I love living in Asia. For the past 14 years, my family has grown to love the food, the tropical climate, and most importantly, the people. Some of our favorite memories are of times that we’ve spent mingling with those in our Asian community.

There are many ways to mingle—and I have so many stories to share. But one of my favorite experiences was one that embarrassed me for a long time. When we first arrived in Asia, we were totally dependent on others. We didn’t know the language. We didn’t recognize the food. And we weren’t sure how to get around town. I didn’t even know how to clean the house properly (yes, it’s done differently here!). So when we found people who took the time to understand and help us, they became special friends.

Me with my husband, Greg, and sons, Tyler, waving, and Ryan.
Bartering for a good price at the vegetable market!

One of those people was a tuk-tuk* driver at the market. Whenever I went to the market, he would spot me—not hard to do because I’m white and a head taller than most of the locals, and at that time I had a three-year-old and six-month-old in tow! He would run over to me and tell me through hand gestures that he would be waiting for me and would take me home when I was done shopping. I would then do my shopping, and as I exited the tarpaulin-covered open-air market, he would run over to me, take my heavy bags, and tell me to wait in the shade while he got the tuk-tuk from a block down the street. He always charged me a few cents more than the other drivers, but he knew what I needed and how to get me home.

Over time, my husband and I began to speak the language. We started with simple things such as numbers and days of the week, and every time we left the house, we would practice the words and grammar we were learning. It wasn’t easy, and I had to learn to laugh at myself because I always made mistakes. One of my favorites happened when “my” tuk-tuk driver ran up to me one day before I started shopping.

“How long will you be?” he asked me—and I understood!

“Sip shua mong,” I answered proudly. Ten minutes would about do it.

To my chagrin, he began laughing and again asked how long I would be. Again, I answered, “Sip shua mong.”

Feeling quite defensive, I wondered how to politely say, “Just because I have two small children and am farang (a foreigner) doesn’t mean I’ll be slow!”

Still my tuk-tuk driver kept laughing. This attracted a group of fun-loving locals. Again, I insisted that I would just be “sip shua mong.” Still, everyone laughed.

Greg Whitsett reveals some of the challenges and successes of sharing Jesus with the people of East Asia. To watch, visit m360.tv/i15011.

Wishing that I could suddenly disappear anonymously into the crowd, I finally realized why they were laughing. Sip shua mong means 10 hours, not 10 minutes! Soon I was laughing too. And a few short na thi (minutes) later, we were on our way home.

I learned again that day that mingling requires several things. First, it requires time. I have to intentionally take time to be with my Buddhist friends and acquaintances. Second, I have to go to them. As an introvert, it’s easy to feel comfortable in my own four walls at home. But if I’m going to mingle, I have to put on my extrovert face and leave home. Third, I have found that people open up to me and accept me more if I approach them as a learner. It’s amazing how much you will learn and how quickly you will bond with people with this approach, especially if you can laugh at yourself!

So give it a try. I can almost guarantee that there are Asian people living near you. Set aside a few minutes or an hour, go find them, and then see what you can learn about them. You’ll find that you’ll be richer for it. And it’s the first step in developing a friendship that can lead to an opportunity to share the good news with them. They need to hear!

* A tuk-tuk is a three-wheeled motorized vehicle used as a taxi.

Global Mission Centers explore methods for working effectively with Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and Jews as well as secular and urban groups. They’re actively involved in research, training, and creating models for reaching out to non-Christians. To discover how they can help you in your outreach, visit GlobalMissionCenters.org.

Amy Whitsett
Amy Whitsett and her husband, Greg, continue to enjoy life in Asia, where they now direct the Global Mission Center for East Asian Religions. Amy still enjoys exploring local markets but now goes without her boys, who are attending boarding school in the United States.