Articles

Worship Up the Hill

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Gabriel Reid, 130 TESS

I depart from the house ten minutes after six in the evening. I stop at 7-11 to break Day’s 1000 bill with the following purchase: 2 bags of potato chips, 2 snickers bars, and 1 bag of pistachios. I pedal to the school thereafter and I see Kru Mean, my counterpart, returning home therefrom with printer paper to complete budget work from home — if teaching English and Thai were not enough, she is also the school’s accountant! We confirm to meet tomorrow for our lesson planning just as the sun begins to set. We see Kun Laa, the hostess of the Bible Study tonight, and she instructs me to wait at the school for five more minutes as she goes to the store to gather food for the guests. Right on time, at 6:30 p.m., Kun Laa motorbikes pass me and motions for me to follow her and, of course, I do so. She turns left unto a dirt road ascending just North of the school. It becomes progressively challenging to keep up with her because of the incline. As she continues Northeast, the elevation of the path increases while the amount of sunlight decreases; I have never seen this part of Wiang Haeng, so I am in much awe because of the unfamiliarity. We pass a concession stand for hot dogs and various meats in the middle of the neighborhood, oddly enough, and we make our way to her home, finally, just as we complete a bumpy avenue. Her husband, Kun Dan, a short man in his mid-30s, with hair unusually long for a Thai man, but not long enough to put it into a ponytail, greets us with their four children on the porch. I take off my shoes right after they generously invite me into their home. They do not have much. Dark colored blankets cover their windows, the backseat of a sedan rest against the east wall as their sofa, a brown rug with white elephants lies in the middle of the room, a portrait of White Jesus next to a miniature Christmas tree rest on top of a wooden night stand, a relatively large hand-woven basket for the baby is opposite of the sofa, and five plastic chairs stacked on one another make up their living room. She brings out the snacks and the water; Empty Glade air fresheners serve as water bottles to pour into small plastic cups. They do not have much. Nevertheless, they welcome me with open arms. Another fellow arrives, Kun Assa. He will lead this evening’s Bible Study in Thai as Kun Laa translates into Tai Yai — no one else here understands English. I tell him I am thankful to be here and, then, as he pulls out his Bible, I ask him, what did he read today. He points to the book of Mark in my Thai-English Bible and we are able to read Chapter 1 verse 3 together. I asked him, testing his biblical knowledge, “Who speaks here?” And after a bit of confusion, he tells me, “Luke Chai koong Zechariah” [Son of Zechariah] and I bask in a moment of wonder as I just completed my first cross-language biblical exchange. Not much time to soak it in. Immediately afterwards, he begins the Bible study with just a few us in attendance. The structure follows similar Bible Studies I have attended in America: We bow our heads and pray; sing a song of praise and worship — 3 songs tonight; prayer again; reading of the Scripture, in this case, they read Matthew 5:13-16; the interpretation that follows; and, then, a closing with prayer request. I can follow the structure, but I cannot understand, as you can imagine, anything. I do see, however, the speaker, Kun Assa, filled with the Holy Spirit. He is speaking in chunks so Kun Laa may translate, but his passion exuberates as he rises from his floor kneeling position to an erected seating posture hoping his words do not fall on deaf ears. His love for the Lord is evident as the fervor in his speech elaborates with each pause. He spoke with such authority and such conviction that his message was not his own, but from above. His hands move in exasperated motions, painting a picture for the unlearned. Others nod their head in agreement with the teachings as every fragmented paragraph is translated. He grows in animation, he is so alive! His fervency grows, he points to the left, he grabs air, he leans in, he slams an imaginary table with his fist! He circles in love with his hands as he gives the most earnest message on his heart. You cannot imitate this; This spirit is authentic. I have never seen a Thai man speak as such! I can comprehend what he is doing even though I cannot understand what he is saying — he is strengthening their faith, their call to His Holy purpose! And all of a sudden, calm is restored to the room; He begins the conclusion of this meeting of the flock by asking me about my prayer request. I muster what I can in Thai and add a little bit more with the help of Google Translate. We each pray together in our different tongues at the same time believing our God comprehends us all. Following, a few elementary stories are shared and, then, all is complete. We say our goodbyes and do our “whys”. Kun Dan is kind enough to follow me home on his motorbike to ensure my safe return —once there, I give Day her snacks and her change.

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