On one of the my missions trips to Thailand, I recall a story that bothers me, even to this day.
As you know, we visited an orphanage that was kind enough to house and feed us for about a week. I imagine they did this often as there seemed to be more than enough rooms for our small team. These rooms were unused by the kids themselves, but were certainly optimized for guests. Not too long after we arrived, the orphanage welcomed in a group of missionaries from Hong Kong.
They arrived in a mini bus, similar to how the rest of team and I did. But as they disembarked and unloaded, I couldn’t help but conclude that they were all very well off. Lacoste polos, Gucci bags, among other designer brand things. We were informed that they had their own agenda, so it’s not like we would interact with them. The rest of the day and evening was spent settling in and acclimating to the heat and humidity. Of course, as if a natural instinct, most of our team spent time playing with the kids despite the language barrier. Admittedly, it was so hot and humid, I couldn’t function unless I was standing in front of or under a fan when outside.
The next day was Sunday, where we woke up early to join the service held in the orphanage’s main hall. For some context and visual aid, the main hall was set up like this:
Notice that the chalkboard and podium were on the right, in front of the right section of chairs. And even as we got there, many of the kids were already sitting in the right section, where one of the orphanage leaders was also standing in front of. I think you get the point that everything is on the right and that’s a natural prompt for you to sit there (on the right).
So, the Hong Kong missionaries came in and sat in the left section… They certainly stuck out with their bright yellow team shirts as well. Now, it all could have been a simple misunderstanding, and they could have migrated over, but no, they stayed there despite the urging of the pastor to shift over. They elected to turn their heads to the right. And it wasn’t an slight head turn either, it was an inconvenient chin hovering over your right shoulder head turn.
So service started with a couple of canaan hymns. Afterward, there was a moment where we greeted those around us. Despite some people on the right side greeting those on the left, the Hong Kong missionaries mostly remained to themselves.
Notice the word “mostly”. Their saving grace? ONE of them took the prompt to come over and sat with us during the sermon. She spoke English and even translated most of the message.to me and others sitting nearby.
A couple days passed and we only really saw them in passing. But there was one afternoon where we came back and they were gone. I stumbled upon this information as I went to one of the rooms our team stayed in. I was putting some things down when I heard a faint but constant noise. We were in the mountains, so unless its the noise of big trucks driving by or kids playing, it was often pretty quiet. I went outside and went over to the room next to ours to investigate. It was one of the rooms the Hong Kong missionaries were staying in. The room was cleared out, yet the fan was still on. Upon closer inspection, they left a bunch of ash on the window sill where they had been burning their mosquito coils. They also left a stack of mosquito coils and the room was a mess. After turning off the fan. I still heard something. It was the bathroom their room was next to, and the shower was left running. For context, the first day we got there, the orphanage told us go easy on our water usage, as they were running low on it. It’s as if they left in a hurry.
I want to give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they had a sudden change of plans or they were being hunted by the Thai police, and one of them had to leave mid-shower. Maybe they were diseased and that’s why they didn’t want to sit or interact with us or the kids. Or maybe they actually were a group of pretentious snobs. I’ll never know
And it’s at this point in writing all of this, that it might just be me. So, after those encounters I decided that as much as possible, I will do my best to not come off the way they did.