gives us the space to ask them any questions that come to mind. So, while my parents were here, we decided to go.
(my parents + Kate)
Meet Cody – he’s 23 years old and teaches English at a monk “high school” about half an hour outside of the city. He answered all of our questions about what it’s like being a Buddhist monk, what his day-to-day looks like, and then we jumped on little opportunities to bring Jesus into our conversation. We sat and talked with Cody for a little more than an hour. Before we left, he said, “You should come teach English at my school, to the little monks!”
Um. YES PLEASE.
My parents left before we had the time to go teach, but after we got our new teams, mine quickly jumped on the opportunity. It was such a great experience that we got the rest of our squad to join in on the second day!
I may call them “little monks”, but technically they’re called Novices and in reality, they’re almost all teenagers. ….meh, I’m still going to call them “little monks” 🙂
Our school day began at 8am, with the monks doing their morning chants. We watched in respect, and it was incredible. At 9, the chants were finished and all of the little monks went to their respective classes. We went into where the English class was held and was greeted with 20-ish monks yelling, “Good morning, Teachers!”
The head monk in that class, Alan, had everyone split off into groups with one member of our team in each group. There were about 4 or 5 little monks to each of us. We spent about 30 minutes talking with them, asking them questions about their lives, family, hobbies, why they became monks, what they want to be when they grow up, and so much more. They answered our questions and then asked us some as well. I don’t know exactly what I expected with their answers, but it really was how you would think a conversation with a teenage boy would be: they love video games, and sports (even though monks can’t play sports…they can sure watch!), they don’t like to read, school isn’t their favorite, and they want to know what girls look for in a guy. Some things are just universal, y’know? Haha.
We did that with the 3 different classes both days, along with games centered around English words. Y’all, monks are so cool and so much fun. We talked, we joked, we laughed, we got kinda competitive, and we ended those school days wishing we had had more time.
I learned a lot from those kids, though. Truly. They work hard, they love well, they don’t judge others, and stand firm in their beliefs whether those around them do or not. They’re for people, 100%. That’s it. They knew we were Christians and they still excitedly invited us into their space.
I wish we as Christians could follow that example more. There’s been so many times where “standing firm” in our Christian beliefs resulted in the demeaning or dehumanizing of another individual. I’ve been on the receiving side of an aggressive Christian, condemning me because of a slightly different perspective, and it’s not fun – and, as hard as it is for me to admit, there have been times where my faith has come off aggressive and off-putting to others as well (also, not fun).
All I’m saying is, people around the world are seeing America, an universally assumed Christian country, tear itself apart. It breaks my heart! I don’t necessarily have answers, I don’t know where to start, & I don’t even really know where exactly I’m going with all of this. I do know I saw more of the Father’s heart through some teenage monks than I’ve seen in most of my Christian friends’ post on Facebook, so I just want to encourage you to take a look at every move you make and ask the Lord where He is through them all – I believe He’ll show you where He is, and I believe He’ll show you where He isn’t. Then, I guess, go from there.