Meeting Him

This article is based on a talk given at the 1990 General Conference Session.

Nancy Bassham was the Shepherdess Coordinator for the Asia Pacific Division for many years. She and her husband, Steve, served in Thailand. They now live in California. This article is based on a talk given at the 1990 General Conference Session.

The purpose of this article "Meeting Him" is to share some principles on how Line meets God and assists others to do the same. In some respects, this is a very difficult topic because no two circumstances are the same when it comes to how God leads each individual step by step into a relationship with Jesus Christ.

God seeks us before we even have enough knowledge or desire to seek Him. God's seeking is tailored and planned to accommodate itself to each social, educational, gender, cultural and personality back­ground. And we in turn meet Him within the context of our own world view. For example, my experience in meeting Jesus is measurably different from that of my husband. I am a woman and he is a man. I am a Thai and he is an American. I came from a Buddhist background; he came from a conservative Seventh-day Adventist background. Therefore, I will approach the topic "Meeting Him" by sharing the background and circumstances in which I met Jesus. Some general principles will be shared which I hope can be useful to some of you when you encounter other Asian Buddhists to whom you would like to introduce your best friend Jesus.

First, it must be understood that from a traditional viewpoint we Asians, even some American Asians, have tended to be some­what cynical. By this I mean even though we appreciate the Western culture and have begun to assimilate much of the Western world around us, we nevertheless tend to be somewhat suspicious and cautious with respect to Western concepts and ideas. From this then it can easily be seen that if Jesus Christ is presented as an American God and Christianity is seen as the Western way to heaven, the average Buddhist has little more than a curious fascination about our God.

A second point which must be kept in mind is the homogeneity of most Asian nations. Unlike the Western nations of Europe, Australia and the Americas where there is a diversity of people, races, and tongues all stirred up together in one big melting pot, in the Philippines there are Filipinos; in Korea, Koreans; in Japan, Japanese. Though such a statement may be a generalization, for the most part people in Thailand are Thai; in other words, people act in a certain manner, eat the same foods, dress the same way, worship in like manner, etc. To be different is, to some degree, to be un-Thai.

The third point that should be realized is that in many third world countries, the dynamic tension between the sacred and the profane is highly amplified. People live from the cradle to the grave with a keen sense of the reality of the great controversy between the powers of light and darkness. Good and evil. Life and death. The spirit wall is not abstract, myth or fiction, but is more real than the life they are currently living. The super-natural is expected and therefore accepted. Western culture tends to compartmentalize and thereby segregate the religious and secular experience. In the Asian mind these two are always co-mingled.

When I was born in Northern Thailand, my father was the governor. Therefore, I was born at home in the governor's mansion instead of the hospital. In those days each province was some­what like a small kingdom, and the governor held ultimate authority, subject only to the king. All families, but especially parents of rank, were concerned with the destiny of a newborn child. Everything was to be considered—the time of day, the weather, any lucky or unlucky occurrences and even the flight of the birds. There was an old lady, a Buddhist nun, who was quite famous in those days in reading the signs and telling the fortune of a newborn child. So she was summoned. She looked into the swinging cradle in which I was laying contently and said to my parents, "She will grow up to marry a non-Thai, a commoner of a different religion." Now, how would you like to be my parents? Because of this prediction, my father sent me to an exclusive boarding school for girls. He not only kept me away from normal association with boys but was careful that my friends and acquaintances be not only Asian but pure Thai. He even went so far as to set up an arranged marriage for me at the age of sixteen to a rich, dignified Buddhist man ten years my senior. It was considered a perfect match, (Actually, he was a real bore to a sixteen-year-old like me.) However, my ideas differed from my parents.

Though my parents did not believe girls needed higher education, some of their friends recommended I be allowed to attend college. So at age 16, I was allowed to choose a Seventh-day Adventist school in America. Praise the Lord. The names of three colleges were sent to us by the Ambassador to the United States: Pacific Union College, La Sierra College, and Union College. I checked on the map to see which college was closest to Hollywood, and so I choose La Sierra hoping to see Elvis Presley or James Dean walking down the street.

My father arranged for a holy Buddhist relict to be made into a amulet. A priest attached a charm to it which was supposed to protect me from the evils of America and from Christianity. I wore this charm around my neck at all times. However, my father was still somewhat reluctant to let me go unsupervised, so he sent me to the United States in the company of six Thai soldiers. Let me remind you that I was only 16 at that time. Unfortunately, while our plane was on layover for two hours in Hawaii, I wandered away, fascinated by the unusual sights and scenes and became separated from my escorts. The stewardess told them that I had already entered the plane, so they quickly boarded and left without me. I still do not know what happened to them.

When I arrived alone in Los Angeles International Airport much later, I was frightened, tired and discouraged. I hardly knew a word of English, so I just sat on the bench and cried. Avery kind lady, who happened to be a missionary from Japan coming home on furlough, came to my rescue and took me with her to a motel. She helped me make contact with the school. I was so impressed when Dr. Lee drove all the way from Glendale to Los Angeles to get me.

Everything at La Sierra was so new to me. I hardly spoke English and had a difficult time with my classes. But I was very, very impressed with the attitude of the teachers who were very helpful to me.

I had a really hard time with the food. Even though Buddhist appreciate the concept of a vegetarian diet, I thought the food was terrible, I mean atrocious! Looking back, it probably was not so bad, it was just foreign to anything I had ever known or eaten. I suspected that from the beginning there must be something wrong with the food at the school cafeteria because before each meal, I noticed the students intently bowing their heads and appearing to inspect their food. And, of course, not wanting to be different, I did the same thing. I thought "Amen" must be an English word for the food is OK to eat. It took me a long while before I knew the students were saying grace. Still, I did not want any kind of gluten or potatoes, I wanted chicken and rice. So I found a way to order from Chicken Delight, a nearby restaurant. Food was delivered right to the dormitory!

One day while visiting the home of some Seventh-day Adventist people, I was left alone in the living room for a little while. I picked up a Bible, not knowing what it was and began to read Genesis, the first chapter. It may seem strange, but I immediately knew that there was something different about this book. As I read the first two chapters (that's all my English could carry), I felt the moving of the Holy Spirit on my heart. Even though I had never heard about the Holy Spirit, instinctively I knew there was something different about this book. I had a very strange feeling which I cannot explain. It was as though there was a warm glow enveloping me.

Eventually I met Steve, a ministerial student. I became his evangelistic project for the year. Together we attended John Loor's evangelistic meetings. Elder Loor was the pastor at the Arlington Church at the time. I made a decision to prepare for baptism, but I was not able to break free and accept Jesus without a struggle.

One afternoon, while I was alone in the dormitory, I began to have the strangest sensation. At first I thought maybe I was going to faint, so I looked around for my bed and thought maybe I had better lie down. But standing close to my bed was a Buddhist monk, bald headed, clad in a saffron robe. He spoke gently and kindly, but firmly, "Buddhism is for Asians. Christianity is for Americans. Both religions teach us to do good. I spoke to your father and told him you are going to be baptized and you are dating an American boy. He is very angry." It was like a dream. Yet I knew it was real because I received a telegram from my father in which he expressed his concern. He said, "The Buddhist priest told me that you are too interested in Christianity, and you are dating an American boy. Stop it!" Such actions were considered a disgrace to the family. The second time it happened, I saw a giant image of Buddha in my room, extending through the open ceiling high into the sky. I told Elder John Loor that I did not want to be baptized. I told him about the visions, and he said, "Nancy, the next time it happens, just say, 'I rebuke you in the name of Jesus Christ' and I am sure you will have no more trouble."

A few days later, nearing the time for mv baptism, I was in my room alone. I felt the presence of the power. I called out, "I rebuke you in the name of Jesus," as Pastor Loor had taught me. But the power was stronger than my will. I was in Bangkok at the temple worshiping like a Buddhist girl. I could see the temple dancing girls. I could hear the music. I could smell the incense. I was in that place. The sacrifices were very real. I had no control of my own. Many thoughts went through my mind. If Jesus is stronger than this power, then why didn't He help me? Maybe it was because I am a Thai girl. Maybe He is really only interested in American and European people. Perhaps He did not want me now because I was in the temple and I had no power to resist.

Back in my room I spent many hours that night thinking about all the things that were happening to me. My heart agonized about every­thing and I was afraid to tell anyone. I didn't even tell Steve at the time. Early in the morning when I got up, I received a warning slip in my mailbox that a room check had occurred during the night and I was not in my room. The room check had occurred at the same time as the power had taken me to the temple in Bangkok. I was very frightened.

I told some friends of my experience. They asked, "How did you get there? Did you fly? Were you on the plane? Were you on a jet?" Brother and Sisters, I still do not know how Satan did that.

When I next met Pastor Loor for our Bible study, he immedi­ately sensed something was wrong. I had not even told Steve the real reason I had decided not to be baptized. I gave Pastor Loor all sorts of excuses, but after he prayed with me, I wanted to confide in him. There is some­thing about prayer with the pastor. I said, "Pastor Loor, you told me to rebuke the power in the name of Jesus and every­thing would be all right, but it wasn't." I told the whole story. He was quiet. What would you say if you were him? I broke the silence. "I was there Pastor Loor. I saw the sacrifices, the dancing girls. I smelled the incense and I heard the music. The heat was intense. I was sweating and I felt very weak and faint. I had no strength to resist. I was there at the very temple where my father got this amulet." I took the amulet and showed it to him. "God wouldn't want me now anyway."

After awhile he spoke, "Nancy, perhaps you were on Satan's ground. There are two powers in the great controversy, and could it be that in order to vindicate His character and remain just in the eyes of the watching universe that sometimes God's hands are tied and He has the power to act but must limit Himself until you take off this amulet, this charm which identifies you as belonging to the power of darkness. Don't hold anything back. You don't need this other power. You only need Jesus Christ. Take off this charm and give your whole life to Jesus."

I was afraid at first. Wouldn't you be afraid? I had always worn some symbol of that charm on my person. I prayed in my heart for strength and for an answer to my prayer. My heart ceased to tremble and a marvelous calm and peace took place. I took off that amulet and the power of darkness was broken.

That night I spent some hours in the small. chapel at the girl's dormitory. My eyes were red, my cheeks were wet, but they were not tears of repentance, but tears of joy. I remember how some of the girls there wondered what happened to me, but I did not care.

There are many Christians today who are on Satan's ground. They call on Jesus, but at the same time, in their homes and in their lives, they have amulets, so to speak, which belong to the power of darkness. They are on the wrong ground, and yet wonder why they cannot seem to live a victorious life. Why they cannot seem to find peace and joy in serving Jesus.

Not many days after that experience, I was baptized. I never dreamed that someday I would be a minister's wife. Steve and I were later married. We have been in the ministry for 20 years, 17 years as missionaries. I want to thank all of the pastors' wives I have met in the past who have shared their experiences with me and have been models so that I could become a good minister's wife. And I want to say today, that I have two Christian mothers—Mrs. Carl Watts and Mrs. Marie Spangler. They have been my Christian mothers all the time that I have been involved in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and I am very thankful for that.

Today, I want to give thanks to the living God for leading me step by step in my life. I am glad that I met Him. I long for the day when I can meet Jesus face to face. Then I can personally say to Him, "Thank you, Jesus, for seeking me and for your patience in waiting for me to respond."*

Nancy Bassham was the Shepherdess Coordinator for the Asia Pacific Division for many years. She and her husband, Steve, served in Thailand. They now live in California. This article is based on a talk given at the 1990 General Conference Session.