We had just arrived on the property, and we knew that the local Buddhist monks had already communicated that they were opposed to the building project.
With this in mind, I cried out to God, “If building a house on this land is just our crazy plan, then let it fail! But if you, God, have made a covenant to be with us, then who can oppose the Living God? I know you can make a way where there is no way. Father, give the Buddhist people here a revelation that Jesus is the Living God.”
At that very moment, we looked up into the sky and saw the most beautiful portal of light open up between the clouds. We took it as a sign.
Earlier, when we arrived in Pastor Isaiah’s village after our long journey from Thailand, there had been an official letter waiting for us from the head monk in the village. The monk’s message was clear: “Since Christians would only cause fighting and conflict in our village, we forbid you to build a church here.”
We were shocked. In reality, since we arrived a year ago on the land that we had purchased, this group of monks had not stopped threatening us or attempting to destroy our property.
So we prayed again as a team that God would give us love for our enemies and a way to build a house on the land that he had given us. Seeking legal protection, Pastor Isaiah went to visit the local mayor to apply for a building permit. He discovered that a new mayor had recently been installed, replacing the old mayor who had been close friends with the monks.
“Why didn’t you come to see me earlier?” the new mayor scolded Pastor Isaiah after learning about his struggles. “I will make sure that no one stops you from building your house!”
Pastor Isaiah came back to the property praising and thanking God for his favour and perfect timing. We all breathed a sigh of relief and began to work on the property.
Little did we know that the monks would not take losing this fight lightly.
Over the next five days, we dug for water, cleared the land for farming, pulled out tree roots and re-roofed a bamboo hut. Then we focused on one of our most important tasks – planting thirty-three precious palm trees. We laid out the young trees before God and gathered together as a team to worship and pray. As we committed our farm and the trees to the Lord, we asked him to cause them to bear maximum fruit so that they would provide for God’s workers in the region. It was our prayer that within five years these trees would be producing delicious dates and providing an income for many pastors and their families.
However, the monks had not given up. After they realized that we had secured a building permit, they decided to call the police and claim that foreigners were in the village doing business illegally.
Without knowing anything about this false accusation, those of us who were foreigners in the group had decided to return to Thailand early so that we could help with another ministry.
That same day, others in the village clarified to the police that Pastor Isaiah was building a house and not a church building. Seeing no problem with this plan, the police dropped the case.
But when the monks heard that the police had done nothing to stop the building project, they were furious and demanded that the police find Isaiah.
Several police officers then stormed into the Isaiah’s family home and vented angrily at Isaiah’s mother. Upset and in tears, she replied to them, “Look at my house, my idols. I am a Buddhist. My son is a Christian. Why do you come here and accuse us of these lies?”
Meanwhile, the day for the wood to be delivered to the property had arrived. It was a common understanding in the community that once poles were in the ground, then no authority could stop the building project. Many of our friends and neighbours, however, were afraid that the monks would try to sabotage the trucks that carried the wood. So it was agreed that the trucks would travel at night to attract as little attention as possible.
Isaiah and his team worked all through the night and into the day getting the poles onto the property: from the truck to the ground, from the ground to oxen, from the oxen to the top of the hill where the house was to be built. This was a huge undertaking, but praise God for the work that was accomplished.
After all the poles were in the ground, Isaiah went to meet with the police. He prayed that God would give him patience and self-control. After an hour of being yelled at and accused of causing problems for the Buddhists, Isaiah finally had his opportunity to speak. He told them about his work in Thailand with the church and about his partnership with many foreigners. He told them about how they had recently brought donated computers to the impoverished schools in the region to give children new opportunities for learning. He told them about their work among local farmers to experiment with new seeds and plants in order to increase their productivity and improve their standard of living. Finally, he told them that he wanted to build a house on his property because he had no safe place to store his own farm supplies and no safe place to worship and pray to his God.
The police were shocked. They had no idea about the good things that Pastor Isaiah and his friends had done to help the community. Isaiah asked them, “Have I done anything wrong?”
“No,” the police replied. “Please accept our apology. As long as you build a house and not a church, you are free to go.” As Isaiah was leaving, the police officer grabbed his hand warmly in a gesture of friendship and squeezed it tight.
By Louise Sinclair-Peters
Long-Term Worker in Thailand