Northern Thailand: its transformation from opium to coffee

From the mountains of Chiang Rai, Northern Thailand.

This moment, I’m enjoying a cup of cappuccino in front of this amazing view here in the mountains of Chiang Rai in Northern Thailand.  As one relishes in the beauty of this fantastic mountainview of Chiang Rai, one would never connect this place with opium. Ching Rai and Chiang Mai used to be known as a region where they grew poppies, not for flowers, but for opium production. Today, they have diversied their farming to coffee beans, amongst other things.

It has spread the blessings of something that people around the world can enjoy without the guilt of addiction (…that’s if you don’t include coffee in the category of addictions). The local tribes people have diversified their farming to grow other things that are not linked with drugs, giving more families the opportunity to do something unrelated to the narcotics trade. It frees them from the guilt that was prevalent about 30-40 years ago which caused heartache and pain around the world, especially China.

China’s widespread drug addiction to opium destroyed its people, society, and nation in the 1800s. Millions of Chinese people were addicted to opium. History recounts this figure at 13-14 million people in China (out of a total population of 400 million). It rendered many men and women useless–useless to the responsibilies of work, education, and raising family, and even resulted in its loss of the territories of Hong Kong and Macau to Britain.

The Apostle Paul discouraged many practices, included were drug addictions. Paul used the word “sorcery” or “witchcraft” (English translation) in Galatians 5:19-20,

“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

After China’s devastating period of opium addiction, I hope our society here in the west may take away lessons from its history of drug addiction. We must never forget. I pray that we may be able to have the self-discipline to stay away from such ill practices because all it brings is more pain. Short term pleasures of the moment are fleeting and deceiving. God desires from us the purity of our hearts, minds and bodies.

The good news or gospel in all of this addiction is that God has the power to bring us healing if we have, or are in the middle of addiction. Our God in the Heavenly Father, Jesus, and The Holy Spirit is forever merciful and his love endures forever, even for the most heavily addicted man or woman who cannot escape it themselves. Trust in the God who is faithful forever toward his children who call out to Him. The Lord God will reach down to rescue us from the deepest powers of darkness.  Then he fills us with His Spirit to give us his everlasting peace and joy (which drugs can never bring).

Jesus fulfills prophecy eight centuries after Isaiah

After 1261. Pinacoteca Civica, San Gimignano.

Back in the day, capital punishment by crucifixion was actually a common method.  Roman society saw this as justice for committing capital crimes.  Today, it might a simple lethal injection, or the electric chair.  Many criminals worthy of punishment died on the Road to Delarosa.  Along this road were numerous crosses and on them hung crucified criminals.  It was a way to deter criminals from committing capital crimes such as murder and treason against the Roman Empire.

From Spartacus

What makes Jesus’ crucifixion special was that he overcame death by rising from death the third day after he died. His resurrection from death was a miracle that was unseen in the history of humankind. His resurrection from death means that our sins, and our eternal death, have been also defeated.

Isaiah 53:5-6, 11-12, is from the passage on the suffering servant. For the Jewish faithful, it speaks of Isaiah as the suffering servant; but for us as Christian believers, Jesus is the fulfillment of this prophecy.  He is our holy and anointed Messiah who came to save us from our sin.  It was prophesied eight centuries before Jesus was born.

“But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all….

After he has suffered,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.”

Isaiah said of God’s servant that he bore the sins of many and made intercession for the transgressors. When Jesus came eight centuries later, he came to carry our sins to his unjust death on a cross.  The resurrection fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy of God’s righteous servant who justifies many people.  Our faith in this miraculous resurrection is why we are cleansed of our sins and transgressions.

The new hope and promise for all humankind is that whoever will place their trust in Jesus and in his resurrection, will also receive God’s blessing of being made right with God.  Our sins, evil and death in the eternal realm has been defeated.

First Experience in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Me at one of the king’s palace buildings in Phnom Penh.

I’m in the city of Phnom Penh in Cambodia.  My family came to visit friends (of my wife) who are former classmates who now live here for ministry reasons.

It’s a more rustic but beautiful country where the people are “nice” (Note: I’m actually looking for words to more accurately describe the heart of Cambodian & S.E. Asian people). Perhaps another post will touch upon this).  The weather here is warm, high 20s C. or 80s F.  As soon as we stepped off the plane into the airport, we could feel the humid air. This is normal so air conditioning A/C is a must here. As westerners, we cannot

Jars of Clay, scooter parking at front (typical transport in Asia).

survive or sleep without A/C. It’s early mid- to late-March now and it’s definitely hot already but I hear it gets hotter and more humid in July. As September rolls around, it becomes super humid with monsoon season in South East and East Asia. My wife is from Taiwan and she recommends coming around December or Christmastime when the temperature is around high teens or 20 C or 70 F.

Our awesome & friendly server at Jars of Clay.

Ex-pats living here seem to be a common sight in this area where we are living. Our friends recommended us to stay in this area near the Russian market called the Tuol Tom Poung area near 163 Street.

A hard to spot signage.

The first place we were brought to eat at after arriving in Phnom Penh is the local eatery Jars of Clay. I highly recommend it for good local food (and some western stuff too) but with western style service. Yes, the lovely server speaks English and there are most of their customers seem are westerners (98%). There are some western style coffee shops like a Starbucks close by but it’s very pricey even by western standards.  And of course, there are many other places that you can explore all over the city.

There are many places we’ve yet to see so there are more posts to come.