It’s six o’clock in the morning, but really it’s eight o’clock at night. It’s a strange limbo between twilight and sunrise. It’s the confusion that travelers experience when waking up thousands of miles, many time zones away, from home. I’m sitting in the comfortable gray light, scribbling in my journal and reading, wondering what my second day in this strange place will bring. It already feels like home as my teammates start to wake up and begin their day.
The streets are already humming with people, as early as it is. The humid, tropical heat presses on my back. People peddle by on bikes, sell breakfast on the side of the narrow alleyway, or simply sit in front of their homes, enjoying the few cooler hours of the day. My friend Kaleb and I stop at a woman’s cart, several blocks from the house. The coffee is only thirty cents, she tells us with gestures and a smile. We watch as she makes the coffee in front of us and adds a heavy dose of ice, finally handing it to us in plastic bags. I sip the icy concoction out of the neon straw and marvel how good it is and how the bag handles are perfect to hold. This is Thailand, where you can drink coffee out of a plastic bag amidst of the morning bustle.
The memories of Thailand from this past summer intermingle in my mind like the various shades and hues of colors. Some are the brilliant golden of the Buddha statues in the temples, others are the vivid greens of the lush landscape or my friend Andrew’s T-shirt in the midst of hundreds of people in the bustling marketplace, while others still are the spicy yellows of the chicken and friend rice that we ate everyday. Even brighter are the memories of the relationships I made and saw grow. I met so many wonderful people there. I became a family with my amazing team and the missionary family that hosted us. I was able to touch the lives, even for the briefest moment, of the people we came to serve.
Later that week our team partnered with the Thai Baptist Church and went to the slums to serve the children there. Walking down, single file, in the narrow alleys of the slums of Bangkok, it really was like what you see on television or in movies. I was surprised to see families sitting on concrete floors watching television inside of houses made of tin. There were gaping holes in the floor and laundry hung in the wet air. Despite all this, the kids we met and played with were so happy and trusting. We gathered in the neighborhood, where the pond surrounding the square was a slick greenish black and littered with trash. But the kids didn’t even seem to notice it. They laughed, hugged us, and begged to be twirled around. We played other games with them, and by the end they were hugging us and begging that we didn’t leave.
It was astonishing to think that so many of them did not have the opportunities we have here in America. Who knows if their future included college, or even high school? Would they be trapped in the slums forever? What we did seems small in comparison to the struggles they go through everyday. Hope was all we could offer. The love of God was what we sought to leave. I know images of their faces will always stay with me.
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