Emerging from my car, I looked over toward the trees to make sure he was still there. He seemed to be in the same spot in the shade, though I could barely make him out for all the trees.
As I began walking over to introduce myself, I was struck by how indifferent the figure seemed to be. Sitting cross-legged on one end of the bench with one arm resting along the back, he just stared off toward the street. Had he not just seen me drive by?
A bit unsure if he was the best person to talk to, I quickly glanced around to see if anyone else was in sight.
No one. Just a house, a warehouse looking structure, and a pointed red roof emerging from some taller building behind the house.
Getting closer, I waved in the direction of the mystery person who I now noticed was wearing the traditional orange garb of Buddhist monks. His bald head should have given him away sooner.
Not making a reply, the monk just turned his head in my direction and raised it slightly. Of course, in his mind, I am the mystery person. He did have a bit of a puzzled look on his face.
Walking through the trees and into the small clearing, I tried again, “Hello!” offering my hand.
“Yes?” He didn’t stand to great me and left me with a sorry excuse for a handshake.
Awkwardness looming, I jumped right to the point. “My name is Austin. I am looking for a Buddhist temple to bring some students to learn about Buddhism.”
Silence. He glanced up at me again, but that was it.
Realizing he might not speak much English, I decided an alternate plan was in order. Judging from the writing and signage around the buildings, I assumed he wasn’t Chinese. The signs seemed to be written in Thai. Speaking Chinese wasn’t going to work – English would have to do. I switched to a shorter sentence and tried again.
“Is this a Buddhist temple?”
Is it a Thai Buddhist temple?” I emphasized the word ‘Thai’.
“No.” More silence.
I glanced around again. Though I’m no expert on all things Buddhism, I felt pretty confident based on the decor of the buildings that this temple represented some form of southeast Asian Buddhism.
“Where are you from?”
“I am from Laos,” he said, this time slightly cracking a smile.
“Oh ok, you’re Laotian. I am a Christian. My church would like to bring some students here. We want them to learn a little about Buddhism.” I was speaking a couple of paces slower than I had initially. He seemed to understand, but was unsure of how to respond. I continued.
“If we wanted to bring a group of students here, could you show us around?”
“You want to bring students here?” He did seem to be trying his best to follow what I was saying.
“Yes. Could you or someone else show us around?”
“I don’t know.” I assumed this meant he wasn’t quite sure of what I was getting at.
Changing the subject, I would try to arrange a tour a little later. He gave me the impression that the more I said that he didn’t understand, the more frustrated and embarrassed he was feeling. I needed to get on his good side.
“What are each of these buildings for?” I asked, looking around at each of the buildings. At this point, I first got a good glimpse of the red roofed building I had first seen peering over the house-looking structure. It was an elaborate, tall, white building with both the pointed red roof and a curious fountain out front with multiple dragon heads emerging from the center.
“That,” he said, pointing toward the house, “is the temple.”
“Oh ok, and what about that one?” I pointed at the warehouse behind him. It was the least eye-catching of the bunch but also the largest.
“We have some celebration there.”
“What kind of celebrations?”
“Like, for example, big Laotian holidays we celebrate there. It is big enough for us.”
“I see. And the tall building behind the temple?”
“It is also a temple. The head monk lives in there.”
“Oh wow. I would like to have a look around, if that’s OK. Could you please show me around?”
“You want me to show you?”
I could tell he was getting more comfortable speaking with me.
“Yes, if you have time.”
“OK,” he said, finally rising from his perch. “Come with me.”
He began leading me toward the back of the property, straight toward the tall white building. The closer we got, the more surreal the experience felt. The large fountain out front had a seven-headed dragon emerging from one side, while the massive red doors at the entrance were both similar to and nothing like the doors I’d walked through at the Forbidden City in Beijing, China. Yes, they were large, red doors, but they also had intricate buddha figures emblazoned in gold on them – something the doors at the Forbidden City lacked. Everything seemed so other-worldly.
Ascending the steps, the monk began to push the door open, but not before removing his shoes. Doing the same, I took my first step into the temple onto a strip of red carpet that seemed to lead straight toward the back of the building. Following the carpet with my eyes and lifting my gaze, I quickly realized nothing could have prepared me for what was waiting for me in the back of the temple…
From Monday, July 30th, through Friday, August 3rd, the Our Generation Training Center will be hosting the Our Generation Student Leadership Camp. The camp is designed to allow interested students 18 and older to meet with missionaries and learn about how to get involved in world evangelism. One aspect of the camp is to travel to various religious sites (temples, mosques, etc.) around the metro Atlanta area to get a glimpse of how many people around the world live their lives in ignorance of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Would you please pray for the monk mentioned above? Would you please pray for him and the thousands upon thousands of other Buddhist monks around the world that have yet to believe the gospel?
Would you please pray for the Our Generation Leadership Camp? Would you please pray that the Lord would use it in the lives of young people to stir their hearts toward world evangelism?
Would you please consider being a part of the camp? If you are at least eighteen years old and are curious about how you can be involved in getting the gospel around the world, then this camp is for you! For more information and a place to sign up, please check out OGSLC.com.