As Kratip confessed her secret, I was shocked, then ashamed. “What did you say?” I asked, wanting to be sure I understood.
“My friends and I are terrified of foreigners,” she replied. “I was so scared of you when we first met because I thought foreigners are arrogant and think we are stupid because we do not speak English well. But when I met you, you were so friendly!”
With a pang, I realized I was guilty of exactly what Kratip thought I was not. I was relieved that she couldn’t read my mind as I thought back to when we had first met.
Lonely and struggling to find a friend in Khon Kaen with whom I could communicate, I had sent up a desperate prayer to God: “Lord, I need a friend. Please bring her to me!” My discouragement weighed heavily. I thought about the small group planned for that evening at Ricardo and Alicia’s house. I wanted to stay home, but I felt impressed to go. Later, as we were singing together, we were shocked when a Thai girl, Kratip, and her mother walked into the room. Rarely do Thais feel comfortable around a group of foreigners they haven’t met, and none of us had even seen them before! We asked them where they had heard about our group, and they said Ajan Suporn (The Palacios’ language teacher) had told them about it many months before. They had lost her telephone number and had decided to drive around and look for us on their own.
It was a miracle—I was sure of it. God had brought me a friend. Kratip and I began to spend time together practicing English several days a week. English wasn’t easy for her, and I was frustrated at how hard it was for us to communicate. She seemed a bit superficial to me, and I assumed she wasn’t all that smart. I am ashamed to admit that my only reason for thinking this was because Kratip had a hard time with English!
As Kratip confessed her prejudices to me, I was struck with the realization that I was the bigger fraud. I had come to Thailand to love these people, and I had imagined that I would love them perfectly. Learning the truth about my prejudices hit my pride hard. I am not the Christian I sometimes think I am, and I don’t love the way I long to love. But God still blesses me with friendships and uses me anyway.
After that conversation, Kratip and I became closer, and spending time with her became a true pleasure for me. One warm evening, we decided to eat at a beautiful night market. We sat across from each other at a wooden table and began to talk for the first time about deep things of the heart. All of a sudden, I realized that our conversation was taking place at a normal speed, and we were understanding each other easily! God had given us the gift of sharing each other’s hearts without interruption. We talked about pain. We talked about anger. We talked about the stuff we, as youth, face every day. Kratip said, “Sometimes I am angry because so many things go wrong, so I always turn to the God up there (she pointed to the sky) and ask Him why He can’t be good to me.” How well I understood that cry of pain. I shared with her about my questions and grief and how I knew God loved me still.
That night, I learned another hard truth about myself: I tend to wrongly judge people by initial acquaintance. I must learn their hearts, value their journey, and enter more deeply into their brokenness through my own experience with hurt. What a joy it is to be able to minister to another in their pain as I forget myself and really listen!