“Lost in the True Church”
Heidi Richardson, 6th Grade Teacher at “Bangkok Christian School”
The children tucked away their spelling workbooks and fished in storage trays for their Bibles and worksheets. The week’s lesson was about the ascension of Jesus and his promise to build mansions for his followers. The children were halfway through the reading when Nareerat raised her hand.
“Yes, ma’am.” Heidi had a kind of teasing formality that the children liked. “Do you have a question or comment? I hope it’s one that makes us nice and cool.” The kids giggled.
“Um, if Jesus go to heaven, he is there still now?”
“Yes. That’s what we believe.” Heidi caught herself. “Sorry, sweetie. Say it like this. ‘If Jesus went to heaven, is he still there now?’ Because, see, this story happened a long time ago. We always say ‘went’ if it was in the past.”
“Yes, sorry. But he is there?”
“I’m counting on him being there. Since he’s my best friend and I want to live forever with him and God and with all of you.”
The young girl raised her hand again. “Where is heaven then?”
“Ah.” Heidi’s mind hummed, trying to resurrect what she herself had learned at the feet of her missionary parents. “We don’t really know, see? The Bible just says it’s where God has his home, along with Jesus and all the angels.”
“And . . .” The Thai girl caught herself. “Is okay if I ask again?”
“Certainly. Your questions are very good.”
“Okay. So is heaven only a home for Christian people? Do Buddhist people go to heaven too?”
Heidi felt a shudder of apprehension. Who gets to go to heaven? Even during the great pizza debate night, it was an unsettled issue. There were American televangelists who sternly declared that only the remnant believers who vocally claimed the name of Jesus would ever enter through the gates. Even innocent Buddhists and Muslims, sincere though they might be, were to be consigned to the flames.
“You know, Nareerat,” she said at last, “I will tell you what I think.”
The children waited, curiosity written in their facial expressions. Even the boys were leaning forward, eager to hear.
“The Bible tells us that God loves every single child in this world. Before you were born, he knew of you and had wonderful plans for you and began to love you. That’s the first thing.” She looked at the questioner, who nodded.
“Okay. The second thing is that I do believe Jesus is the King who came to our world and died for our sins. He died for mine, and he died for yours. He didn’t just pick a few people.” A nice Holy Spirit nudge prompted her to add: “I really like the Bible verse where Jesus’ own cousin saw him coming down to a river one day, and said right away: ‘Here comes the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the whole world.’ Isn’t that awesome? Jesus has such power that his death on the cross takes away the whole mountain of all our sins.” She made a kind of windy sound. Whoosh!
“But if people are not Christian, like Thai people, then maybe Jesus does not give them a time in heaven,” the girl persisted. “And if my mom and dad do not know all the Christian things, then they become old and die and . . .” Her voice trailed away and she gave her teacher an anxious look.
“And that worries you, doesn’t it, honey?”
“Yes, Miss Richardson.”
“Well, is it okay if I tell you a little bit more?”
The girl nodded.
“Here’s what else. Two things. We had in worship last week that verse saying God is very, very eager to save his earth children. Me. You. Your brothers and sisters. Your parents. So that is good news. What God wants is our salvation. I know I shouldn’t speak Thai, but I will. You know the words Pra poo chooey hie rodt. ‘The God who helps us to have salvation.’ See, he wants you in heaven way, way more than I want my own little baby to be there. Because his love is lots greater.”
Nareerat brightened at the thought. “But I am still not Christian. My mom say I cannot choose yet. Not until I am done with Matthayom.”
“I understand that,” Heidi said carefully. “But here’s one more thing.”
“Look,” she told the class. “I absolutely believe there will come a wonderful time when Jesus Christ is going to come back to our world. And when he does, he is going to be the king of all people. There will be no more United States, no more Thailand, no more Russia, no more China and Malaysia. Nothing but a world with Jesus as king. This is what the Bible says.”
Nareerat raised her hand again. “But . . . this is not heaven?”
“Well, I think it’s going to be heaven right here. Our home will be here. In a world that’s new and well and beautiful and very, very sabai.” The Thai word for “glorious comfort” pleased the students, and they nodded, entranced now.
“So I think there is one very important question even for Thai young people like you. I realize most of you are Buddhist. This is your life. This is your heritage, and there is great beauty to it. But if the Bible promises about heaven and Jesus being king are true stories, then you must think of the answer to this one question. Are you ready for it?”
Nareerat and several girls sitting nearby nodded, prepared now to hear. “Okay. Would you be willing to be a beautiful Thai person, a young man or a young woman, who lives in this great place where Jesus is king? I do believe this one thing in Christianity is very, very true. Jesus will be our king. He will be a wonderful, wise, loving king, but he will definitely be king. And if the idea of having Jesus as your king sounds good to you and you are willing to have him rule in your life forever, then I have a great confidence God will decide you are a very good citizen for his kingdom where his Son is the eternal king.”