Tonight I decided to re-visit the Christian lady who runs a small restaurant near my place for a meal. It was my sabbath day, but I figured this would be fun. I entered and saw there were Rita’s 2 kids but no Rita in sight. Jazz (aka “Jasmine”) warmly welcomed me and cooked me up a simple meal, while I chatted with a half Hong Kong/Thai man running the hostel upstairs with his Thai girlfriend. But they soon left on some personal business. I found out that Rita was sleeping from working crazy overtime, while her husband works opposite shifts at night. Usually, neither have time to take care of the kids and so Jazz voluntarily cares for them instead. This gave me a chance to watch tv and play games with the kids (in Thai). One game I thought up was “imitate the animal”. But the kids named some animals that I never heard of so I made my best guess. Somehow that didn’t phase them and they just laughed a lot. They also showed me some fun ones that were like tag. But they didn’t explain what the rules were and just assumed. Oh well.
A middle aged Thai lady appeared at the door. She was the landlord of the building, and Jazz introduced me to her. Her name was “Naa” (which means rice paddy). A cheerful lady from Buri Ram (Isaan) province, and was more than happy I could speak her dialect. Naa ordered the exact same thing I did oddly. Som Tam and fried chicken. Everyone lives off of fried foods here. I have a theory that the national food of Thailand is really fried chicken. Rarely do locals eat Pad Thai.
Anyways, after Naa took a seat and Jazz had finished cooking, Naa began sharing halfway through her meal. She works at Siam Center across from the big Siam Paragon mega mall downtown as a tailor. Naa shared in lengths about her customers, mainly Thai “professionals” who buy exorbitant amounts of clothing. All in different colors, and shapes and sizes. Not low end stuff, but the expensive 2000-4000 baht (aka $100-200 USD) dress shirts, suits, dresses, etc. The few foreigner customers were from Italy who were totally rolling in the cash. Who would have this much cash to burn? Were they bank managers, or government officials, actors, or wealthy millionaires? She wondered, but never asked. And sadly, just like all stores here – those customers disappeared when Covid hit.
Jazz pointed out to me that Naa’s store was going to close next week/month due to lack of business. Naa would be laid off too. How sad to see Thai’s suffer. “I am sorry to hear that Naa. Are you worried? What are you going to do?” I plainly asked. “For sure I am worried a lot. But I will find some other work to do…” Naa nonchalantly replied. She said much more of her plans but I forgot much of it. I was a bit shocked at how well she had been taking it. Not a single outward sign of distress.
I talked more about the matter with Jazz. This morning I walked about 5 km by foot in the blazing heat all the way to Khao San Road, known as a backpackers paradise for foreigners. But the same problem as everywhere else. Completely deserted, and talking with the locals yielded a very gloomy atmosphere. Everyone was so stressed out, to the point I couldn’t even have a light-hearted conversation with them. 3 ladies running a message parlor confided with me (Maybe because I can speak Isaan). They used to have an average of 300 customers a day. Now they are lucky to even have 6. They didn’t even bother to ask me why I was studying Thai after chatting for 20 minutes. Jazz pointed this out to me, “This is the problem with the Thai heart. It is so wrapped up in money all the time. It becomes like an idol. All we can think about now is money, so that we can have fun. We need a miracle for God to break our hearts”.
I asked before leaving if I could pray for Jazz to which she did something interesting. She said not to just pray for her, but also Naa’s situation and invited Naa to come sit. Naa was very surprised and at first hesitant to receive prayer. But Jazz was persistent – “you can be part of our Christian community. You do not need to pray, simply receive from the Ajarn (Teacher)”. I also explained that we Christians want to bless all people, not just those who are Christian. So Naa timidly agreed and took a seat across from me. In Thailand, People are happy to receive a blessing from anyone. Religious affiliation does not matter.
Situations like these remind me of how important it is to be ready always for what God will do. Like the word says, “…be ready in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2). I am so grateful to minister with other Thai believers such as Jazz. Because Jazz had obeyed the Lord’s calling to open a restaurant to use as a ministry tool, I was able to speak into those like Naa and Rita. Jazz is a reminder that us missionaries only play a supporting role in the growth of Christ’s kingdom here. And we are to empower bold Christians like her to carry on the gospel to make disciples in this nation of Thailand.