I came to Thailand about two weeks ago to work at Christian University of Thailand (C.U.T.) It is a campus located 31 kilometers west of the big city of Bangkok and has around 3,000 students in bachelor, masters and doctoral programs. My assignment is to teach English, Psychology, and Religious Studies in the Multidisciplinary College of C.U.T. Years ago, I taught at Thammasat University, a prestigious public university in Bangkok, so I knew a little of what to expect.
What was different? I was greeted, upon entrance to the C.U.T. campus, by the large, framed Christian mission statement and the clock tower with the cross encased in its center. But, even before I saw the mission statement or the clock tower, there was a large picture board of the King and Queen of Thailand at the entrance gate. It was there to honor the long reigning monarch and symbolically lift the reverence the Thai people have for their king, queen and royal family.
I was immediately connected to the importance of the “newcomer” to Thailand to appreciate the culture of the Thai people. The freedom to learn in a Christian environment is a high priority and the freedom to be loyal Thai subjects to king and country.
When the news filtered in through emails that beloved King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Rama IX. died on Wednesday, October 13, 2016, I was with a group of English teachers in our C.U.T. offices. Later at dinner with some of them in a local restaurant, the official newscast came across the airwaves. I witnessed the grief and sadness of everyone around me, young and old, students, teachers, shop owners and shoppers, saying that their “father” died. He was a beloved king and many people said they could not imagine Thailand without him as their leader, their king.
Truly, their tears and grief moved me to remember that in the face of death or national tragedy mutual loss unifies a nation and has power to bring harmony and continued peace. The King of Thailand held people together in his unwavering devotion to the unity of his people and their well-being. Whatever their religious belief or station in life he gave them inspiration and hope for the future.
As Christians, we know that our “King,” the Holy One, the Christ, intends us to dwell in unity and harmony with all people. I never imagined I would be at C.U.T. to hold some of the young teachers while they wept and assure them of God’s loving presence in their time of grief, but that was what I did that day. Sometimes we don’t know what will be involved when we enter a new place or new time in our lives, but we trust the words of the Psalmist who confirms that the star of Truth appears.
Psalm 133 (Psalms for Praying)
Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters dwell in unity!
It is like vistas seen from a top of a mountain one has climbed.
Or like the stillness of a sunset after a long day’s work.
It is like the shimmering rainbow breaking through a summer rain.
When men and women dwell in harmony, the star of Truth appears!
I’m glad I have come to Nakhon Pathom, Thailand to work again with the Thai people in this higher education setting. It is a privilege to be in a university that has Protestant-Christian roots and is connected to the Church of Christ in Thailand, our Global Ministries partner. Thank you for your prayers for the Thai people as they grieve the loss of their beloved king, and thank you for your prayers for me and my new teaching ministry here.
Rev. Dr. Ann M. Rogers Brigham, Global Associate, serves with the Church of Christ in Thailand. She serves as a professor with the Christian University of Thailand.