During our tour we cycled through three Isaan districts. We hoped to be able to talk about the Lord with people in one or two villages during the day, and then to find one village where we could share the Gospel and would get a place to stay. During the trip I realized once again how important the role of village heads is. On the first day we talked to a few people in a large village. But the village head was not there, and nobody offered us a place to stay. Therefore we cycled on. In the next village we found the village head. We explained what we came for, and he offered us a place to stay at his house.
Isaan houses are houses on stilts, or have a canopy roof. So there is always a covered part in the open air where you can sit to chat and to eat. Chairs are rare in the countryside. Every house has a few low bamboo tables, where you sit cross-legged, and where you can lie down as well. At night we placed a little tent on or tied a mosquito net over tables like these, rolled out our mats, and went to sleep. It takes some getting used to to sleep without a mattress, but it isn’t all that long ago that all Isaan people slept in this way.
In the morning the lady of the house steams sticky rice for us. The village head comes back in wet clothing because he went to a pond to catch some fish for our breakfast. A dipping sauce of fish that has fermented for two years (true story, this is an indispensable part of the Isaan kitchen), chopped chilis, lemon and garlick is offered as well. In the second and third village it is again the village head who receives us hospitably. That helps to build trust in the community. If we can tell the people in the village we are staying at the village head’s, they are more inclined to come to the meetings we invite them to. But the most precious is the relationship that is developed in such a short time. The Gospel spreads along relational lines. Our biking trip was a somewhat unusual, but effective way to start building relationships in an area that we did not know at all.
For a short while, you become part of the lives of people. You chat with them, and get the opportunity to share about the Lord. Enough of a connection exists to make it logical to come back once more. The last village head we met even painstakingly wrote down my address. “For sometimes I’m in that area. I’ll certainly visit you then!”