Here in Asia, Chinese New Year is a  very important event for the Chinese. And since the Chinese either own or operate every business in the East, it is an important holiday for everyone. Everything shuts down for three days, so we get a week off and most of the staff go traveling.

We went traveling too, to Phnom Penh, but not to see the sights. We went for a week of ministry in the midst of our ministry, and it was a surprisingly nice way to spend the week. Pam had a series of meetings to attempt to patch together a co-ordinated strategy for health care evangelism, including a morning at a health clinic in the town’s garbage dump. Pam will blog about her work tomorrow, but let me just take a minute to talk about mine.

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I was asked to give a series of ten lessons on Eastern religions. So I did my research and came prepared with documents. What I was not prepared for was the audience. These are kids, and at 18 to 20 years of age barely more that that, who are hungry to learn. I taught through a translator, as their English is pretty limited, and they hung on every word, wrote down every reference, absorbed every concept. It was an awesome and humbling teaching experience.

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It was more than that for them, as they have all come out of the slavery of Buddhism and their new faith is the first time they have tasted hope and freedom. They are desperate to understand how they can help their families to grapple with the chains that have bound them for a thousand years. They are the first fruits of a new life, and it was sweet to be in their presence.

I know many of you will not think it is very politically correct to speak of another religion in such terms. A shallow look leads one to the conclusion that all religions are the same, just a shallow look at the solar system leads one to think that all planets may hold intelligent life. A deeper look leads to the understanding that life on earth is unique. A deeper look at the world’s religions will lead to a similar understanding of the uniqueness of eternal life.

We have absolutely no idea of how fortunate we are in North America, of the emotional and intellectual freedom that we take for granted. We think it is the product of good fortune or rugged individualism. That is just our vanity talking. Our culture is the gracious gift of one Man. It was a privilege watching Him at work in the lives of these young people, and to be a part of giving them an understanding of how to share that hope with others.

For those who would like to take a deeper look at how the central doctrines of religion – the nature of God, the problem of evil, salvation, and so on – are understood by all religions, have a look at Ernest Valea’s excellent site www.comparativereligion.com

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