Sawang's Testimony - July 27, 2010

I was born on October 2, 1932. My family are Buddhists. Like all others in our community, they practise religion following the multitude according to the custom and tradition of their ancestors. They observe the 5 precepts, namely:

 

1. Not to take lives (animals and mankind)

2. Not to steal

3. Not to do sex sins

4. Not to tell lies

5. Not to take liquor (and any forms of drugs)

 

People go to the temples to make merit and listen to the sermons given by the Monks. They also join in the special festivals occasionally. They are taught [that] to do sin will result in going to hell, or taking the forms of other animals; whereas, to do good will result in going to heaven or taking the forms of Angels or the divines.

 

They believe that animals also have spirits just the same as mankind. Thus animals can attain to heaven or taking the forms of men or divines. So, mankind and animals can change into the forms of each other according to their deeds.

 

I heard about Christianity for the first time in the classroom. A young lady teacher told us the story about “Pra Yesu” (Jesus) being crucified. I am not sure if she is a Christian or not. She just told us a “story” to hear.

 

I also saw the “card pictures” on the back of cards that people play, telling about the Israelites being slaves in Egypt, about Paul being beaten and dragged out of the city etc. That happened when I was about 10 or 11 years old. When I heard about any famous people, I felt so sorry if it happened to be Christian. I never expected I should become one myself in the future.

 

In 1956, while I was in the Army in Bangkok, I met the 3 workers. They rent a small house just next to the fence of the barrack where I worked. My friend and I would like to practice speaking English with any “farangs” (foreigners) we chanced to meet with and that is was how I got to hear the Gospel for the first time.

 

The names of these 3 workers are: Edgar Bell, Ray Jamieson and Ralph Joll. Later, they moved to another house, a little distance from the former one. My friend and I continued to come to the meetings. Then in the year 1960, I decided and was baptised. There were 6 of us in the group: 3 ladies and 3 men. (Four years after I heard the Gospel.)

 

At that time I didn’t really understand about the way of God. I decided to join them because they were good people. I went to the gospel meetings and the Sunday meetings quite often. But somehow I had questions in my heart. Why? If Christ is the Son of God, why does He have to die? Why does he have to be nailed to the cross? The Budda died peacefully and naturally and that was fit for the teacher of the religion. Why? If God loves His Son, should He allow Him to face such a cruel death? That became some doubts in my heart.

 

Then I began to think that I have my own country’s religion, why not study more about my own instead of Christianity? Then again, came another thought: why have I not thought like this before? These kinds of confusions kept on coming to me.

 

However, I kept coming to the meetings, hoping that some day I should understand more. But this uncertainty didn’t leave me completely.

 

After I had decided about 1 year, I left the Army and I stayed with the workers for some months. I had learned to love their lives. I decided to become like them. At that time there were Archie Wilson, Colin Boto, and Les Doecke in Thailand. I came back to my home town for awhile. Then the time came when Ray Jamieson told me that I would be his companion in Laos.

 

We were going in 1964 and worked there for 1 year. Then I realized I couldn’t go on. When I started, I hoped I’d have plenty of time to study the Bible. But I found I was too busy travelling from places to places, meeting many people, and so on. The time I thought to have for myself I had to teach English. I became discouraged and thought I was not worthy to be a worker. Thoughts after thoughts came to me that eventually I had to quit.

 

I came back and started to be a teacher at my home town in Southern Thailand. The following year, I moved from the village school to another bigger school in town when I earned the certificate of education.

 

Two workers came to preach in the Province. Some people attended and 2 nephews of mine decided. Another year they went to my elder brother’s home and another nephew decided. (They went on for sometime until they got married and left the way.)

 

I moved to Bangkok again to continue my study in the University; I got my B.A. in Education in 1978. I became the teacher of English in an University in 1982. I continued with the University until my retirement in 1999.

 

I used to live in a renting room while I was studying. Then in the year 1986, I moved to a house that I rented from my friend. She had also decided. Later the worker asked me if I would open the house for the Sunday morning meetings. So the meetings were in my house for about 5 or 6 years, until I decided to buy a house of my own.

 

I moved to live in my house and continued to live there for 14 years even when I retired from the University in 1999. I worked with a translation centre until the year 2007. At the end of that year, I had a sudden stroke.

 

Half of my right side of the body was paralysed. I could not use my right arm and leg for 1 year. Then after a year had passed I recovered to be able to use my right leg and hand a little. I tried to practise writing with my left hand until I could manage to write this note.

 

It was fortunate that my illness didn’t affect my speech and my memory, nor did it affect my sight and hearing. Apart from my incapability to use my right hand and leg, I have no feeling of pain or discomfort so severely. The only thing that trouble me is that I am not able to move along as I should. But I am contented that I am able to read as much as I like.

 

Now I feel like a prisoner, chained to my illness to stay in one place all the time. However I feel thankful for what I am able to do. I feel very thankful for the time to reflect about the past, about my experiences that happened to me. I have the time to reconsider myself for everything.

 

I realize now that I have come to the final state of my life. Nothing matters for me now. The only thing that matters for me is my salvation. That salvation I would have is through Christ, the Son of God.

 

I spend my time reading the Word of God. I study more about the Bible. I sing the hymns I used to when I first came to the meetings. They mean more to me.

 

“O Love that will not let me go”

 

“How hopeless my poor soul would be if Christ has never die for me”

 

“Sweet the thought my heart retaineth, I am not beyond Thy love”

 

“No gift so precious to Him as our love”

 

“I would love Thee more for Thou hast loved me unto death

For Thou did leave Thy throne above in Thy love for me and

Thou has bought me with Thy blood, Oh how great the price.”

 

The hymn that Uncle Mitchell used to sing a solo to us in the mtg also means so much.

“He took my place His life He freely gave

O boundless grace my soul from sin to save

He took my place upon the cruel tree

He took the guilty, sinner’s place and I am free.”

 

Now I am thankful and gratitude for the last days of my life to enjoy reading, praying and singing the hymns. To reflect on the past. I know that repentance will not change the past but the future will not be the same. I trust in God for the future and leave it in His hand. For as it says in Psalm, “Blessed is the man who puts his trust in God.”

 

I hope you might be able to read my left hand writing, and thank you for your endeavour to read my note.

Sawang


 

This letter was written to me (Ralph Joll) at my request. As you would notice it is over 50 years ago that he first decided. I have typed this out just as it was written.

 

We (Lloyd Morgan, Williams Mann, and myself) visited him 3 weeks ago – a little shriveled up old man now, in a wheel chair but so clear in his mind (as this letter would show you). This visit meant so much to me having had so much to do with Sawang and at times feeling so frustrated as we tried to help him come free of his past religion etc, and now to see what God has been able to do for him it touches my heart deeply not only because of him but we have seen others restored in recent years here (In Indonesia) and there are yet others to be restored.

 

So it is very plain to see we should never write anyone off as hopeless, “O Love that will not let me go!”

Monday, 24 January, 2011