I tasted the blood on my cut lip and smelled the sweat of my own fear. The roar of the crowd faded beneath the sound of my own racing heartbeat and the grunt of my opponent as I landed the next brutal blow.
My name is Somchai Soonthornturasuk - "Macho man." As a Mai Thai kick boxer my duty was to deal out and counteract lethal blows. The aim:victory and ruining the career of my opponent in the ring. The satisfaction of delivering visious lightening-fast punishment was one way to overcome my own body's agony after the match was fought and won. I owed it to myself, my fighting reputation, and my hordes of faithful admirers. And I paid my fans back handsomely with the huge amounts of money they'd gambled on my win.
As I jumped from the ring I felt their love and concern over my bruises. Hurting badly I'd stagger later when no one could see. Soon these good fellows would take me out to the best of Bangkok's nightclubs. The liquor helped dull my sore ribs and battered thighs. I don't know why it never occurred to me that while they were getting richer and fatter, I was suffering more and more. But popularity is a strong drug. Despite my rigorous training sessions it was becoming more difficult to gain peak condition. But drinking, smoking, and carousing were softening me up for a painful shock.
After a long session with my warm-hearted friends, I doubled over in an agony that would not quit. I ended up in Bangkok Hospital with ulcer perforations. My friends tried to cheer me saying, "Don't worry, you are young and can start over again. Of course I would. Pain was not new to me. I believed in myself. My career was my life!
But as dreary day followed dreary day, I invented new excuses for the absence of my friends. Finally, like the venom of a cobra strike the truth sunk in. Even now they'd be fawning over young hopefuls. A heavy blanket of depression settled over me and I didn't care if I died. The fight had gone from me.
But right at the point of my deepest need, God stepped in to the ring of my life. A group of young Christians visited the hospital to say hello to patients and share with music and some told of their relationship with Jesus Christ. I'd never heard anything like it before and listened closely. I needed no convincing I needed a saviour because sin was real to me. And after i asked Him into my life, the great weights of disappointment, frustration, and bitterness left. I felt as fine as I did before a match. Needing some new guidelines to follow now, I entered a Bible college to learn more about this.
So the work that Jesus began in me continues. Once I fought for fame; now I fight so that others may receive the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
Somchai shared the above testimony with me and it has been such a wonderful experience to have worked with him all over Thailand for the past twenty odd years. The best part is the distribution of thousands of Thai John's Gospels in Buddhist schools, prisons, hospital, orphanages, tribal areas, and market places where we have freedom to tell the Good news. We never denigrate Buddha, instead we uplift Christ. He is all anyone needs.
Rita has published a historical trilogy. See: www.ritastellapress.com and facebook