Today, Mom and I took a taxi to a different church in Bangkok. This one is called Sapan Luang Church or, literally, the Yellow Bridge Church. It is located in an area of Bangkok called Sapan Luang, because there is (or used to be) a yellow bridge going over one of the many canals here. Sapan Luang Church was organized as a church serving the Chinese population of Bangkok. These are Chinese who immigrated from South China and speak a dialect of Chinese that is neither Mandarin or Cantonese, though it is closer to Mandarin.
Sapan Luang Church is a large and growing church that now has two distinct congregations: An older congregation of Chinese and a younger congregation of their children and grandchildren, who speak mainly Thai. Both congregations worship at the same hour on Sunday morning in two different sanctuaries in the same facility. The younger, Thai congregation is the larger, but the older Chinese congregation is composed of the “elders” in the church. We were escorted into the Chinese worship service, because it is the only one that provides simultaneous translation of the service in English via headphone sets. (They did not know that we could understand and speak Thai.)
As it turns out, the Chinese service is done in both Thai and Chinese – and what an experience that was! We sang three hymns during the service. The same hymn is sung simultaneously in both languages out of two different hymn books. Scripture is read in both languages by two different lectors, standing at two different microphones at the lectern. Announcements are given in both languages. The choir, numbering twenty-five, sang a Palm Sunday anthem in English with a soprano solo. They were accompanied by both a grand piano and an organ.
The preacher preaches in either language and the sermon is translated, sentence by sentence, by someone standing in the pulpit with him, using a second microphone. In this case, the preacher preached in Thai and the man standing beside him, who was the pastor of the church, translated the sermon into Chinese. The message was taken from Matthew 21:1-11, the Palm Sunday story. The preacher focused on the willingness of the man who owned the colt to let it go for the Lord to use. He spoke of our need to trust God and let go. The hymn after the sermon was, of course, “Trust and Obey.”
After the service, an elder in the church took us under his wing and brought us to the courtyard for the Fellowship Hour. He introduced us to some key people – an elder at the church, a member who was recently appointed to the Board of Directors of the Bangkok Christian Guest House, and an old friend of Mom and Dad’s who owns a jewelry store in Bangkok, though he says he is now retired and his son is running the business. We also watched as members picked up the shirts they will wear for Easter Sunday – polo shirts with the name of the church and an Easter logo embroidered on them, made by a member who owns a shirt factory. We were invited to return for the special events of Holy Week – a Good Friday service, Easter Sunrise Service and breakfast at the church, and the big Easter Service. After a glass of tea, we caught a taxi home, amazed and grateful for the hospitality of the members and uplifted by the music and the powerful message.