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Ties That Bind

What makes a heart to heart connection between strangers? I was reminiscing about a past experience in Thailand in 1985. At that time, I was in a van travelling along the Gulf of Siam with my Thai lab technicians headed toward the city of Trad to check on the progress of a malaria prophylaxis clinical trial in Kampuchean Gem Miners, when we veered off the road for a special lunch destination. Our driver knew of a delicious crab noodle shop in town and wanted to share this special cuisine with us. Now I considered myself a connoisseur of noodle shops, so I was especially interested in this new destination. First, let me describe a typical noodle shop. Often, they are located in an alley or on a roadside, many without a roof overhead. The critical fixture is a large cauldron of boiling broth over a charcoal fire, alongside a shelf containing herbs, dried peppers, piles of generous sized bowls, a large selection of uncooked noodles in 3 varieties, with chicken, fish balls, beef, pork or, in this case, crab on ice. Behind the seated cook was the dishwashing tub with soapy water. There are 4-6 stools for the customers to sit on and a couple small round tables on which to place your meal. Typically, there is only one chef cooking, serving the noodle bowl and cleaning up between patrons. In the vast majority of cases, the proprietor was a male covered by an apron over his T-shirt and shorts and perspiring profusely due to the high humidity, temperature in the high 80’s-90’s and exposure to the open fire. Hopefully, the outdoor establishment was located in the shade. These noodle shops were in very humble settings and really appreciated the business.

So, this crab noodle shop was significantly different. A Chinese woman wearing a wooden crucifix on a cord around her neck ran this roadside restaurant. It made a real impression due to its rarity. Thailand is a very Buddhist country, with 5% Moslems, only 0.5% Catholics and a total of 1.2% Christians in this Asian nation. The Chinese are also an unappreciated minority in this country, especially in the countryside away for the major cities. The owner of the shop was friendly and welcoming. I felt a special bond that even in our distant worlds of class and culture, we had the same Savior and Lord and were linked heart to heart as Children of a loving God. For some reason, I felt at peace and at home receiving her gifts to us. I felt that she was an outpost of Christianity and I was grateful.


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