For the past week, I have been constantly frustrated because of my inability to converse with Thai people. It's enough to make me pull out what little hair I have left! I'm not frustrated with the Thai people; I'm just frustrated with the whole situation. I wish I could just learn enough Thai to at least discuss some of the shallower things of life. Of course, my heart's desire is to learn enough to speak with them about Christ; but just to speak with them at all about something simple would be a great start!
Today, while we were waiting for our tuk tuk driver (a tuk tuk is a popular mode of transportation in Bangkok) in the parking area at our apartment complex, some of the staff ladies came and were playing with Ellie and Judson. One of the ladies speaks a little- and I mean a little- English. I was asking her, "How do you say, 'How are you doing' in Thai?" I had already had many conversations like this one with these folks over the course of this past week. One of the ladies comes to our room every day to take out our trash. I have tried several times to politely ask her how she is doing, but she literally doesn't understand a word of English.
But today, as these ladies were playing with Ellie and Judson, and as I was asking one of the ladies how to say, "How are you doing?" in Thai, the lady that takes our trash looked at my wife and said, "Dtow naa?" Linda and I both looked at her in shock. That means, "Where are you going?" in Khmer. At first, I thought she was teaching me how to say "How are you doing?" in Thai. I thought, "Wow, that sounds just like the Khmer phrase, 'Dtow naa?'" But then she proceeded to speak more Khmer with Linda. Apparently, she had heard Linda speaking to Ellie and Judson in Khmer when she was outside of our room cleaning the hallway. I immediately asked her, "Jeh Khmer dtay?"- "Do you speak Khmer?" She quickly replied that she does speak Khmer; and not only her, but three other staff workers as well. When she and the other Khmer-speaking staff workers realized that I spoke Khmer, we immediately all began chatting with one another.
Then our tuk tuk driver arrived. One of the ladies shouted to him in excitement, "Go-aht jeh Khmer!"- "He speaks Khmer!" I looked at our tuk tuk driver- a young man in his mid 20's who has taken us many places over the course of the past week- and asked him in Khmer, "Do you speak Khmer?" He just started laughing hysterically! For this past week, we haven't been able to say one word to each other. But at that moment, we both understood that we do have a common language. All this time we had been just smiling at each other awkwardly as we both vainly attempted to communicate with each other; and then in one glorious moment we both realized that we could talk to each other! It was a celebration of sorts!
Please pray that we will have an opportunity to speak to these precious people about Christ. They are from an area in Thailand called Surin, close to the Cambodian border. They have a distinct, sometimes difficult to understand accent, and they don't read or write Khmer. But pray that we can develop good relationships with each of these three people, and that their hearts will be open to the Gospel.