It has been a busy day in Bangkok as we set out to learn more about the "land of smiles" as Thailand is sometimes known. Morning came quickly after a few winds, and we left the hotel to visit the Grand Palace and learn some of the history and religious practices of this teeming city. The grandeur of the collection of buildings we visited is visually stunning; more gold than one can take in. Our guide said that it is better to visit in the morning because the glinting of the afternoon sun is almost too much to bear. Even though the crowds were thick, a sense of wonder and awe grasp the visitors--Buddhist and non-Buddhist alike. As my colleague Dr. Heather Entrekin put it, "A holy place is a holy place." Truly a different ways of faith; however, the pursuit of worship arises from the same reality in all humanity.
Shortly after arriving at the shrine, we witnessed a small regiment of Thai soldiers in a ceremonial march; later I got to have my picture taken with a very patient young man who endured our curiosity with proper military stiff upper lip. Central's students have come to learn, and with eagerness and openness they listened to a proud Buddhist guide, Mr. Tui, explain what they were seeing and the significance it holds in Thai cultural and religious experience. Later in a group discussion, one wondered aloud it Christians expressed as much delight in our tradition as he did in his. This is the kind of thoughtful question that contributes to growth, and Dr. Amy Hartsfield is artfully evoking such reflection.
One cannot journey to a place as lovely as Thailand without trying new food. (Even a pilgrimage has some guilty pleasures!) We have some sushi converts among us, first in Tokyo and now in Bangkok; they are enthusiastically becoming aficionados of the Asian treat. Tonight we will have the privilege of sharing dinner with Dr. Thawesak Mahachavaroj, a member of the President's Circle of Central. We are grateful for his friendship and care for seminarians when we visit Bangkok. His generous investment and that of the Luce Foundation make this kind of opportunity feasible, and we are blessed.
After dinner P.S.
You would have been proud to hear each of our students tell our host of their plans for ministry service. They were at their best!
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Molly T. Marshall
Central Baptist Theological Seminary
6601 Monticello Road
Shawnee, Kansas 66226