Sealed inside an air conditioned bubble, far from the eavesdropping ears of society-at-large, Bangkok’s taxi drivers will give you their uninhibited opinion on just about anything. Politics. Religion. Education. The monarchy. Their hometown. How to manage multiple wives in different cities. Nearly nothing is off limits. Of course, not all of them are chatty and I have many times ridden in near silence to my destination. But I love riding with the guys who want to talk. And anytime there is conversation, there is the potential for a conversation about the Gospel.
This past October, we quickly discovered that the taxi driver taking us to the airport in the middle of the night was ready to talk. Our family were all sleepy but I am almost always ready to chat, short of debilitating illness. I forget how we got onto the topic, but our driver told me (in Thai) that he was studying the Bible with the people of Jesus Christ of the end times. After a bit of confusion, I put two and two together and figured out he was meeting up with the Mormons (the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints - an expression that I don’t hear too often in Thai).
I don’t recall most of what we talked about on our forty-five minutes ride to the airport at four in the morning, but I remember having a good conversation about God and spiritual things, and I gave him a Gospel of John that I had in my carry-on (for such a time as this). I also tried to gently tell him that the Mormons were not mainstream Christianity and were regarded as a cult by the majority of Christians. Since this Buddhist fellow was just beginning to learn about Christianity, I didn’t want to come on too strong about the Mormons for fear of creating the impression that different Christian groups are divided amongst themselves, attacking and competing with each other (which is a valid question but not one that I wanted to get into at the time).
As we were nearing the departure terminal, he told me how unjust it seemed that God would just forgive someone like a rapist, and that the woman should just forgive him, letting him get off scot-free. I ventured a response but my answer didn’t seem to satisfy. All the same, as we unloaded the baggage, he asked where he could learn more about the Christianity that I was talking about. I recommended that he contact our mission’s guest home manager who had hired him to come pick us up in the middle of the night. And with that, we paid the fare and headed off to check-in.
After we got back to the U.S., the mission home manager emailed us to say that our taxi driver called her and they talked for twenty minutes about faith questions. She was going to try to connect him up with a local Thai pastor and his church.
After that point, I hadn’t thought too much more about our taxi driver friend until I went back to Thailand a couple months later to renew my visa. I would need another ride to the airport in the middle of the night and asked the mission home manager to get the same taxi driver as we had before so that I could talk with him some more. As we drove out of the mission home premises in the wee hours of the morning, I asked if he was still meeting up with the Mormons to study the Bible. “Oh no” he replied, “I stopped meeting up with them after we talked, and I am a Christian now.” Wow! This was a great encouragement to me after a difficult term in Thailand when we did not see much fruit in our ministry. Our previous conversation had gotten him thinking and he had asked around about the Mormons. A Thai Protestant girl and a Thai Catholic both told him that Mormonism is not Christianity, confirming what I had told him. He had been reading the John’s Gospel that I had given him, as well as a small daily devotional book that someone had given him (both were sitting on the dashboard of the taxi). During our ride that morning, I wasn’t able to determine to what degree he truly understands the Gospel but he talked about how God can help us, and he no longer objected to God forgiving people. I strongly encouraged him to get involved in a local church to continue learning about Jesus. I pray that he will do this and that God will work in him a true and living faith in Jesus Christ.
During my six years in Thailand, I have talked about Jesus and religion with many taxi drivers, with varying degrees of interest or non-interest. Some conversations were lengthy and many ended before they got going as let the conversation head in another direction, realizing that my driver wasn’t interested in questions of faith. But I have never had a conversation like this, with such evident interest and openness to considering the Gospel seriously. I didn’t say anything different to this fellow than what I have said to many other people before. But it seems that God is at work in his heart. I praise God that I have had the privilege to talk to this man not only once but twice, and witness how the Holy Spirit has been changing his thinking and heart in the interim. People usually need time to mull over the Gospel before believing it.
Most taxi drivers whom I have met, I have never met again. It is hard to say whether anything that I or other Christians have shared with these men (and a few women) is eventually used by God to work faith and repentance in some of them. But I praise God for the many opportunities that He gives for free conversation at stop lights and on expressways. Only eternity will reveal to what extent God has been pleased to use one time conversations in Bangkok’s taxis to the praise of His glory.
This article also appears in Modern Reformation magazine (July/August 2012 Vol. 21 No. 4 Page number(s): 28-29). Subscribers to Modern Reformation may view it at their website by following this link.