Wednesday, October 11, 2006

A Monk Becomes A Pastor

As I was walking back from the village to the campus a guy came up behind me and says, “Hello doctor, out for a walk?”

Pretty obvious, I thought to myself, but knowing he was just being pleasant I replied, “Yeah, getting a little exercise.” Since his pace was faster than mine I expected him to go on by, but he slowed and spoke again.

“I wanted to take your class, doctor” (I don’t have a name, just a title), “but I am getting your notes from the other students. Maybe I can write you and you can help me in my research?”

I didn’t know this guy and wondered how he knew me or was even interested in cultural anthropology. Since my mornings are filled with teaching and I visit with students in the afternoons, I wasn’t anxious to counsel during my exercise time, but he kept talking and I kept listening. Half interested in his story he blurted out, “I was once a Buddhist monk.”

“You were a what,” I asked? Intrigued I asked him how he came to be a Christian. Here’s his story.

Peter (a Christian name he took after conversion) grew up in a Buddhist home. After high school he joined a monastery, which made his parents very proud. The monastery was on an island in Burma where he was isolated from the world for six years. Leaving the monastery he lived as a monk in a village for a year. He said he didn’t like other religions, especially Muslims. Peter said there were two churches in the village where he lived, a Baptist church and an Assemblies of God.

“The AG church always has loud singing,” he said, “which we Buddhist find offensive. That kind of music is like a sin to our spirit”

Peter decided to go to go to the pastor of the church and confront him about this music. He expected the pastor to be rude and ready to debate him on religion. But the pastor was not rude at all, was kind to Peter and they began to talk. Peter was so impressed with the kind spirit of the pastor that he started attending the church services. Six months later, after hearing the message about Jesus Christ he became a believer. As he grew in his faith he began telling his family and friends about Christ.

“What did your parents think of you becoming a Christian,” I asked?

“They were against it,” he said. “My sister told me that I had become a disgrace to the family, my parents told me that it was my decision but they were not interested in hearing the Gospel. I even received a letter from a group of people in my village saying they would kill me. But, others have said they I was welcome and wanted to hear more.”
Peter is now working on his PhD and preparing to return to Burma as a pastor.

When we arrived back at the campus we said goodbye and I told him if I could help him in his dissertation I would be happy to do. As he walked away I thought of God’s amazing grace, how a monk was now preparing to be a Christian pastor. My walk had revealed another narrative of Grace. God even uses loud praise and worship to bring people unto Himself.