I just came back from a short-term mission trip to Thailand. We visited Rosebank missionaries Nick & Trish Bekker and Mandisa Makasi in the city of Lampang, in the northern parts of the country. What an amazing experience! I was fascinated by just about everything we saw and experienced – almost everything is different from our beloved South Africa. Let me mention a few:
- Food and Eating. People eat rice, noodles and all sorts of meat and fish combinations – and most like it hot! There are vendors cooking food at the side of the road everywhere you go. You can find a good meal at the side of the road for the equivalent of R7.00. You can eat in very nice restaurants, pay ten times the price and enjoy an air-conditioned environment. But who would want to do that? By the way, you eat with a spoon with your right hand and cut with a fork in your left hand. Nogal tricky, if you’re used to knife and fork in the proper British way.
- Toilet habits. In Thailand you don’t flush toilet paper down the drain! You do your thing, wash the relevant part of your anatomy with water (the “grander” places have a spray hose) and then dry your whatever with toilet paper (if provided). The latter is then discarded in a bag which hangs beside the toilet.
- Language and Speaking. Thai uses a different alphabet and they speak in a tonal way. Most voices are about five tones higher than the South African male macho voice. This is interesting, but when you hear much of it you may feel like you’re in a women’s skinder party. No, it’s not that bad, but it takes some getting used to. And it’s very frustrating not to be able to understand and making yourself understood.
- Religion and Worship. There is a saying that goes “to be Thai is to be Buddhist” and this is obvious everywhere you go. Bhuddism believes in reincarnation and is pretty much based on works. Every household or business is trying to keep the local spirit happy by offering food and gifts in a “spirit house” erected outside the building. If you don’t live a good life you may come back in the next life as your mother-in-law! And if you kick a dog you may hurt your ouma! How does one reach this culture with the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
I came away from Lampang with the overwhelming awareness of the difficult challenges our missionaries are facing. I will certainly pray for them more often and with much more understanding. A short-term mission trip does not require much: some fund-raising, prayer support and a bit of a daring spirit. You don’t even need any training – you just need to be willing to support our missionaries in what they are doing. Why not consider going on one next year? It will impact your life forever! And you get to experience a different culture as a bonus…