THAILAND (BP)--The sound of children laughing fades while the din of car horns and sirens rises through car speakers and transistor radios across northern Thailand. A person sneezes, another child giggles and then Bahndit Darwin begins to speak.
The opening audio of Darwin's hour-long radio show, "Thoughts for Life," patches together the sounds of small, everyday experiences. Even though he might play Thai country on his show, the program's purpose lies in something deeper. Darwin uses his airtime on three regional stations to impart the spiritual wisdom he learned in his rags-to-radio life to help listeners in their day-to-day lives. He hopes the advice, derived from biblical truth, will point audience members to Christ.
"My vision is to use mass media to get the mindset of Christians out to the masses who don't believe Christ, to help them understand who God is better and to give them an opportunity to know the Lord," Darwin says. "I feel like mass media is a door that allows the church to have access to the masses."
Recorded in a bare-bones studio in Darwin's home, Thoughts for Life doesn't evangelize but, instead, lays the foundation for the spread of the Gospel. It doesn't present the salvation message or sandwich invitations to accept Christ in between secular love songs. He knows northern Thais won't listen. Instead, Darwin offers advice from a Christian viewpoint and ends his broadcasts with a phone number to call for more information, connecting listeners to local churches or to Darwin himself.
International Mission Board worker Mark Patenaude, who serves as Darwin's ministry partner, says he feels God is preparing the Thai people through the program, even though it has yet to see a lot of conversions.
"It seems like God is doing something now in Thailand that we haven't seen and that our predecessors haven't seen," Patenaude says. "There's just a lot of cooperation among the churches. There's a thrust for evangelism and church planting like never before."
To participate in this spiritual movement, Darwin pulls his radio material from a life of hard work and fervent Bible study that began in northern Thailand along the Laos border. Raised under very unusual circumstances -- in a Christian family living in a predominantly Buddhist country -- he learned of God and His Son early in life and devoted himself to Christ around age 15. He gave up school after the 9th grade because his family could not afford it. He spent his days bent over hillsides, planting corn. There, surrounded by crops instead of books, he grew thirsty for knowledge -- spiritual knowledge.
"In those two years, God really did change my heart to want to know God more and to study more," Darwin says. "So when those two years were done, I was studying the Bible by myself."
Darwin quit farming in order to attend a three-month-long intensive Bible study seminar. God used this to pluck Darwin out of the cornfields permanently and plant him in a home recording studio. Through relationships he built in the seminar and in the general Christian community, he found ways to attend seminary in Bangkok; enter a program that allowed him to finish high school; become a husband and father; earn a master's degree in communications; and become the director of the Northern Thai Ministry Project.
For all of this, he thanks God. Now, he tries to catch the eyes -- or, more accurately, ears -- of non-Christians. Having been raised among Buddhists, he knows how they think. He tries to see their needs and give advice on how to deal with money, marriage and children.
"In order for us to have influence with non-Christians, we have to start where they are -- problems in everyday life," Darwin says.
A year into this electronic ministry, a few accepted Darwin's message and became believers while many others became dedicated listeners. One Thai waitress in the city of Phrae says she exclusively worships Buddha, but she also carries her radio from room to room in her house, careful not to miss a syllable of Darwin's Thoughts for Life. If the radio station accidentally replays an old episode, she knows. And, she calls in to report it.
"I like the advice that he gives," Phrae says of Darwin. "He gives me advice on how to live a life that is good.... I've seen that what he talks about helps me to live a life that brings me peace."
Although his audience has been slow to receive the message of Jesus, Darwin continues to paint a picture of God for the lost with each broadcast while he and Patenaude work diligently to create publicity for the show and to get their message into more homes.
Shilo Lane is a writer living in Southeast Asia. Find out more about Thailand and Southeast Asian peoples at www.seasianpeoples.org.
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