On Monday 8 October we went to Phuket, in the south of Thailand for 5 days. We were there to have meetings and see if this is where God wants us to be. We will soon write more on what is happening behind the scenes as we following God’s leading on our next steps.
Even though we have been in Thailand for over 6 years, there is still so much we continue to learn along the way. We know that part of the month of October Thailand celebrates an event called the ‘Vegetarian Festival’… Sounds harmless doesn’t it! For all these years living in Bangkok, it seemed to have a harmless vibe to it.
The festival has it roots in Chinese Taoism and is a celebration to the nine emperor gods and happens during the ninth Chinese lunar month every year. There are many Chinese and Chinese Thai, in Thailand, so the festival has become a fixed event in the Thai calendar. It is now a mix of Taoism and Buddhism. In Bangkok’s China Town and many stalls around the city, they switch to only selling vegetable/vegan based dishes (ahaan jay – อาหารเจ); those that are participating in the Vegetarian Festival will abstain from eating meat, following a very strict vegan diet for 9 days as a way to cleanse their bodies. Many wear white from head to toe. The air is filled with the sound of loud fire crackers, beating drums, clashing symbols, the temples are dressed with lanterns, candles and filled with people making merit. The smell of incense fills the air, Chinese dancers and dancing dragon costumes parade past in a flurry of bright colours.
In Phuket we saw a different side to this festival. Phuket is the where the Vegetarian Festival is thought to have originated
from, since over 30 percent of the population have Chinese ancestry. The festival starts with the lantern pole raising ceremony, which happens across many temples around the island. The lantern pole is supposed to attract the 36,000 gods of the Chinese pantheon.
Then there are rituals held to invoke the gods along with fire walking, bladed ladder climbing and the nail bridge crossing. The ceremonies also take on a more gruesome twist with parades around Phuket. Spirit mediums walk with knives, saws, fish hooks or any other items capable of piercing the bodies and faces of those that are possessed. Those that are possessed believe they are acting as mediums of the gods and will puncture their faces and bodies believing that the Chinese gods will protect them for harm and little blood scarring from the self mutilation.
As we walked around Phuket one afternoon, we could hear the pounding of the drums, symbols, raised voices and loud fire crackers popping in the distance. It was heading towards us, we caught sight of row upon row and group upon group, of people dressed in white and spirit mediums dressed in brightly coloured and highly embroidered and patterned aprons, holding swords and knives. The police appeared from no-where to stop the traffic at the intersection to allow the parade to pass though, we stood on the corner, not wanting to cross the path of the parade. The cacophony of sounds became louder, more confusing, as each group stopped in the centre of the intersection and began yelling and beating themselves with the swords and knives they were holding. We could see where some of them had already used large sharp objects to pierce their faces, as deep marks and fresh scars marred their skin. Many of them looked possessed, their eyes bulged, entranced and bewitched, with each strike some of them drew blood from their bodies.
I could hear Paul quoting the verse “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and of a sound mind…” The verse that came to my mind was “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth…” I could feel the tears stinging my eyes not from fear, but as I looked on as each group did the same act, my heart broke. I began to think if this is breaking my heart, how much more much is it breaking God’s heart to see His Children so far from Him, yielding to gods and spirit that they believe are calling them to self mutilate and appease them in this way.
From a western prospective it would be easy to think that in the UK, an event like the ‘vegetarian festival’ would never happen. However, how different is this from halloween? As Christians in the west, we are quite sheltered, and because we do not see the rituals or ceremonies that happen alongside halloween, we see it as harmless… It is just about costumes and trick or treating right?. Wrong! Halloween is effectively no different from the vegetarian festival – It is a time of evil, darkness, witchcraft, fear, death, honours the devil and darkness and more than likely has many rituals that go alongside, but we just don’t see.
Wherever you are in the world or whatever your understanding is of spiritual warfare. As Christian, when confronted with evil or the enemy in any shape or form, we don’t need to hide away, or shake with fear. We do as Christians need to be aware of the battle that is happening and know that it is very real. Sometimes it hard for us to understand, because as humans we think if we can’t see it or feel it then it is not real or true. God clearly reminds us of the spiritual warfare happening – Ephesians 6:10-19 The powers of darkness does not have the final say ever. When we place our faith in Jesus, we are in a position of VICTORY always!
I like the way that Priscilla Shirer explains it from her Bible study series The Armour of God: “The enemy’s approach is not just aimed at individuals. He has a collective cultural and global methods designed to derail entire nations and people groups from God’s intended plan. He carefully crafts and proliferates philosophies, doctrines and moral perspectives across entire demographics in order to steer whole societies away from God.”
For God to open our spiritual eyes to the spiritual warfare we can not see in the natural.
For us not fear or be afraid of the enemy, because God has already overcome the devil, darkness and death. We are victorious ALWAYS!
To be able to discern what is from the enemy and not just think it is just ‘harmless’.
Pray against the enemies deception, lies and the ways he tries to deceive us.
To be in a position to share God’s truth, light and love, with those who have not yet encountered Christ.