Book Notes ~ August 2016

I read 3 books this past month, the first of which was a real page turner.  I couldn't put it down.  If you want a great biography, check out the "The Girl in the Picture".  The third book had lots of timely reminders so that I don't get too run down.  I had hoped to finish a fourth book but I was pre-occupied for most of August with writing and refining a research proposal in preparation for applying for a doctoral program.

The Girl in the Picture

"The Girl in the Picture” is about a girl and her family caught in the midst of the war in Vietnam. The girl, Kim Phuc, was the subject of the famous war-time photo of a young girl running naked out of a village that had been hit by napalm.  It is a riveting, page-turning, biography, and gives a good window into what life was like for a normal family before, during, and after the war in Vietnam (not to mention an interesting picture of life in Castro's Cuba). I learned many details about the Vietnam War that I had previously just heard in passing but not really understood (such as the significance of the Tet Offensive).  Interestingly, when Kim grows up she becomes a Christian through a church in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), although this part of her experience makes up only a minor part of the narrative.  This book is a biography as well as a cultural and political history, and author Denise Chong gives a sympathetic and well-written account of Kim Phuc’s life and the global events in which she became an unexpected participant.  You definitely learn about Cold War politics in this book, but the author seems to do a good job of telling the facts without turning the book into a political statement.  It is Kim’s story, rather than a political agenda, that drives the narrative. 




เหตุที่มิชชันนารีไม่อาจกลับบ้านได้อีก (Why Missionaries Can Never Go Home Again)

เขียนโดย Karl Dahlfred

แปล & เรียบเรียงโดย วัลลภาอรุโรทยานนท์


เมื่อมิชชันนารีใหม่ออกจากบ้านเดินทางไปทำพันธกิจของพระเจ้าครั้งแรกในต่างแดนคุณก็ยังรู้ชัดเจนว่าบ้านของตนนั้นอยู่ที่ไหนนั่นก็คือบ้านที่คุณเพิ่งจากมา เป็นบ้านที่คุณได้เติบโตขึ้นเป็นที่ ที่คุณได้รับการศึกษาและได้สร้างสัมพันธภาพแน่นแฟ้นกับพี่น้องในคริสตจักร


คุณจะเริ่มรู้สึกว่าบ้านของคุณนั้นไม่เหมือน “บ้าน” ที่เคยรู้จักอีกต่อไป  เมื่อ “กลับบ้าน” แล้ว แม้จะพบผู้คนและได้เห็นสถานที่ที่คุ้นเคยมาก่อน แต่ทุกอย่างได้เปลี่ยนแปลงไประหว่างที่คุณไม่อยู่  ดังนั้นในช่วง “พักงานกลับบ้าน” คุณจึงไม่สามารถประติดประต่อช่วงเวลาให้เข้าสนิทกับช่วงเดิมที่คุณจากไปได้ เพราะเวลานี้ คุณได้กลายเป็นคนนอกเป็นเพียงแขกผู้มาเยือนเท่านั้น และคุณก็ไม่มีบทบาทหน้าที่อะไรชัดเจนด้วยบรรดาเพื่อนสนิททั้งหลายของคุณต่างก็ได้ผูกมิตรกับเพื่อนใหม่ๆพี่น้องมากกว่าครึ่งในคริสตจักรรู้จักคุณเพียงผ่านทางระบบการสื่อสารที่รับรู้ได้ว่าคุณต้องการให้อธิษฐานเผื่อเรื่องอะไรบ้างเท่านั้น ขณะที่คนอื่นๆคุ้นเคยกับเทคโนโลยีใหม่ๆแต่คุณต้องคลำหาทางทำความเข้าใจคนอื่นพูดคุยกันสนุกสนานด้วยศัพท์แสลงแต่คุณกลับรู้สึกแปลกหูและไม่แน่ใจในความหมาย  แล้วคุณอาจสงสัยว่าแนวโน้มการเปลี่ยนแปลงทางวัฒนธรรมกำลังวิ่งไปทางไหนกัน?  ผู้คนที่บ้านเคยชินกับการเปลี่ยนแปลงตลอดเวลาจนกลายเป็นเรื่องปกติแต่คุณกลับมึนงงสับสน ที่เป็นเช่นนี้ก็เพราะว่าคุณได้เดินสวนทางกับสิ่งเหล่านี้ไป ตั้งแต่การออกเดินทางครั้งแรกแล้ว

Today in Thai Church History (August 23): Gutzlaff and Tomlin Arrive in Bangkok

The history of Chrisitan and missionary work in every country has a beginning, and August 23, 1828 marks the beginning of Protestant work in Thailand (formerly Siam).  On that day, German doctor Karl Gutzlaff and Jacob Tomlin of the London Missionary Society arrived in Bangkok.  They are remembered as the first resident Protestant missionaries to work in the country, although small numbers of Roman Catholics had been in Thailand for many years.  
Early Missionaries in Bangkok: The Journals of Tomlin, Gutzlaff, and Abeel, 1828-1832 book coverGutzlaff and Tomlin's ship arrived in Bangkok on a Saturday evening, and they went on shore the following day.  I always find it fascinating to hear someone's first impressions of a place and have included below Jacob Tomlin's account of their first two days in Thailand, drawn from his personal journal, as found in Anthony Farrington, ed. Early Missionaries in Bangkok: The Journals of Tomlin, Gutzlaff, and Abeel, 1828-1832. Bangkok, Thailand: White Lotus Press, 2001, p.8-10.
Saturday August 23rd, 1828. In the afternoon run up to Bangkok before a fresh breeze. Opened the city suddenly at 2 or 3 miles distance. In approaching the capital the scenery and dwellings on each side become more varied and beautiful. A temple somewhat like a village church standing on the bank with a few light elegant houses, half shaded by the foliage of trees, has a very rural and lovely appearance. Canals or small rivers branch off from the river at intervals running into the country, each opening a beautiful vista with its grassy banks and bamboos waving over the stream. A lively busy scene appears now on the river — hundreds of boats of all sizes moving in every direction. A long line of junks on the left side just on entering the city, with a range of Chinese smiths' and carpenters' shops, behind a splendid pagoda literally blazing in gold, the Romish Episcopal Chapel standing close by in a rural sequestered situation. Our crew being now hailed by their friends on board another junk ringing a gong, one of our men mounted the poop and returned a merry salute, which was repeated several times, each responding to the other till we got well into the city.

Is There More Demonic Activity in the Non-Western World?

I have never encountered a demon (that I know of), but from people who have, I have heard that there are ways to distinguish demonic activity from other things, such as epilepsy, bi-polar disorder, etc... although sometimes it is not easy .  People whom I consider reliable have told me stories that sound legitimate.  However, many stories that I have heard or read about second-hand sound like the product of an overactive imagination.
In the life of Jesus, there are numerous accounts of demonic possession.  But there are extremely few reports of demon possession in the United States (or other Western countries).  Why is that? Some more charismatically-minded Christians might suggest that demonic activity in the West is just as prevalent as it is in other places around the world, but many Western Christians are blind to that because they are influenced by secularism and are not open to that possibility.  There is probably some validity to that perspective, but I wonder if there are less reports of demonic activity in the West because the Devil knows that that attack strategy doesn’t work very well in the Western context, given the fact that the scientific-rational culture dismisses such manifestations as having other natural causes.  Therefore the Devil uses other tactics to decieve and destroy (secular humanism, atheism, religious pluralism, etc).
But in Thailand (and many other non-Western nations), I think we probably hear about demonic and/or supernatual activity more because
  1. Many people have a supernatural / animistic worldview already, therefore they over-report spiritual activity, and
  2. There is actually more genuine overt demonic activity in those places because it is a working strategy for Satan to keep people away from the true God. 
The Devil is a pragmatist, and since fear of spirits and supernatural power work in many contexts, that’s one of the winning strategies that he often employs. 

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