When I was 12 years old, my family and I were called to be missionaries on the island of Guam. In order to prepare for the anticipated culture shock, we had to attend a missionary training orientation. We were given the choice between immediately attending orientation in Berrien Springs, MI, or attending a few months later in ChiangMai, Thailand after the move. Of course, because we wanted to see the world and stay closer to our assigned field, we chose Thailand.
We were barely settled in Guam before we took off to Thailand where we were to live for almost a month.
I don't have time to explain every detail of the trip, but I can say this: it was amazing, and totally shocking. Everything was so different from the life I knew in the United States: Tiny marketplaces, narrow streets and crowds of people.
My family, along with many other families, spent days becoming familiar with the culture that we would be entering, and in the afternoons we toured the city and surrounding areas.
One day we woke up really early and piled into a bus. We were going to the mountains. The bus could seat about 12 people and wasn’t motion sickness friendly. The bus driver wasn’t afraid to put the pedal to the metal on roads that were much too windy.
Soon, though not soon enough because it felt like my stomach might fly out of my throat, we reached an elephant camp. We spent the remainder of the morning watching the elephants play futbol and paint, feeding the elephants, and best of all, riding them! We even got to see them playing in the river after their long morning of work.
It amazed me that these huge beasts were completely submissive to their trainers..
Next, it was on to tiger kingdom, so we hopped back into the bus to ride another 30 kilometers.
Tiger kingdom is a place where you can hang out with lions and tigers (not bears, oh my) within a semi-controlled environment. This place was so cool. The only barrier between me and the huge, tame (and wild) beasts was a normal chain link fence.
I thought that I'd test the sturdiness of the fence by leaning on it. A tiger ran and lunged at me. My heart joined my stomach in my throat as I scurried away to go pet the lion cubs.
The last hurrah of the trip was seeing the camel. It was kind of cool, although it was somewhat out of place at the entrance of the tiger kingdom. It cost less than a penny to buy food for him so my dad provided some baht (Thai currency) and we traded it for camel snacks.
My brother and I fed him all the food we had and I was just tickled because he was eating right out of my hand. I bent over and began picking up little pieces of grass that were out of the camel’s reach when all of a sudden, I was screaming. I looked down and the camel’s mouth was attached to my calf!
My dad started laughing in disbelief as I continued to scream at the camel for refusing to surrender my leg back to me. Finally, after my dad beat the camel’s head away, he became disinterested. I walked away with nothing but a bruise, teeth marks and a fear of camels (short lived).
Out of all the animals I saw that day, the camel definitely didn’t strike me as the most dangerous. I didn't really feel the need to be cautious. He’d been so gentle when he was eating out of my hand, but as soon as I turned my back, he had me in his grasp.
So many times we’re on guard for the things we label as dangerous, whether the dangers be spiritual, mental, physical, you name it! And that's good! But it's the stumbling blocks that aren’t obviously dangerous, the things that we push to the side as non-hazardous that bring us down.
These are distractions such as social media, the newest Netflix show and spending a couple bucks on fast food or coffee every day. These are fun and enjoyable but soon they may become so addicting that everything else is second, whether we are aware of it or not. Now, you probably won’t be chomped on by a camel anytime soon, but just remember to “Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. And do everything with love.” (1 Corinthians 16:13-14) Be aware and intentional with your life and love freely.
I remember immediately after the incident, my dad wanted to take a picture of the bruises on my leg. I refused because I was frustrated at him and embarrassed about what had happened to me. When we are upset, we’re angry and bitter about something that may leave scars or a bruise but they are forever remembered. Something innocent becomes fear inducing. We become frustrated at others and God for something they never wished upon us. We don’t let it go, but much later we look back and wonder why we got so worked up.
Kasondra Reel is a senior studying nursing.