Sunrise to sunset in the home of a Thai family

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While living in Thailand for the summer, I was able to stay with a Thai family of believers in a rural village in the countryside for a few days. Their names have been changed for security reasons. Here’s a picture of what a typical day is like for them from my perspective:

The wood floors creaked under my bare feet as the early morning sunlight streamed through the slatted windows in the small Thai home. I’d risen early, the crowing of the neighbor’s roosters and the heat better than any alarm clock.

Despite my protests, the couple I was staying with had given up their own bedroom and bunked with their son for the night. I only backed down when I realized how disappointed they would be if I refused their hospitality. I’d slept well in the cozy room cocooned under mosquito nets with my face next to the electric fan that was as close to air conditioning as it got out in the countryside.

I ventured out of my room to the bathroom and drew a bucket of cool water from the reservoir to wash my face and brush my teeth. Any makeup I put on would just melt off in the heat, so I simply pulled my hair back, donned a fresh shirt and pants, and went into the kitchen to greet Kai, the mom. Sinn, the dad, had set out before first light to sell clothes at a large market several towns away, as he did daily.

“Swasdeeka,” I said, folding my hands and bowing to greet her in the traditional Thai way. Kai didn’t speak much English, and my attempt to bridge the language barrier was greeted with a warm smile. After a quick breakfast of fresh fruit and instant coffee, we set out for the village market.

The winding dirt path to the market was lined with houses typical for the countryside: small wooden homes set up on stilts to protect against frequent monsoons with roofs of red tin and often dogs, chickens and roosters prowling around the yard. The village was surrounded by fields of rich green grass, rice paddies and majestic blue mountains that loomed like giants over the sleepy cluster of homes.

The simple beauty of the scenery was breathtaking, and I found myself getting lost in it as we walked. Along the way, we greeted many of the other villagers, and Kai stopped to talk for a long time with several of them. I knew without asking that she was sharing the gospel from the light in her eyes and the skepticism in theirs.

In a country where 99.5 percent of people bow down daily to golden idols, the family I stayed with make up part of the tiny minority that worship Christ as Savior and Lord. They surrendered to God after a series of miracles involving their disabled son and the bold witness of their daughter, who heard the gospel at her Christian high school. They hope to start a church in their village, so every morning as she walks to market, Kai shares the Good News with her neighbors, though they always rebuke her.

After our morning at the market, we loaded up their pickup truck and bumped along through the countryside until we came to a narrow path bordered on one side by an expansive rice paddy with farmers working diligently, and on the other side by a lily pad covered fishing pond. We were there to gather our dinner. Like a typical northern Thai family, they hunt, gather and forage to supplement the meager money brought in from selling at the market.

I don’t think Sinn and Kai expected how much bringing along a farang (Thai for foreigner) used to buying her fish frozen would disrupt their routine. After a hilariously chaotic hour where lily pads and tree leaves were the only fruit of our labor, they accepted my lack of fishing skills and declared in broken English that we’d buy our fish at an open air market on the way back.

So back along the road we bumped, loud Thai music blaring from the speakers and fishing rods poking out from the truck bed. We wove through packed crowds at the market until we spotted a fish vendor who had several live fish flopping around on ice and a big grin as she spoke rapidly in Thai persuading us we would find no better dinner anywhere. They made their choices, and before I knew what was happening there were two swift, dull thuds, fish guts on my shirt, and dead dinner where just a minute before there had been live animals.

We finally headed home, where Kai selected pots and pans from the array hanging on her wall and busied herself cutting up bamboo and mangos to go with the fried fish. She sat on the floor chopping with an ease that spoke of many years’ experience, her long dark hair swinging down her back and her eyes lighting up with laughter at what I can only deduce were jokes her husband made.

After dinner, as the sunlight waned, it was time for nightly prayers. We gathered around the table, and in the Thai way, prayed out loud simultaneously. Our voices lifted and rose together, creating a chorus of prayers for strength, peace and salvation to come to the village in both literal and spiritual darkness around us.

And then, it was time for bed again. Another day had come and gone, just a normal one for the Thai family I was with, but for me a day full of new perspectives. I left their home amid hugs and tears, humbled at their faithful labor for the Lord and wiser about the simple grace and joy present in the mundane chores of life.

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The Cardinal & Cream is a student publication of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. Our staff ranges from freshmen to seniors and includes a variety of majors — including journalism, public relations, advertising, marketing, digital media studies, graphic design and art majors.