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King of Thailand, a leader by righteous example, invites Church of God members to his celebration
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King of Thailand, a leader by righteous example,
invites Church of God members to his celebration
By Leon Sexton

Former Texas residents Leon and Gloria Sexton founded Legacy Institute, an independent Church of God ministry in South and Southeast Asia, in 1999. Legacy operates a school, Legacy Institute Leadership Training Center, for people from the poor hill tribes of the region. Legacy also supports Church of God evangelistic efforts in the area. The Sextons live in Chiang Mai. Donations to Legacy are tax-deductible in the United States and can be sent to Legacy Institute, P.O. Box 7, Dundee, Ohio 44624, U.S.A.

The Sextons have known the king and queen of Thailand for more than 25 years

BANGKOK, Thailand--My wife, Gloria, and I attended the June 9 ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of King Bhumibol Adulyadej's accession to the throne of the Kingdom of Thailand.

The ceremony took place in Ananta Samakom Throne Hall, at the Royal Plaza in Bangkok. The dress was formal, so I wore a white tie and tails and Gloria wore a long Thai-style formal dress.

King Bhumibol is the longest-reigning monarch in the world. In recent centuries only two have reigned longer than 60 years: Queen Victoria of England and Emperor Hirohito of Japan.

Kings, queens, princes, emirs and sultans from all over the world came to Bangkok to honor the king. The guest list included Emperor Akihito of Japan, Sultan Bolkiah of Brunai, King Abdullah of Jordan, King Carl Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden, Queen Sophia of Spain, Prince Albert of Monaco, Prince Andrew of Britain and many more.

More than 25 monarchies or their royal representatives gathered for the festivities in the palace and throne hall in Bangkok June 9-14. Gloria and I had been invited by the king to attend the event.

On that day we joined government officials, royal guards, military brass and the elite of Thailand, dressed in full dress uniforms of many colors with decorations and medals, at the throne hall. We sat inside.

From our seats we could see what was happening outside on monitors the palace had set up.

We witnessed a spectacle unprecedented in Thailand's history.

We looked out over a sea of yellow (the king's special color).

An estimated more than one million people, all dressed in yellow, had gathered in the royal plaza in front of the gate to the palace grounds. So many people stood there that they were backed up far down the avenue leading to the great square.

Many had waited all night, sleeping on the sidewalk or in the square, saving a place so they could share in the great occasion.

Soon the royal anthem heralded the arrival of the king and his wife, Queen Sirikit, and other members of the royal family.

After performing ceremonies to mark the event, the king and queen appeared on the balcony before the people.

Meanwhile we who were inside were escorted outside to line up below them on the audience lawn.

First Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn gave an address honoring the king. Then the prime minister, president of the senate and the chief justice of the supreme court all gave speeches.

These were followed by a 21-gun salute and the playing of the king's anthem.

Then King Bhumibol Adulyadej gave his anniversary speech.

Standing on the lawn below him, we could see that he was obviously emotionally moved. He said he was overwhelmed by the outpouring of honor given him by the people. Then he admonished them to pursue moral conduct and service to others.

"Firstly we should be compassionate to each other in our thoughts, speech and actions in order to achieve progress," he said.

"Secondly, we must come to the aid of each other and work for the mutual well-being of ourselves, others and the nation as a whole.

"Thirdly, everyone should think and act with honesty while staying true to the rules and respecting equality.

"Fourthly, as everyone strives to ensure their thoughts and views conform to righteousness and remain steadfast to reason, their minds and conduct must be in tandem with virtuous resolve. If this is achieved, there can be no doubt Thailand will stand proud and tall forever."

The king then urged Thais everywhere to "cherish and firmly uphold righteousness and moral integrity."

After his speech, the king was joined on the balcony by his wife, Her Majesty Queen Sirikit. Again, the royal anthem was played and all joined in choruses of "Song Pracharoen" ("Long Live the King").

Gloria and I could hear hundreds of thousands of voices outside the gates shouting in waves of emotion as they joined in wishing King Bhumibol a long life.

Palace people all around us were in tears as they honored their king. We, too, could not keep from shedding tears as we experienced the outpouring of love and honor as the king waved to the crowds.

This was a great honor for Gloria and me. We greatly appreciate the kindness of the king to invite us to attend. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Why is he so highly regarded?

Why do the Thai people love and revere their king?

What is it about him that causes so much love, honor and poured-out emotion by people of Thailand from all walks of life?

What is it about this king and queen that bring the kings and princes of this world to Thailand to honor them so greatly on this occasion?

Sultan Bolkiah of Brunei, as the longest-reigning monarch among the guests, spoke on behalf of all the royal guests at the banquet on June 14. Sultan Bolkiah toasted King Bhumibol.

"In recognizing all these accomplishments, some accounts of your reign have accorded you the title The Great," the sultan noted. "We can all understand why. But, for us who have come to honor you here, a simpler title expresses our feeling. It is a dear and very special title. You are our friend and our most respected colleague."

In every home or business in Thailand you will find a picture of King Bhumibol hanging in a place of honor.

The honor and respect shown for this monarch are unique to Thailand. They are found in no other nation and for no other leader on earth.

Why? What makes this king any different from any other king or prime minister or president?

Servant of all

It is simply his righteous character.

The king and queen of Thailand actually live their lives according to what Jesus the Christ taught in Mark 9:35: "If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all."

Over the last 60 years they have served the people of Thailand with all their hearts and with all their might.

It would take volumes to record all the good works and personal sacrifice of this king and queen. No one has been left out. They have traveled the length and breadth of the kingdom--even high into the mountains by horseback and on foot when there were no roads--to visit the poor and underprivileged and find solutions to their problems.

King Bhumibol has initiated more than 3,000 royal projects all over the country to help and serve his people. They know he loves them and sincerely cares for their welfare.

He and the queen live blameless lives and set examples of righteous conduct for their people and for leaders in the rest of the world.

Does that make them perfect? Of course not! They are human beings like the rest of us. But they strive to set the highest standard of righteous leadership.

Herbert W. Armstrong used to say there were no better examples of righteous leadership in the world than King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit. And he was right. That is why the royal houses of this world came to honor them.

Favor the church

The king and queen of Thailand have shown much favor to the Church of God over the years. They still do. This year Queen Sirikit sent two young students from the Karen tribe to study at Legacy Institute International Leadership Training Center.

We are honored that she would do so. We will do our best to train them to become leaders who serve their people.

In two more years the king will be 80 years old. I ask all of you to pray that God grant the king and queen long life and strength in their duties serving the Thai people.

They have shown, for more than 60 years now, that in their hearts and conduct they are pleasing God.

May God grant them His continued favor and grace.

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