Hi. I’m Kalani (kah-lah-nee). Welcome to northern Laos. I live in Luang Prabang (luh-wahng prah-bahng), an ancient city built on a peninsula overlooking two rivers. From my family home, you can see green mountain ranges and the Mekong River where my dad drives a river taxi. When I was younger, I spent many days in the back of that long, narrow boat, helping father ferry passengers to the riverside villages.
My city is filled with Buddhist temples and monasteries, the place where monks live. Many families send one son to live and serve in a monastery. Buddhism teaches that this sacrificial action is one way parents can gain merit, religious points that increase their chances of a good future life. It is also a way for sons to receive a free education. I am one of those sons.
When I turned 12, I shaved my head and entered a Buddhist monastery. I’m part of a group of boys who live and go to school here. We get up early, dress in orange robes, and add a yellow sash to show that we’re “monks-in-training.” Then we meditate in front of a statue of Buddha. Before joining the other monks, we grab our shoulder bags. These bags hold all of our possessions and we carry them wherever we go. In a single file line, we walk barefoot through the streets to collect alms, food offerings from people who wait along the roadside. They place food like sticky rice or bananas in the alms bowls we carry. We chant our thanks and walk silently back to the monastery. By accepting food from others, we learn humility and contentment with what we have. The collected food will be our breakfast and lunch. For most of the day, we go to school. We learn to serve others by cleaning the monastery and doing yard work. In the evening, it’s time for homework. There’s no dinner because we fast, going without food until breakfast.
In six months, my time here will be completed and I will return home. I miss my family, but know that I’m getting a good education here at the monastery.
Give each child a book bag or backpack. Invite them to go to through the house, collect some of their favorite things, and put them in their bags. Gather together and let each child show some of the items from their bags. Imagine that this is all you own and that you must carry your belongings with you everywhere you go – like Buddhist monks do. How would your life be different if you could fit everything you own into your backpack?
• Buddhists believe that actions like giving food to monks and sending their son to live in a monastery will help ensure a future life that is free from pain and suffering. Pray that as Lao families learn about Jesus, they will trust in God’s promise to give them a hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)
• When Lao families trust in Jesus, they face persecution from government leaders and nonbelievers. Ask God to give Lao believers boldness to share Jesus with their family and friends.