My heart sank when I heard the news. At just 23 years old, Nok’s son had been killed in a motorcycle accident. The thought of what Nok must be going through broke my heart. Not even a year had passed since her baptism. Would she give up her faith? Would she see this as a punishment for changing religions, as some of her family and friends might be saying? Her husband was sure that she would turn her back on God. However, though her world had been turned upside down and her heart had been shattered, she didn’t lose her faith. In fact, it never even wavered!
Since Nok’s first visit to our church almost four years ago, she has shown a growing interest and faith in God. Watching her develop into a mature, spirit-filled disciple of Christ has been one of the most rewarding experiences I have had during my time in Thailand. She has had her ups and downs, and there have been times when I have wondered how strong her commitment to God and His truth really was, but I believe God is strengthening and establishing her as His child. I have seen several evidences of this over the past couple of years.
Living for Christ in a pagan culture is no easy task. When push comes to shove, most new converts are not able to endure the family, social and financial pressures that come with living a life of Christian faith. For Thai people, participating in Buddhist rituals and seeking blessings from monks are expected when going to the temple, but Nok has been able to stay faithful to God even when going to family events involving Buddhist ceremonies. She has been able to explain her new convictions to her family in a way they understand and respect. Many people turn back to their former religion as soon as they face a major life crisis. But even though Nok faced one of the hardest possible trials when her son died, in the two years since then her faith has remained strong.
Another area that tests new converts is Sabbath observance. Nok is a self-employed seamstress. She makes beautiful clothing and sells it at local markets. Not surprisingly, Saturdays are the busiest market days. This was a real test for Nok, especially when she was feeling strapped financially. Early on, she often would go and sell on the Sabbath. But the Holy Spirit has been working on her heart and giving her courage to honor the Sabbath. Recently she was offered a very good job at a business in town—a managerial position with nice benefits. However, the job would have required her to work on Sabbath. When she told me about this opportunity a couple of months ago, I was impressed when she said that she wasn’t even tempted to accept it!
As Nok’s faith has grown, so has her desire to share her faith with others. She has brought several of her friends and family to church. Earlier this year, she told me she wants to dedicate her work to God and use her time at the market for witnessing. She has been working with two of our student missionaries recently to start a health outreach at the lake beside her market. On Sunday evenings, Nok, our SMs and several church members have been going to the market to do basic health screenings and to conduct health surveys. They have been able to minister to many people. Recently in church, Nok told us about how she has been following up with people who complete the survey. One of the ladies she called had been struggling with anxiety and depression and she thanked Nok for calling her.
Nok has a real heart for people and a burden to witness and provide practical help. Earlier this year, after learning about a family that had lost their house in a fire, she coordinated a drive in our church and was able to donate food, clothes and money to help the family. I have been inspired by her soul-winning initiatives.
A couple of weeks ago, our church invited my colleague, Barnabas Hope, to do a weekend presentation on tentmaker ministry. After his first sermon, Nok told me that she wants to start a sewing class for unemployed ladies to help them make money. I told her this would be a great thing to do and would give her the opportunity to develop meaningful relationships. Nok was recently appointed to be the Personal Ministries coordinator for our church and has also been appointed to our church board. Please pray for her as she continues to engage in active ministry.
As I think of all of the ways Nok has grown in her walk with God, I can’t help but think of the meaning of her name. Nok in Thai means “bird.” I imagine her like a baby bird that at first was confined to a nest and depended on her mother. Then she grew and got stronger, eventually spreading her wings and taking flight. It is exciting to see Nok beginning to “fly” in her walk with God. It is my prayer that she will continue to soar to new heights. Please join me in this prayer.