BANGKOK, Thailand — Sawadii khrap! Greetings from Bangkok — and Jinhee and I both feel that we’re getting to see a side of Bangkok others rarely do.
Walk with us across a busy street on an overpass. It’s muggy, over 90 degrees with sweat on us like paint on walls. Head to the 7-Eleven, but don’t be tempted by its air-conditioning inside. Go to its left and down the alley. Keep going through the parking lot of a golf range, and walk down a narrow garbage-strewn path between the fence of a soccer field and the barb-wired wall of the golf range. Then you’ll see the sign to Dave’s community, Permsup, way off the beaten path and out of Bangkok’s sight.
Permsup is a squatter setllement built on stilts over moss-covered standing water. Balance yourself as you walk across planks on concrete which serve as the community’s sidewalks. Go past corrugated metal rooftops, lounging people, sleeping dogs, and bass-bumping stereos. Even in the place like this, electricity, running water and the ever-present boob-tube are readily accessible. The noise can make for sleepless nights.
In the middle of this labyrinth is Dave’s place, a two-story home that shakes under our steps. Piles of garbage on the water’s surface send their greetings through the gaps between the wooden slats of his floor. Jinhee and I need to adjust, but for Dave, this is home.
He’s here to meet Jesus. And to be Jesus. So we hang out with Dave’s friends, and they now know Jesus too. But instead of us serving them, Jesus serves us with mangosteen, thai iced teas and lots of laughter — one of Dave’s friends does a dead-on impression of a Korean man cursing. Here in the slums, Jesus is among us.
It’s selfless work, not glorious by any standards. Life slows down, and sometimes gets lonely. But Dave prefers to be here than in the luxury of Siam Paragon, Southeast Asia’s largest mall in the heart of Bangkok. He can’t wait to be back here in Permsup, back at home.