To save time, yours and ours, will try to write more briefly, in â€œtext-message-lingoâ€?, no, donâ€™t really know that, rather, the style formerly used in telegrams and telexes so long ago and far away only a few of you will remember. Will take a while to perfect it though.
Friday January 23 Maekhlong
This eve Lek/Thom proclaim us â€œspecial friendsâ€? who donâ€™t pay for meals from their cart. Asked Gong/Da about that; they told us treat it as sincere hospitality and not think it creates any cultural obligation for us to reciprocate.
Got online for first time yesterday; had worrisome email problem; called Olypen today; their man solves problem quickly, to our relief.
Maekhlong Christian radio 106.5-FM owned by non-Christian for profit. Gong/Da do regular broadcasts, receive inquiries by phone/letter, followup, resulting 5 new Christians this year. Church also buys airtime on CATV (Bt.2,000/mo. for regular periodic spots). They showed us the well done ads for gospel book featuring testimonies of Christ by well known figures in business, entertainment.
Gong/Da supplied us well done gospel tracts to hand out.
Much walking Maekhlong streets every day makes back very sore. Chuckâ€™s height has shrunk 3â€? in â€œwaning yearsâ€? due to spinal disc buffers compression producing soreness.
Brother Mai, whom we visited in hospital and prayed for Wednesday, went home today much better.
For Chinese New Year (CNY) which starts next Monday (starting date differs each year per lunar calendar) and run a week through following Sunday a huge temporary market is being setup in Wat (temple) parking lot across from hotel. Substantial minority of Thais have Chinese ancestry and the ethnic Thais have adopted CNY as a major holiday for themselves too. Many shops closed for week as many merchants are Chinese. Gong/Da warned us beware of pickpockets who frequent festivals, fairs, etc.
Saturday January 24
Two rooms from us in hotel big CNY party late into night, very noisy; little sleep. Dense traffic today; traffic police out in force in our city center neighborhood; CNY mini-parade this morning, a few folk w/drum, gong, and dragon suit. Tomorrow is â€œWai Dayâ€? when Chinese visit homes of friends, give red envelopes with a little money to children. CNY officially starts Mon. Buying new clothes, visiting Chinese temple, partying, also highlight CNY.
Having lunch riverside pavilion hosp canteen, a delicious haven from heat, when lovely young family approached, greeted us in Thai, and with difficulty we finally pieced together they are Christians from â€œour newâ€? church. Later learned they at hospital because mother of husband/father â€œOatâ€? in hospital. â€œOatâ€? and wife â€œSuâ€? are fisherfolk, live seaside village Don Hoi Lot mentioned earlier message, poor, live in house on stilts over water right out of National Geographic, and staying in govt hospital as the most basic nursing care available only those who pay Bt.100 ($3) hourly. They cannot afford so they stay at hosp and nurse her. Same system as when we lived here 40 years ago.
Lek invited us to go somewhere with her for evening coming Tuesday and will pick us up. Could understand nothing else; no idea what she plans. We trust God.
Sunday January 25
Walking market streets this morning to get breakfast on way to church man in group of four greeted us; we stopped to chat. Dr Chawalit, his wife, friend and his wife live Bangkok, were on way to visit friend 75 year old abbot of temple in town. Dr Chawalit a PhD in architecture, degrees from Cal/Berkeley, UW, and UMichigan. Retired principal of a Bangkok arch/engrg firm, and now part time professor Chula Univ, top univ of Thailand. His friend CEO of huge engrg/construc firm Pan Pacific name of which I remember from Thai banking days; they also dealer Terex the huge construction machinery. Asked us get together with them when in Bangkok.
Went church via first ever ride here in a â€œsong-tay-ohâ€? (tiny pickup with two facing bench seats in truckbed). Bt.5 ea. Sure beats Bt.40 for â€œsam-lorâ€? (3-wheel motorcycle cab) more pleasant ride too.
At church today; another new Christian birthed, to the glory of God; her radiance stunning. Thatâ€™s one each on the two Sundays weâ€™ve been here. Many worship songs tunes we know well but unable to remember English words, too distracted by Thai words coming forth clearly and beautifully from congregation. Another sister, Pitsamai, introâ€™d self. Left early to start work selling bulk rice in night market that moves from place to place around town each day of week; watched her during meeting; her face enraptured thru Bible teaching, praise singing, prayer. As far as we can tell, every person in this church is of very humble means and most seem maturing, some very strong in Christ, just as Lord says in Bible, God chooses the humble of this world to shame the wise and lofty. Church surrounded us, laid on hands, and prayed for our home church. Surely the Lord will manifest himself specially to our brothers and sisters there. During Bible teaching/preaching whole congregation frequently reads passages in unison which they do beautifully, Godâ€™s precious Word in the lovely Thai language; something the profusion of translations/paraphrases in America makes impossible. Seems the church gives to all or encourages all to use the same Thailand Bible Society translation for that purpose. Counted 40-45 in meeting incl. children, with 33 adults. Thrilled to see brother Mai up front playing guitar after in hospital Tuesday, very ill.
Outside church huge explosion of CNY firecrackers; hundreds at once finishing with big bang (M-80?) Sounds like machine gun. Disconcerting till you get used to it. Also hear them frequently around hotel, wat, market.
Most dense traffic today, vehicles/pedestrians just packing streets. See pix on website posted today.
Just as we walked out of hotel, in walked Gong and Da to our surprise, and bearing royal yellow polo shirts gift for us displaying the kingâ€™s crest. So for couple hours with them we walked the CNY throngs and market, snacked too much, of course, at the endless variety of stalls and food carts. Gong/Da asked us to give our testimonies next Sunday at church; such testimonies being a weekly feature of their assembly. I will work on an all Thai version this week; if insufficient then Da will translate whatever I speak in English.
Monday January 26
Awakened middle night huge racket like galv steel trashcan thrown off balcony by our room. Breakfast on riverside consisted coffee filtered thru a cloth bag and served iced in a plastic bag, delicious, also fresh mango and first ever fresh â€œka-noonâ€? AKA jackfruit or breadfruit in other countries. Yum.
Only two bridges cross large river Maekhlong on which town built, both are a mile + up and downriver from centre. Surprising. Small ferry (see pix) is only mode crossing river from town centre/market. Our hotel three-minute walk from ferry pier; took ferry today first time, Bt.2 ea. (6 cents). Walking on-board involves competing with motorbikes for room on the gangway. Town portion on other side river radically different from our side. Except land right on river, only visible development inland that we could see by walking is very low density housing, mixed in startling diversity, beautiful homes for rich and shacks of the poor side by side. Mixed with housing is occasional light industry. (see pix) Doesnâ€™t seem to be any zoning anywhere in Thailand weâ€™ve been. What a striking difference a six-cents one-minute ferry ride can make, from teeming density one side of river to semi-rural just 300 yards away.
Today was very hot in direct sun, so waited till cool of evening for next walk of discovery, prowling fascinating narrow back alleyways separating rustic homes and tiny shops, eventually emerging into huge lovely park we presume to be the townâ€™s main or only park. Many people taking advantage of fine well maintained and laid out open spaces with facilities for jogging, walking, big group exercise classes doing serious aerobic exercise to the beat of energetic Thai music, little kids feeding eager koi in nice big pond. Topped off our day out of doors with dinner at riverside restaurant with the queen of Thai soups, tom yam gung, hot and sour soup with shrimp, the best weâ€™ve ever had, loaded with enormous shrimp, superb spices, rich broth, perfect chili heat level, just below tongue blistering level, more than enough for two, Bt.60 ($1.80) when same dish is $18.00 in U.S. Thai restaurants where sometimes as good but usually not.
Gorgeous little children everywhere we walk, we offer compliment to their parents saying how cute their little ones are, word of this has gotten around the market, we now have reputation as lovers of children, and now when we look admiringly at little ones many parents bring them up to us for brief greeting; a great way to connect with folks.
Here is website address of church that has befriended us to the max and showered us with limitless Christian love and help. http://www.jaisamarns.com