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Thai festival’s lanterns & candles reflect yearnings for forgiveness

CHIANG MAI, Thailand (BP)–Each year, Buddhists in Thailand gather to celebrate the ancient festival of Loi Krathong. Originally a tribute to Me Khongkha, Mother of Waters, the ceremony has evolved into a rite of cleansing in which the Thai seek forgiveness for the past year’s sins.

Considered one of the most beautiful festivals in Thailand, Loi Krathong is marked by floating candles and paper lanterns on rivers and irrigation canals and by launching paper lanterns — small hot-air balloons — into the November night sky.

More than 800 years old, Loi Krathong is a time of spectacle and pageantry. Families gather after sunset — some at their homes, others with friends and neighbors. Parades thread through city streets. There are large gatherings where prayers to Buddha are offered and sermons on enlightenment are preached. The atmosphere is one of thanksgiving and celebration.

Then the lanterns are released.

Thousands float through the night sky while more thousands of candles drift along waterways. Fireworks punctuate the night, echoing across the countryside, reverberating and rumbling like the roar of battle, until dawn.

Loi means “to float” and krathong a “leaf cup” or “bowl.” If the krathong stays lit until it disappears from sight, participants believe their sins are forgiven.

Among Thailand’s 61 million people, less than one-half of 1 percent are Christian. Yet with them resides the light that leads to the forgiveness of sin that neither candle nor lantern can carry off.

Southern Baptist missionaries are working with God to see church-planting movements start among the people groups of Thailand.

Missionary teams use sports activities, English teaching and campus ministry to build relationships and create opportunities to share the gospel. Medical, agricultural and handcraft ministries improve the quality of daily life and help lead Thais to eternal life. Christian radio programs and Bible correspondence courses help Thais learn more about God.

Bible studies teach gospel truths in a casual atmosphere where questions may be asked. Distributing Christian literature provides a beginning step in evangelism. Volunteers use their skills to share God’s love with communities and witness one on one.

And, most importantly, prayer warriors intercede daily to break down spiritual strongholds and pray for the lost in Thailand.
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: HOPING AGAINST HOPE, LIFT OFF, and USELESS RITUAL. To learn more about efforts to share the gospel in Thailand, visit: www.peopleteams.org/southernthaiteam; www.peopleteams.org/northernthai; www.peopleteams.org/bangkok/; www.peopleteams.org/kuiadvocate/. Search for prayer requests from Thailand: www.imb.org/CompassionNet/countries.asp. Look at missionary needs in Thailand: www.imb.org/FPNeeds/LocationSearch.asp. Search for video resources on Thailand: www.imb.org/video/Default.htm.

    About the Author

  • Bill Bangham