Lawson writes . . . sharing thoughts and memories

August 19, 2010

Ping Pong and Buddhism

Filed under: Uncategorized — lawsonjolly @ 5:00 am

Ping Pong, or Table Tennis, is one of the leading sports in South Korea.  The country is committed to Olympic competition and the country seeks to provide the best in training.  The results have been seen in the success that South Korea has had in international sports.  From 1970 to 2004, the country has won 203 Olympic medals, including 72 gold medals.

I was invited to visit a special building in which the ping-pong players trained.  There were many floors, although I visited only a few of them, and  I was told that as an athlete improved in his game, he would move to the next floor for training.  A building just for training ping-pong players!  That is commitment by a country!

I had the joy of meeting many of the players.  One of the top ping-pong players, and I apologize for not remembering his name, was ranked in the late 1970s as second in the world.  He was expected to win a medal in the 1980 Olympic games.

He took a break from his training schedule and joined my father and me in the cafeteria.  The conversation ranged from my inquiry about the sport, to his inquiry about America and why we were in Korea.  His inquiry opened the door for me to share.  I explained that we had come to visit the country and share about the religious faith we had.  He responded that he was a religious person also.

Although he had little time for religion because of his training, he acknowledged that he was Buddhist. Although I had used the words that spoke of our religious faith, I knew there was a vast difference in religions.  Christianity is not a religion, but I wanted to be careful with my words.  I wanted us to stay on the same page in our conversation and not enter a debate about what is a religion and what is not. 

Many say all religions are the same.  They are not if it includes Christianity.  Yet, I can agree that all religions, excluding Christianity, are the same.  What they all have in common is works.  The world religions are based on things you do — care for poor, live morally, etc.  These religions also focus on the things you do not do.   For me, the religions are a “do and do not” religion.  It is that code by which one will receive heaven, or whatever future life or reward the particular religion believes.

I was able to share with my friend about our “religion.”  I complimented Buddhism for an emphasis on requiring good living and service to other people.  I explained that Christianity emphasized that also.  However, I told him  that in Christianity, a word dominates our faith.  That word is grace.  I sought to explain that it provided forgiveness for our failures, thus we were not dependent on our works.

He listened eagerly and intently.  I shared a witness booklet with him, written in his language.  The pages illustrated the gospel of Christ.  At the conclusion of the booklet, the question was asked if there was any reason he could not receive Christ as his personal Savior.  He joyfully responded, and in that cafeteria, this world athlete became a Christian.  He had a multitude of questions . . . yet none expressed doubt.  Neither did he express any fear or reservations from departing from the religion of his birth.

Shortly, he was connected with a pastor who would become his teacher and mentor in the Christian faith.  It has been the spread of the gospel in Korea that has contributed significantly to the decline of Buddhism in Korea.  But more importantly, it is the spread of the gospel in Korea that has contributed to the growth of God’s kingdom on earth.

This kind of story can be reported from around the world.  Hopefully, you have stories from your own part of the world.

“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes . . . .”  (Romans 1:16)  ” . . . and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  (Acts 1:8)



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