I was chatting with the watch store owner today. We have becoming good friends since I visit often to teach English. One day she asked me an odd question. “So what are you selling?” She asked. I pondered for a moment. Then said, “I sell products about eternity”, pointing to the air. She and her employee laughed out loud. They understood what I meant. Then the owner showed me an idol that I had never noticed in the back counter. “See this idol? It represents an image of the Buddha. Since I was a child I have been praying to it. It brings me good luck, and I always feel safe when I ask it for protection. Usually once a week I make make merit here if I do not go to the temple”. This particular image represents one of the most famous Buddha images in Thailand so I had to be very respectful in my language toward it.
Now that I had listened to her, I got a chance to practice Thai. In my textbook, I had jotted down to practice the word ‘suffering’ (ความทุกข์) as its quite tricky in Thai. “Have you ever encountered suffering in your life?” I asked. End of this story is her response. Then I got so share what suffering means as a Christian, and part of my testimony. Specifically about how unlike Buddhists, Christians embrace suffering as a way of life and how Jesus gives us strength to overcome suffering. It was the first time I spoke on such subjects in Thai to a non-Christian. Praise God it was received warmly. The owner ended our day by saying, “please come back another day. I want to hear more about your stories”.
The owner’s name is “Pat” (Patricia) wearing the green sweater while her employee is named “Tong” (Gold) on the right. Tong while seemingly cold also has a warm side to her. When Tong was very sick, I visited her at work. When it got very bad I told her I would pray for her recovery. She eventually recovered. A similar situation occurred to Pat too. But with Tong, she remembered distinctly my promise to pray for her. Sometimes I wonder if Tong welcomes me like welcoming the Lord’s messenger in Isaiah 52:7. A few times, Tong gives me free water or fruit to try. Tong laughs at my stories and bad Thai as much as Pat does. When Thai’s laugh at my storytelling, I think that’s a good sign.
Pat has an interesting story. She actually owns two watch stores in the same building, and wants to improve her English to help build relationships with her foreign customers. Pat openly shares to me about her life and struggles, especially as it pertains to business matters. Pat is married and has a son in university. She is native to Bangkok. Overall she says she is happy in life. Her husband works hard at the bank, while she works a literal 9 am to 9 pm day job. Pat takes the weekends off to spend time with the family. But it also seems as though she has been through adversity. “Many years ago when the protests occurred in Bangkok, the protesters broke into this mall and burned down my stores. I had no insurance. Everything was lost. I was so depressed. It was the point in my life where I had suffered the most. Now I have rebuilt it all over again”.
Please pray for Pat and Tong that they would see their need for Jesus and that the Holy Spirit would grant me more ability to witness in a Thai way that would have no barriers for them to receive it.