Hitch hiking monk
After a 3 day bible story training in Mae Sot, North Thailand, Kennedy Paizs and I were making the five hour trek back to Chiang Mai. I noticed an elderly monk hitch hiking by the side of the road. I stopped and asked his situation, being careful to use the proper vocabulary for monks. He was visiting a sick monk in the next city and needed a lift to the hospital. We sat him in the front seat and what proceeded was a 90 minute extended story session.
During that time we told him the story of Jesus crucifixion, the two thieves killed alongside Jesus, the burial and resurrection of Jesus and his parable of the prodigal son. The monk’s background was initially catholic, he had heard these stories before and in characteristic fashion said that he respected Jesus and saw no problem in holding to both religions.
As we pulled into a filling station for gas, he mentioned that he felt thirsty and needed some water. I entered the 7-11 store and reached for a couple of 15 cent water bottles. He indicated that those were “no good” and instead placed a couple of 70 cent mineral water bottles in my hand. Since I had not eaten lunch, I began to pick up some treats to eat on the way. As I placed my items at the register, he told the clerk to add a pack of cigarettes to the bill. After I had paid, I reached down to pick up my items, but the monk had already confiscated the bag! As a monk, he was used to people giving him free stuff to make merit and thought I was buying the whole bag for him! He had just explained to us a number of Thai words, one of which was “graeng jai” (difficult to translate, but basically means “to defer” to someone). I realized I was too “graeng jai” to ask for my items back and so we continued our trip.
Our conversation then rambled on about Thai politics, Buddhist animist beliefs, life in at the temple and even Hollywood movies (he had seen 10 James Bond films). As we dropped him off at the hospital, he accepted a tract and gave us his contact information. Kennedy and I then paused in the car and prayed for our unexpected guest. We are now making plans to visit him on our next trip to Mae Sot.
Our monk friend openly shared how he had lost both his wife and baby when he was 27 years old and after working manual labour for 30 years had finally gotten too feeble to work and with no family to support him, entered the monkhood. The sad fact is that there are thousands of similar scenarios taking place all around us here in Thailand. The Thai people’s greatest need is to hear the life-giving stories of the gospel, so that they may understand the message clearly and thus see the uniqueness and power of Jesus.