The other day, I witnessed the most profound and moving act of worship I have ever seen. There were no words, no songs or musical instruments, no flashing lights and loud proclamations of the goodness of God. It was simply this: a deaf man raising his gnarled hands toward the sky and signing, “I love You, Jesus” slowly and passionately. As I sat on my favorite bench in the park watching this intimate and powerful moment between God the Creator and His precious creation, I realized that truly, most certainly, absolutely God uses the weak and foolish and low to shame the wise and strong and powerful.
“Pig” is one of my closest friends here. He is a 52 year old deaf Thai man with the heart and smile of a child – partly because he is both moderately physically and mentally handicapped. From the moment I met Pig (his sign name – also a common Thai nickname) I realized I had encountered a person clothed and dripping wet in the goodness and sweetness of God; Pig is a living and breathing example of God’s tender affection for the marginalized and the weak. He is filled with joy. He is filled with love for Jesus, a love for Jesus I could only hope to have one day, a love that surpasses his physical conditions of poverty and struggle and pain. My friend loves Jesus because of all the gods and idols surrounding him here in Bangkok, Jesus was the only God that knew him by name, the only God that could understand and speak to him in sign language.
Since I have lived in this neighborhood, the only Christians I have had a chance to meet are deaf. They are strong, tightly knit community relying entirely upon the provision of God as some of the most looked down upon people in Bangkok. They have spent hours teaching me sign language and worship songs, teaching me from the Bible, and telling me their stories. One story in particular has so beautifully portrayed the redeeming love of Christ.
Her name is “Sunshine,” though it wasn’t always. Growing up deaf and without opportunity, this woman found herself providing for her family with her body. The pain and brokenness that comes with this line of work, as well as the anger and worry caused by poverty and the physical struggle of living in hunger and thirst led her to self mutilation. She believed it was the only way to release what she was feeling – and for her whole life, the deaf community knew her as “Cuts Herself.” When she met Jesus, she was told that Jesus knew her by another name – a sign name that means “Sunshine” and also grace. The scars on her arms remind her everyday of the pain and sorrow she endured, but it is her name - the new name that God gave her – that speaks even more clearly. God saw into that pain, and despite her life of immorality and brokenness, He saw light. He saw beauty. He saw her, and He said, “She is mine. She is my Sunshine.”
God is at work here. Not in the wise or the strong or the powerful – He is at work in the lowly, the impoverished, the broken, and the hungry, the prostitute, the deaf, the Tuktuk driver, the street vendor. And every day He is teaching me more about His love for these people, a love that shines light into darkness. Sunshine in a rainy and weary land.
Emmie is an InterVarsity student on a Global Trek in Bangkok this summer. Check out more updates from Trek participants here.