Phii Joon sat behind the counter in his pharmacy tapping on his smart phone. A lull between customers provided him an opportunity to check out what was happening in the world and search the web for music-lesson options in Khon Kaen, Thailand. He had grown discontent with his daughters’ piano studies at another school. The lessons were expensive, and his girls, ages 11 and 9, weren’t advancing very quickly. Then the lady in the laundromat next door turned on her radio, and an advertisement caught his ear:
“Is your child wasting their valuable development years watching too much TV and growing addicted to video games? Are you looking for fun activities that will help your child improve in school and grow up to be a well-balanced person? Peace Music Academy has a solution! Studies show that music education stimulates brain development and function and may contribute to improved success in many other life skills. Peace Music Academy, located next to Lake Nong Khod in the Baan Pet sub-district, exists to promote the holistic development of students and their families through the joy of studying music. Our teachers come from around the world and teach classes in a combination of Thai and English. We offer opportunities for music appreciation and development through classes and performances in violin, viola, piano, ukulele, voice, guitar and flute. Come visit us for a free trial lesson or call us at . . .”
Phii Joon listened to the advertisement with growing interest, and he copied down our phone number. A couple days later, he and his two daughters enrolled in our beginner ukulele class. A few weeks later, all three performed in our school recital. They had so much fun that Joon created a Thai Facebook fan page called “Lovers of Peace Music Academy.”
Joon and his daughters advanced so quickly in their lessons and had so much fun that he began thinking about opening a ukulele store where people in Khon Kaen could find quality ukuleles at reasonable prices. I, of course, encouraged him to follow his dream. So he ordered about 25 ukuleles and hung them on the walls in the back half of his pharmacy. He then began to advertise Khon Kaen’s newest ukulele shop: “Dino Ukulele,” (referring to Khon Kaen’s famous dinosaur fossils and museum).
On Thanksgiving Day, our school had our second annual Thanksgiving celebration. We invited Joon and his family to join us. He played his ukulele and sang, “Let all things now living, a song of thanksgiving, to God the Creator, triumphantly raise . . .” After the program, prayer and meal, he came over and told me he thought the music was very beautiful. “Is this the kind of music you play in your church?” he asked.
“Yes,” I replied.
“I would like to come and visit your church sometime,” Joon said. “Would that be okay? Can Buddhists come to your church?”
“Of course!” I replied. “You are welcome anytime.”
But a month passed, and Joon didn’t make the time to visit our church. Then, just after our Christmas concert in which he, his girls and his wife all played their ukuleles, Joon told me again, “I think I would like to go to your church and play music with you. And I think I can make it every Saturday. But if I can’t go every Saturday, is that okay?”
“Of course, Joon!” I said.
And so, for a couple of months now, Joon has been coming to church regularly and playing his ukulele with the praise team. He is often the first to arrive for practice on Sabbath morning, and he is not quick to leave. He stays for the sermon, Sabbath School discussion groups and potluck afterwards. He even stays for Sabbath-afternoon activities. It seems he has found a church family and a spiritual home.
A couple weeks ago in our Sabbath School group, Joon shared a simple testimony about that first day almost a year ago when he just happened to hear the radio ad that led him and his family to begin this amazing musical and now spiritual journey. “I’m beginning to believe that my hearing your ad that day was not a mere coincidence. Perhaps God had a purpose and plan for me to hear it.”
“Amen!” I said.
“Surely!” chimed the other members of our small group.
That very Sabbath, I had the privilege of introducing Joon to the family who generously sponsored that radio advertisement for our school. And by God’s grace I expect someday to have the joy of introducing him and his family to you, our dear friends, supporters and prayer warriors who are all part of the chain intentionally and sacrificially stretched across the world for the purpose of bringing the joy of Jesus to the people of Thailand and beyond. Not at all by chance!