Here in Thailand, it feels a little like Christmas because of some decorations at the mall and a few other stores. Some stores even play Christmas music, and that makes us feel like we are back home. Businesses profit from Christmastime, but not many Thai homes are decorated like they are in America, and people here usually don’t get together for a family meal on Christmas day. However, last year we discovered that Thai people are happy to join a Christmas party. So we take every opportunity to gather with others, grow friendships and plant seeds.
This year we decided to host another Christmas party. We invited everyone we know, whether we had met them only once or they are longtime friends. We frequently exchange phone numbers with people, and this way we have built many friendships. People here use phone apps to communicate, and are happy to share their contact information. Connecting with people is not hard, once we get the courage to start talking. Then we just listen to what people say and ask them questions. People like to talk about themselves and their families.
We use parties and gatherings so much to connect that even our youngest daughter has caught on. Just last night while we were packing gifts, she said, “Mom, I hear kids outside. Let’s go and invite them!” As soon as she stepped outside, she saw our neighbor across the street and said, “Let’s invite her, too!” We went over and, in our broken Thai, invited the kids to our party and started talking with our neighbor. Just then, another neighbor came over and offered to interpret if we needed help. He said his girlfriend had seen us and sent him to help.
As we walked back to our house, we kept chatting with the helpful neighbor. “I usually don’t like to talk much because I’m shy,” he confided. We complemented him on his English. He told us that his girlfriend is shy, too, and doesn’t know much English. He said that when she sees us come out she rushes inside her house because she is afraid we will talk to her. We asked him to thank her for sending him to our aid, and we also told him how much we appreciated his brother who lives with them. A couple weeks earlier, he went out of his way to let us know about a power outage. Our new friend said, “I can tell you anytime the neighborhood sends us notices of power outages.” We thanked him and asked for his phone number. Of course, we also invited them to our Christmas party, but we didn’t push too much out of respect for their shyness.
These are golden opportunities to make friends for Jesus, whether you are at home or in the mission field. Jesus is the reason for the season. We are blessed to have not only the knowledge of Christ, the Son of God born so that we could have eternal life, but also the opportunity to share this message with others. This life-changing message brings freedom from guilt, hope in a world of chaos, and most important of all, an intimate relationship with our loving Savior. The more I learn about what people believe around us, the more thankful I am for our God of beauty, peace, love and relationship. We long for those around us to learn more about God and have relationships with Him, too. So we use every opportunity to connect with others and plant seeds.