Late getting out for school again. It’s 7.15am and the day has started with a mad rush to finish homework and find socks that match! Nothing out of the ordinary until we cross the rickety bridge to our motorbikes and find our tyres have been slashed. Not the other bikes, just ours, and its hard not to read a message into that. Our first thought is to avoid any drama but word has a mysterious way of spreading here and out of nowhere a little crowd has gathered. People still in their nightclothes coming to our aid with kind words and offers of help.
Looking around at the concerned faces we realise these are no longer strangers. This place is becoming home. There are people willing to go out of their way to make sure our boys get to school. ‘It’s OK if we stay home!’ says Elliot in his best Thai. But P’Son lends us his motorbike while P’Em runs to flag down a motorbike taxi. Someone pumps air into our tyres then others wobble our bikes off along the soi to the nearest garage. ‘Best morning ever’ says Sam!
If someone was communicating that we are not wanted here then their voice was drowned out by the overwhelming support of a community that knows how to extend welcome. Thankyou God for lightening the blow! Actually there are lots of reasons why our presence could be a threat in this fragile economy, especially with parking space at a premium! We expected it would take time to gain trust. The bigger surprise is not the one isolated incident but the risk our neighbours have taken in accepting us as we are. We are thankful for their beautiful openness in relating to us.
Later our landlady arrives at our door in a rage. She has heard what happened, is certain who did it (‘teenage addicts’), and has two options for us: 1.) she can call the police to arrest them. 2.) she’ll beat them up herself. Although the second option is intriguing this is not the response we had in mind! There is a third way… with difficulty, we explain that we are choosing to forgive and want to live peaceably here. This seems to make her more angry than the tyre slashing.
In the weeks since, we have experienced a door opening to deeper relationships with neighbours. Conversations have stretched us, with opportunities to share stories and beliefs while beginning to understand each other better. God has blessed us with a few people that we get on with easily, can relax with, share vision with and consider friends. There are people we feel called to journey alongside too. Our hearts are broken by their stories of injustice and shattered hopes. We long for each of them to encounter Jesus and be raised up to live the transformed life he offers.
Where there is hostility or indifference towards us our prayer is that people will come to realise that we are on their side. Please pray with us that we can model this third way of love in the midst of brokenness. Please pray for opportunities to break down walls of difference in our community and point to a God who is for us and not against us.