This is reposted from our latest newsletter and gives the story when God first connected my heart with Thailand.
In the late fall of 2004, we were scouting Bangkok, Thailand as a potential place to serve overseas and see God’s call to mission accomplished in our life. We wanted to know what the city would be like, the food, the transportation and meet the people we would serve with. We enjoyed the food, city and bustle of life; acknowledged the heat we needed to become accustomed to; and learned to navigate the transportation. We even took a water taxi, which should be called a water boat the way people jam into the narrow and long wooden boat that motors up and down the rivers and canals. In Thailand, as with many other cultures, there is always “room for one more”, so we would squeeze to the side and squish to allow another passenger. The Thais riding with us always look on with curiosity when we ride the boat as the foreigners rarely take this working class form of transportation.
Toward the end of our brief visit, we took the boat across town to visit the center where Our Home Chapel meets and the English School holds classes. We wanted to meet Kelly and Angie Hilderbrand, the senior missionaries and founder of the Foursquare church in Bangkok, and see the ministry center. Andy had ridden the boat several times, but in no way was he used to getting in and out of the low level boat. The step down from the dock to the boat changes depending on the location of the pier. Sometimes the step is shallow and other times the step is steep; uniformity does not describe the way things are built in Bangkok. Each time, Andy grabbed tight to the rope that ran along the tarp roof of the boat. And looked to step into the boat cautiously not to step on other passengers. Then he could find his way to a seat. To increase the difficulty of getting onto the boat, or maybe it is to speed things along for efficiency; the boats never fully stop at the dock. They just keep floating through as everyone jumps in and out.
When we were getting off near Our Home Center, Tina and her father grabbed Andy’s arms to hoist him easily out of the boat and onto the dock. They were pulling him up while all the Thai people looked on with eyes wide open. They wondered how this would work and wished they could help in some way, but since we didn’t speak Thai they couldn’t help us. They kept watching with their eyes fixed on the scene of Andy being pulled onto the dock by two people not familiar with the moving boat. As the boat slowly floated through the stop, they pulled him up and onto the dock not realizing they now were right next to one of the posts on the pier. Andy came up smack into that post, head on.
At that moment, all the bystanders gasped. Their hearts went out to the foreigner with a bump on his head reminding him of the trip that morning. Andy made believe he was okay, shook his head, and walked it off. They went on to see the ministry center. However, something in that process settled in Andy’s heart. He could have easily said this country would be too hard to live in. He could have allowed this to be an easy excuse to go home and never come back. Instead, he resolved to learn from this mistake and not allow a knock on the head to stop him. When he remembers that incident, all he remembers now is how the Thai people wished to help so much. They cared for a perfect stranger. Our hearts inseparably connected with the Thai people in that moment.