By Fr. Dino Vanin, PIME
Fr. Dino served as a missionary in Thailand for six years. He is now the treasurer of the US Region.
This time I was visiting an Isahn village (in Thailand) which I visit regularly. I was pretty confident I would have no problems with food.
Kroo (“teacher”) Soobin, the village catechist, ran toward me with a big grin. “Great Father, you don’t know how lucky you are! Today some folks have caught a forest rat we will prepare for you tonight!” Seeing no excitement on my face, he added, “Well, it is not a real rat like those you see around our homes. This sucker is furrier, black with a short tail – its meat is a real delicacy.”
Later, during evening prayers, these thoughts came to me.
In my right ear an angel from God was whispering softly, “What are you worrying about? True missionaries can eat anything!”
In my left ear a mid-size devil shouted back, “Yeah, but you ain’t no real missionary!”
The angel showed me a picture of something that looked like a rabbit all dressed and ready for consumption. The devil was even faster in shoving under my nose a picture of a mean-looking rat, the size of a large cat, with a pink tail, sharp teeth and everything. The angel consoled me with the thought that those people I loved to serve were lucky to eat this type of meat very seldom, but the devil warned me that I would most certainly die of a combination of chilblains and erysipelas.
Needless to say, they were the strangest evening prayers I ever prayed.
At dinner, I was first served a heaping mound of rice. Then Sombut walked in, triumphantly carrying two bowls of minced meat. That was it, you know…the r..rr…treat.
I sighed, took a small spoonful, and placed it next to the rice on my plate. With no inconsiderable struggle, I managed to eat a whole spoonful of it by lining it with plenty of rice. I soon realized that Sombut had pulverized the bones of the beast and mixed them in with the meat.
I remembered that a nurse had told me once that it was very dangerous to eat tiny chips of bones, as they could tear your intestines.
When Sombut returned he was too glad to see that I had hardly touched the meat to wonder about the reason for my fasting. That evening his family ate well.
The following morning Kroo Soobin took me aside. “Great Father,” he said, “it appeared that your foreign mouth and my food last night did not get along. Why?” I could only reply that I was not hungry after a long journey.
It was a lame excuxse, but I hoped he would go around spreadking the news that Father Dino didn’t appreciate this particular Isahn delicacy.