Friday, June 17, 2011

FROM BANGKOK with LOVE - Somchai & Saenthong

Somchai interprets for George - Hmong Tribal New Year celebrations
"I tasted the blood on my cut lip and smelled the sweat of my own fear. The roar of the crowd faded beneath the sound of my own racing heart beat and the grunt of my opponent as I landed the next brutal blow. I knew about the Christian ideal of turning the other cheek, but that was not for me. I was a fighter.

"My name is Somchai - macho man. As a Muay Thai kick boxer, my duty was to deal out and counteract lethal blows while aiming for victory and ruining the career of my opponent in the ring. The satisfaction of delivering vicious, lightning-fast punishment was one way to overcome my own body's agony after the match was fought and won. I owed it to myself, my reputation, and my hordes of faithful admirers to obtain victory. I rode high on their supportive cheers and the excitement I generated as I contended in furious battles of hardened muscles and wits. And I paid my fans back handsomely with the huge amounts of money they made when I won. Yes, I was invulnerable!

After the match I felt their love and concern over my bruises as I jumped from the ring and they touched me for luck. Often hurting badly, I'd only stagger later when no one could see. It didn't matter if the pain made me sick to my stomach, for soon these good fellows would take me out to the best of Bangkok's nightclubs. They would ply me with liquor to dull the soreness of my ribs and the stiffness of my battered thighs. After all, I was the triumphant warrior straight from a glorious battle, or so they continually assured me.

I don't know why it never occurred to me that while they were getting richer and fatter, I was suffering more and more. But popularity is a strong drug; a little is not enough. I was proof to them of what it meant to be a real man. I was making good money, too, and one day I'd buy a big home and a flashy car. I would also be  on equal footing with a man who deals in gold jewelry. And better still, I would have my pick of all those beautiful girls we Thais are so proud of!"

Somchai went on to admit that all the drinking, smoking, and carousing, were softening him up for something really bad. because one night after a long session with his friends, he doubled over with an agony that would not quit. Mercifully, he was taken to the nearby Bangkok Christian Hospital where he was operated on for stomach ulcer perforations. But even through his pain, he believed he would fight again. After all, pain wasn't new to him and his career was his life. But as day followed dreary day without any visits from his "friends", his depression deepened. But still he made excuses for them, until the truth finally sunk in like the venom of a cobra strike. They didn't care! For now they'd be fawning over other young hopefuls.

Somchai continues:  "Right there at the lowest point, God stepped into the ring of my life. A group of young Christians from a nearby Church visited me and told me all about Jesus, and how he died to take away the penalty of all my sins. I didn't need convincing that I was a sinner, and I responded immediately. And after I asked Jesus into my life, the great weights of disappointment, frustration, and bitterness left me. And I felt as fine as I always did in the ring before a match!"

His old "friends" weren't interested in the new direction his life had taken. They believed Christianity was a Western religion and shunned him. But Somchai discovered he now had a hunger for spiritual things and he joined the same church as his new, young Christian friends. He even entered Bible College to discover all he could about the Bible. With his proficiency in English, he began translating for missionaries. And it was while he preached the Good News about Jesus in Phuket that he met Saenthong. She had been brought up by missionaries and as a teacher in Maths, also spoke English. Well, it didn't take too much convincing her that this enthusiastic young man was the right man for her. They both had a longing to share the Gospel.

Nowadays, and after their two sons were grown, she teaches children and young people, while Somchai reaches adults. Saenthong also answers correspondence from the thousands of Thai Gospels of John that we hand out to school children, prisoners, hospital patients, and in open air situations. They make a wonderful team, and George and I are privileged to work together with them each year during Nov/Dec. We travel out from their home in the heart of Bangkok, to every area of Thailand, and continually praise the Lord for bringing them together.

1 comment:

Margaret Lepke said...

What a glorious conversion! I love hearing about God's provision for His people; spiritually, physically, and even romantically :) It never ceases to amaze me how different our conversion stories are - and yet all of us responded to the same gospel message: Christ died and rose again to save sinners. Praise God for being a saviour!