Read: 1 Thessalonians 5:5-11
Christian friends and church members here in Thailand keep asking me about the United States in the current COVID-19 pandemic. They are shocked and concerned that the disease is causing so much heartbreak and tragedy, and they want to know how to pray.
Because of this I want my readers in the U.S. to know that you are loved. People all over the world are praying for you. I am reminded again and again the words of the hymn, “The Day Thou Gavest, Lord, is Ended” (John Ellerton, 1870, alt.), where it says,
As o’er each continent and island
The dawn brings forth another day,
The voice of prayer is never silent,
Nor die the songs of praise away.
The sun that bids us rest is waking
Our kindred ‘neath the western sky,
And hour by hour new lips are making
Thy wondrous doings heard on high.
I’m told that this same hymn was played when the British government officially turned Hong Kong back over to the Chinese government in 1997. Today, it is likely that we are at another moment when the “day God gave us is ended.” Historians are saying now that many cultural and economic changes in the world have been rather sudden, instead of gradual.
Folks here in Thailand, like many people around the world, are beginning to talk about the “new normal.” Of course, it’s hard to know what it will be. Will we have required temperature-taking stations and bottles of hand sanitizer at the entrance to every business, temple, church, government building, historic location, etc., etc., as we do now? Will people wear masks from now on, as the law currently requires? How long will the curfew (11 p.m. to 4 a.m.) go on? Will there still be checkpoints at every border between provinces? When will commercial airlines begin to come into the country again? People wonder, but do not complain, because such criticism is not legal. It is patriotic to protect others, especially elders, who are greatly revered. (Even I receive great respect for being “older.” If and when I return to the U.S., I will probably find myself missing that.)
Like people around the world, Thai people also have a sense of humor, even or especially in times of great stress and danger. A local artist has begun hand-painting face masks based on the mythical characters of the Ramakhien (the Thai word for the Indian saga of the Ramayana). I received a very fierce one as a birthday gift from a pastoral colleague here. It is the face of Nang Akaad Tdalai,” or, “Whirlwind Woman.” Something like that. She is one of thousands of characters in the epic—and she fought on the side of the bad guys. I look seriously frightening when I wear it.
I know that friends and supporters in the U.S. also wonder about me and if I feel safe where I am. I know it is partly due to the lockdown in my apartment building in early April—as there were two COVID-19 cases among the residents here. Interestingly enough, because of the national emergency laws, Thailand has been one of the safest places in the world. Total COVID-19 cases as of this writing: 3065. Total number of deaths: 57.
The above hymn ends with words of hope and longing; something many of us are feeling these days:
So be it, Lord; thy throne shall never,
Like earth’s proud empires, pass away;
But stand and rule and grow forever
Until there dawns thy glorious day.
So continue encouraging each other and building each other up, just like you are doing already. —1 Thessalonians 5:11, CEB
Anne Gregory serves with the Church of Christ in Thailand. Her appointment is made possible by your gifts to Disciples Mission Fund, Our Church’s Wider Mission, and your special gifts.