One strange observation I’ve made during my time in Thailand is the number of missionaries who sport a distinct “tattoo” half way up the calf of their leg. The mystery was solved for me after I too received a similar marking on my calf . Thai motorcycle mufflers get very hot and people invariably rub against the hot metal, leaving a large patch of burnt flesh. It reminds me of the time I was leaving my house in a Thai market and found myself on the wrong end of a “lek muli” (weighted pipe). Canopies in the market were weighted down by a piece of one-inch pipe. The diminutive Thai slip easily under these obstructions, but at 6 foot tall, the uncapped end of the pipe hit me square in the forehead. I rushed to a local clinic and was promptly put on a gurney and a green sheet with a hole in it was placed over my face. I soon felt around four intense pricks with what I thought was a needle and then thought, “Now I’ll need to wait until the Novocaine takes affect”. To my huge surprise, the doctor simply said, “Set laew” (We’re through). I yelled, “You’re through??” He replied, “Yes, I’ve already sown you up.” I responded, “What? Why didn’t you use a pain killer first?” He nonchalantly replied, “Oh, I felt it was too expensive”.
Anyone preparing to minister in a cross-cultural context should, like Paul (Gal 6:17), expect times of “scaring” whether physically through marks borne on the skin or most often psychological and emotional scars endured through difficult relationships and traumatic encounters with the forces of evil. Physical scars heal quite quickly, but missionaries often need ongoing prayer and support to overcome the numerous invisible scaring that is part and parcel of the missionary experience.