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Kerry Stiles, Katie Culberson, Amy Bowman and Erik Tryggestad on "Sunday Lunch."
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Kerry Stiles, Katie Culberson, Amy Bowman and Erik Tryggestad on "Sunday Lunch" | Photo by Erik Tryggestad

Reliving the coffee can incident — and the woman who put me to shame


NASHVILLE, Tenn. — So I got interviewed on a podcast recently — by my little sister. 

Sunday Lunch” is a podcast hosted by Katie Culberson, Kerry Stiles and Amy Bowman (my sister). They’re all members of the Brentwood Hills Church of Christ in Nashville, where Amy is a children’s ministry coordinator. But they’re quick — very quick — to point out that the podcast has no official connection to the church. 


Related: Survivors of the Taliban find new life — and new fears


Erik Tryggestad

Insight | Erik Tryggestad

While I was in Nashville I weaseled my way onto the podcast. Some family trauma got revisited, including the time I jammed Amy’s head into a coffee can when she was a toddler. We lived in Alexandria, Va., and I was enthralled by the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The coffee can was my helmet, and I thought Amy should join in the fun. I just didn’t account for the difference in, y’know, head circumference. 

We talked about The Christian Chronicle, too. Katie asked me about stories that have had an impact on me and my faith. I have lots of examples, but one always stands out.

 

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We end our Countdown to Thankfulness with @eriktryggestad , president and CEO of @christianchronicle – and he’s Amy’s brother! Erik talks about his career in journalism and shares some amazing stories of people he’s met in his international travels and bonds that unite Christians around the world. And he tells some pretty amazingly embarrassing stories about Amy of course! Listen on Apple podcasts or at the link in the bio.

A post shared by Sunday Lunch (@sundaylunch3) on

It’s the story of Angelina (for security reasons, I won’t use here real name here). She’s a refugee from Pakistan I met in Bangkok. She was a nurse. Her family fled their homeland because of their Christian faith. She had been inoculating children, but their parents accused her of trying to poison Muslims. 

Angelina makes chapati for visitors to her one-room apartment in Bangkok.

Angelina makes chapati for visitors to her one-room apartment in Bangkok.

They got tourist visas to stay in Bangkok, where they applied for refugee status and rented a one-room apartment. The visas ran out while their refugee case was still under review, so they were living in Thailand illegally.

They were middle class back in Pakistan. Angelina told me how she would pack vegetables in her kids’ lunches but they wouldn’t get eaten. 

I have two kids. I can relate. 

Now, she said, they couldn’t afford vegetables. And when her kids got sick, she had to take them to the doctor, not knowing if she’d be arrested or if she’d have enough money to pay for their care. 

I can’t relate to that — nor to what she said next: “God gave us this opportunity.” 

God? Opportunity? What?

She explained. While sitting in the doctor’s office, a Thai man handed her some money, without her saying a thing. He knew she needed it. That kind of story had played out for her time and again. 

“You know, we have not worried about anything,” she told me, “because we know God.”

I should pray for God to help us recognize our complete dependence on him, no matter the cost.

Being stripped of all the comforts of life brought Angelina to the realization of her utter dependence on her Father. So she rejoiced. 

I thought about all my petty worries and told her, “You put me to shame.”

I should mention the role that the Somprasong 4 Church of Christ in Bangkok played in her family’s lives. The congregation adopted them and other Pakistani refugees. Angelina and her husband were baptized, and the church provided money, food and even legal aid for the family. (Jailed just weeks after I left Bangkok, they later were released.)


Related: Podcast: Christian Chronicle CEO invites himself to ‘Sunday Lunch’


Their story still gives me chills. 

I pray that my family never has to face what hers has faced. But I know I shouldn’t pray that prayer. 

I should pray for God to help us recognize our complete dependence on him, no matter the cost. And I should pray for the boldness to share what he’s given us.

ERIK TRYGGESTAD is president and CEO of The Christian Chronicle. Contact [email protected].

Filed under: Bangkok Insight Opinion Pakistan refugee Thailand

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