A Time to Die

by Johnny and Ann McClean

Sompit put the gun in her handbag, climbed onto her motorbike, and began the slow deliberate journey to her death. Sompit’s whole body ached as she swept her house. Her aching wasn’t just the result of the searing midday sun, but the desperate emptiness welling up inside her. It seemed fitting that her last task on earth was so mundane. She put away the broom, picked up the gun and walked outside.

For years it all seemed to be going wrong. A violent husband, a shameful divorce, followed by loneliness and pain as friends turned away from her. A son who exchanged the adoration of his mother for the wild life of Bangkok, and stole money from her to maintain his irresolute lifestyle. The long heartbreaking silence with no news.

What had Sompit to live for? Buddhism had failed her. Looking for answers she became more devoted in her religious practices, but no answers came through that way. Her status as a teacher seemed to mock her. What did that matter now? She had given up finding a reason to carry on.

Sompit put the gun in her handbag, climbed onto her motorbike, and began the slow, deliberate journey to her death. No fear, no regret. Just a realization that death was the only way out of an interminable existence.

But God had other plans.

As Sompit rode on, along a remote road 14 miles outside the town of Lopburi in Thailand, she saw a sight so unusual that she stopped in her tracks. A red-headed “farang” (foreigner) was cycling in the midday heat! Bemused, Sompit pulled up alongside him and began to talk, first in stilted English and then in Thai.

“Where are you going?” “What are you doing?” “What is your work?” “Oh! You’re a missionary! Where’s your church?”

Slowly, Johnny McClean tried his best to answer her questions. He thought them insignificant, no doubt triggered by the incongruity of his white skin and red hair. Thailand had been his home for just five months and his language was limited to say the least, and yet something important was being communicated.

“See you again!” Sompit said, “Maybe I’ll come to your church next week!”

As the conversation ended, Johnny cycled on and Sompit turned back to her house. Perhaps today wasn’t the day to end her life after all, she reflected.

Two weeks later Sompit arrived at church and bombarded everyone in sight with questions. “What is the Bible? What do you believe? What do Christians do?” She met Thai Christians and experienced Christian worship and fellowship for the first time. At last she was beginning to find some answers.

The next Sunday she was back at church, this time not just for the 10:30 am service. When the early morning Bible study started Sompit was there, eager to learn, ready to fire questions at anyone who would take the time to answer them.

More answers came as she began to meet regularly with Anong, a Thai OMF worker who understood her language and culture, but who was also a believer. As Anong explained stories from the Gospels every week, Sompit began to understand who Jesus Christ is, and the hope he gives for the future.

The turning point came as Anong read the story of the widow and her dead son from Luke, chapter 7. The story could have been about her – Sompit! She was a “widow” with a son “as good as dead,” and yet Jesus was offering hope and new life even in that most desperate of situations. Slowly and clearly Sompit began to pray, thanking God not only for her life, once so close to ending, but also for her new life in Christ.

Today, Sompit is one of the leaders in the Lopburi church. A shining example of God’s power to forgive sin and restore broken lives, Sompit still teaches at school, where she stands firm in her faith, despite opposition from staff members.

As children pass through her classes Sompit teaches them about Jesus through stories, songs and the love she has for them. Choose life, she tells her young charges, showing them that being Thai doesn’t mean you have to be Buddhist.

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