Sundays were my favorite day when I lived on the Thai-Burma border. It was my day off. The Thais work six days a week…sometimes seven. Sunday was my day to breathe and let my frizzed-out hair down. The day would begin – hot, humid, chickens clucking, the Safe House kids on the other side of the cement wall playing and me still lounging on my floor mat.
Up and at ‘em for my tea, bread and fruit breakfast. Shower complete, wet hair pulled back and laptop stuffed into my North Face pack. I would sling it onto my already sweaty back, slip flip-flops on and bust out the door. And there it was: the Asian-style motorbike. I’m a little, petit gal but on this shiny black Suzuki bike, I felt like a bad-ass. Pumping the manual start foot lever always took several tries. Revving the motor, in my mind, could rival a Harley-Davidson.
Zoom, zoom down the highway at a cruising speed of 60 kph (it feels fast on such a bike). This particular Sunday saw me stop off in town at an ATM machine. The fees are steep at five bucks a pop for international transfers so I only went when needed and took out the max amount allowed. My beat-up purple elephant patch coin purse bulged with Thai baht.
Heading on to my destination, I arrived at my fellow NGO worker’s apartment with a modern amenity – internet. The morning and afternoon were spent catching up on emails and sometimes Skyping with US-based family and friends. The evening held a special time for me as this was when the Burmese-speaking church met. Overworked and underpaid factory workers saw this as one of their only time slots off from the stitching madness.
But this night would be different. For some reason, I felt the need to fully catch up on email or something; I honestly can’t remember. But what happened in the dark that night when I headed home still makes my heart race.
She told me as she left to pick up the kids for church, “Don’t drive home too late. The highway’s not safe when it’s dark.” I assured her I would be careful. The clock ticked down the minutes unusually fast and soon it was past 8 or 9 pm. In the tropics, the sun sets predictably by 6 or 6:30 pm.
“Okay, okay…I’m going,” I mumbled to myself. Switching the laptop off, throwing away snack wrappers and turning off the interior lights, I left. Vroom, vroom! I felt confident and invincible. Uneventful – that’s what the ride back to my cement apartment was shaping up to be.
Traffic was light and the open highway called me to speed faster. Maybe “Born to Be Wild” played in my head. The cheap face mask on the easily-crack-able helmet had long broken off. Wind whipped into my eyes causing tears to peel out of the corners. And then, there they were, seemingly out of nowhere. Ten to twelve young guys on motorbikes, yelling loudly in Thai and swerving in front, back and on both sides of the little farang (foreigner) rider. I felt more like a crushable wind-up toy now.
Funny but I didn’t think much about my own safety as much as I was panicked at the thought that I had thousands of baht and a laptop in my bag. I don’t understand much Thai and I have no idea if they were drunk, drugged or just rowdy youth. Stories streamed back to me of muggings and beat-up bodies from such motorbike gangs. Was I slotted to be the next victim?
I prayed with a pounding heart. I slowed down; they slowed down. I kept praying as they schemed. Have you ever called down angels? I did that night. And then it was as if I was invisible. They zoomed off into the night yapping like dogs on the hunt and leaving me stunned at what just happened. God heard my cry for help.
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Why is it that I often wait for a panic moment to call out to God? I need His covering every day, every moment, whether danger is evident or not. I have come to pray this prayer every morning – “God, let me breathe You in and breathe You out. Let my hands touch as Yours do; let my feet walk the straight path; let me love with Your love; let me see with Your eyes, hear with Your ears and talk with words that honor You.”
Sometimes I wonder how many times He’s protected me from the zooming, potentially destructive forces in life. My heart pounds with thankfulness…and I still live a bit dangerously because I know He’s with me when He says go. I am restless to get onto the next motorbike ride of life. Zoom, zoom!