[Saturday afternoon 15 December] There are still quite a few cities and countries in this world that I would like to visit. Indonesia and Singapore are certainly on that list. This week the small screen on the back of the seat in front of me told me that I was less than 100 kilometers away from Indonesia. And I did visit Singapore for some twelve hours or so. It is a shame that it was so short and that I saw nothing of it. Early Friday morning (local time) I saw the lights of the airport flashing by as we landed in Singapore. We then enjoyed for a few moments the luxury of terminal 2 of Changi Airport, but without seeing even a little bit of sky. The room in the transit hotel at the airport where we stayed during our stop was both sound- and lightproof. Later in the afternoon we could see planes arriving and departing, while we were in one of the airport eating places. But when we left on the Airbus 320 of Lao Airlines with destination Vientiane it was already pitch dark. So much for a visit to Singapore.
Singapore was not our destination. My wife Aafje and I have been invited for a wedding in the capital of Laos. It is my task to officiate at a wedding service later in the coming week. Embedded in many Buddhist traditions, there will be a Christian service and that is where I have a role. The groom is the youngest son of friends from Utrecht (Netherlands), while the bride is from Laos. They met in Laos where the groom is working and living since quite some time. I had the privilege of performing the marriage of his parents, and that of his older brother and his Chinese-Malaysian wife. So, in fact, you could say, I am the family pastor.
Presently we are overcoming our jetlag in Vientiane, the capital city of the Democratic People’s Republic of Laos. We are staying in a friendly hotel at a few hundred meters from the Mekong River. From our fourth floor room we are looking down at this famous stream with Thailand at the other side of the water. Friends from the Netherlands are staying in the same hotel. This morning we joined in renting a tuktuk to have a short look at the city. Now I am writing while seated in the roofed-over terrace area of the hotel, with a Coca-Cola in my hand, and enjoying the 25-plus Celsius temperature. Across the street is a large Buddhist temple complex which we will no doubt inspect sooner rather than later. Our jetlag and the realization that today is the seventh day, keep our program for today simple. The Internet tells me that there is a Seventh-day Adventist church in town, but since our proficiency in the Laotian language is nil, we decide to skip worship today.
I do not know how my local ‘brethren’ would react if they knew that a European Adventist pastor happens to be in town to officiate at a wedding ceremony. I am, however, not going against the official rules of my church. The groom has an Adventist background, but is not a baptized member of the church. The bride has a Buddhist background. Having lived in France for a number of years she is, however, aware of the basics of Christianity. I have always been convinced that I should be ready to cooperate when a couple approaches me because they want God’s blessing on their marriage. Such a wish is always my point of departure. Any church rules will always take second place to this. No doubt I will be confronted during the three days of festivities, later in the week, by traditions that do not agree with my personal views. But I hope that my role may contribute to the fact that the God whom I know may be presented well during these ceremonies.