On a recent trip to Northern Thailand, I had the privilege to visit and stay in several villages with which Wycliffe is involved. Here are three lessons I came home with and prayers for the people I met during my stay:
Trucks full of pumpkins
Lesson 1: Fair trade for farming communities
The family I stayed with for two nights in village A owned a ‘garden’. From the first day we met and ate together, they cooked delicious vegetables that had been freshly harvested from their garden. On the last morning before leaving the village, our host father and daughter took us out to their garden to show us their pride and joy. It was not a mere garden but a vast plot of farmland which stretched up and down the hills! On it, they grew pumpkins and squash, long beans, fruits, and many others. Although we politely declined, our host father and daughter persisted in plucking and giving us some of these produce, in particular, a type of pumpkin which he claimed was great for desserts.
A few days after we had left village A, we stopped at a shop in a small town. Within moments, three small pickups full of pumpkins pulled into the garage next to us and started unloading them. They tossed the pumpkins one by one from the pickups to the boys on the ground who, with clearly seasoned hands, swiftly arranged them in neat little piles. A Wycliffe Thailand staff who was with me then told me that they were selling the pumpkins to the shop (the ‘middleman’) for a measly price, which would then sell them to big retailers for a large profit. We felt sorry for the men and boys who were laboriously tossing the pumpkins. I was also reminded of our host father and family from village A, who so lovingly and painstakingly grew and harvested their produce – they too would be like these pumpkin farmers, expending so much energy and resources, only to be exploited by the middleman.
Prayer 1: pray for these villagers, that they will not only be blessed with a rich supply of crops to sell and feed their families, but also that they will receive fair trade for their produce.
Lesson 2: A small act of kindness, a lasting impact
One morning in village B, we were told a story of a lady who had been so poor that her body had not been able to produce any breast milk to feed her newborn baby. A kindly old missionary who had heard of her plight had bought her supplies of milk powder enough to feed her baby. It was because of this missionary’s loving act of generosity towards her, a stranger, that the lady and her husband had decided to give their lives to Jesus. They vowed never to forget God’s goodness.
While having a drink at a roadside stall later that afternoon, the lady who owned the stall showed us some portraits of her recently married daughter and husband. She then proceeded to share with us how happy she felt for her daughter, but at the same time expressed concern that her daughter seemed lukewarm about her faith in God. If her daughter was not strong in her faith, how would the subsequent generations know the true and living God? She herself and her husband were believers in Christ, having experienced His unconditional love many years ago through a fellow believer. This lady was the poor lady who had received the gift of Christ through a simple offering of milk
Prayer 2: pray that we will live our lives such that others will see Christ in us and turn to Him. Pray also for all the believers in Christ, young and old, that their faith and love for God will be passed down through the generations, such that God and His everlasting goodness will never be forgotten.
Lesson 3: Learning from the poor widow
My previous line of work had entailed countless visits and occasional stays in rural villages in two countries. Owing to these experiences, this recent trip to the villages, albeit in a different country and terrain from which I was familiar, thankfully did not come as a complete shock. Nevertheless, there were still many differences and adjustments to be made; there was the language barrier, an unfamiliar culture, and unfamiliar places and faces.
One thing, however, never fails to impress me no matter where I go: the sacrificial kind of hospitality constantly shown to me. Each time I have stayed in a ‘poor’ village, my hosts have almost always, somewhat embarrassingly, apologised for not having ‘anything’ to give in return to what I have ‘given’ them. But I should have them know that the poor widow who gave two small copper coins gave more than the large amounts any of the rich people had put into the temple treasury (Mark 12:41-44). The simple meals that they so lovingly cook for me, the best rooms in the house they so sacrificially offer for me to sleep in… a fancy meal or accommodation offered by the monetarily rich could never compare to the hospitality and warmth my village hosts always extend to me.
Prayer 3: in the more often than not materialistic world we live in, pray that we will think not like the world but like Christ, remembering to give sacrificially rather than out of abundance.
On this note, I fittingly close by remembering Wycliffe members worldwide, as well as all our faithful brothers and sisters in Christ, who have given everything they have to serve God. May the name of our Lord Jesus Christ be praised now and forever. Amen.
Evangeline currently serves as a Communications Executive in Wycliffe Singapore. She worked for NGOs in Cambodia from 2012-2016, with short stints in Nepal in-between.