During our vacation to Chiang Mai, the dorm girls went to the temple on the mountain-- Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. The trip was twisty, mildly uneasy, but very eye pleasing up the mountain. As we reached the temple gates, vendors selling essence sticks, prayer bells, and multiple tourist goods surrounded us. It was really shocking to see a place of worship so run over with selling things. We jumped out of the taxi and headed for the huge number of steps up the temple—only to be stopped by our driver who informed us we had to buy tickets to get in. It was about a dollar for entrance and fifty cents more to take the elevator. To normal tourist that might not be much, but for us girls who had been living there for little over a month, it was about the same price as a meal.
We walked the steps to the temple, watched as little girls dressed in cute traditional Thai clothes sold their looks to the hungry tourist for pictures. When we reached the top, we had to hand our tickets over and take off our shoes—we were entering “holy” ground. We walked more steps and entered the temple grounds.
A dark shadow hung over the place—partly because of the actual shade of the clouds but also by the depravity of the place. There were statues of Buddha everyone, monks selling more goods and their blessings, “fortunes” being handed out, foreigners and true believers chanting prayers around the main statue, prayers bells being hung. It was a lot of lost to take in. We walked around the temple, viewing the events, analyzing the rituals, praying.
As we were walking, I saw a little girl huddled in a corner, head down. I bent down to see if she was all right. She jerked up, surprised to see me. I talked in Thai first and then realized she was Chinese and was able to use my rusty Mandarin. I made her smile, showed her God’s love. The clouds opened up some. We shined some light into the dark.
As we left the temple, we found a flower garden. We were so ecstatic—until we figured out they were all fake flowers. But it really spoke to me. Things cannot grow or prosper where there is no life.
Being there, I saw no happiness. I saw no hope—and if I did, it was all given to a statue that could do nothing for them. Their prayers go unanswered and go to an empty, metal form. I was so saddened. But I was also very refreshed in my faith. What a wondrous, loving, always listening and working God we serve. And even more: what a wonderful gift it is for us to give the light and love of Jesus to those we meet.
|Prayer bell: "stop the hate and violence. Love all people. --Dara"|
|Monk giving blessing|
|Shoes outside the temple|
|Little Thai girl waiting to take pictures and collect money|
"The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine." Isaiah 9:2