Thanksgivings and Changes
The gritty cement floor felt cold under my bare feet and the blue plastic chair bit into my back. Thanksgiving again – but this one looked a bit different. It was a Lisu village, and we saw many things that were not the same as the familiar Lahu Thanksgivings.
For one thing, the dress was different. The Lahu wear mostly western clothes and only for special occasions do they put on their traditional “uniforms.” This year we saw few of those, even for the Thanksgivings
The Lisu wear much simpler clothing, and they wear their tribal clothing all the time – not just for special occasions. The men are the most interesting, with skirt-like culottes, often in colors considered feminine in the West. To us, they look odd, especially when paired with a dress shirt.
This was my first Lisu Thanksgiving, so I don’t know if it was typical, but it was very small and low key – a far cry from the big Lahu festival the week before . At Hoe Sum Suk there were far too many guests for the tiny building. Bamboo tables were set up under a tent to handle the crowd. Groups from many villages came to join in, and each sang a special or performed a traditional tribal dance.
Plenty of room in the church building at Pa Bong Nga. The tiny church is struggling without a pastor and fighting to keep their land. A. sold their church building while we were in the middle of the court battle against him., but the new owner allows them to use the building. He has tried to have the people thrown off the property so he can sell it, but so far the mayor of the village has stood by them and refused to let him sell it. (Mayors are powerful people here and have the final say about the buying and selling of property.)
One thing was the same. The people met joyfully and thankfully. They have not had a Thanksgiving celebration for three years. They were happy to be able to return to their traditions and to have an offering to give.
The people speak the Lisu language, and we didn’t have an interpreter, so Paul wasn’t able to preach, but the people seemed encouraged to have us there. He spoke a few words, which Lek translated into Thai, and were then translated into Lisu by a man at the church. Matthew, an older man who pastors a church in another Lisu village, preached the message. He comes to help out at Pa Bong Na as often as he can. We send our Lisu helper, Asa, to preach occasionally, but it’s a long way from where we live, and there are many churches without pastors who need our supply preachers.
The food was different but plentiful and served with the same gracious hospitality.
Then it was time to do medicine – and something else was the same. Although the crowd at church was small, the line for medicine was unending. Evidently the whole village got word we were there and showed up to get the simple medicines we handed out. Some of the church members came up with the idea of telling the villagers next time that they have to come to the services if they want medicine. They could have them a sign a paper to show they attended and could be checked off when they got in line.
No, Paul told them. We don’t use medicine as a gimmick to get people to church. We give because we want to help, and anyone who has a need is welcome. But as he looked at the line of people winding around the building, many wearing strings around their wrists, showing they are bound to the evil spirits, he longed to give them help that would be lasting. Maybe next time he will preach to the people as they wait for their turn for medicine. If we can get a Lisu interpreter.
We had given out the last of the hats and baby clothes at Hoe Sum Suk, but I bought some hats and made a few during the week and we distributed those. In these high mountain villages, it does get cool in the winter months of December and January.
On Friday we will have another Thanksgiving, this one in most remote village of all. It can only be reached by car in the dry months of December through March, as the road is impassable when wet and far too dangerous to attempt travel then. That’s the last one scheduled, and we will miss them! It has been such an opportunity to help and to share the Gospel. However, the New Years’ celebrations will be starting, so more opportunities are ahead.
In a couple of weeks Paul will be meeting for a training session with the pastors from Laos who can’t attend the regular training because of visa restrictions. Please pray for him as he teaches these eager men.
Then a Bible conference will kick off the months of preachers’ training. I’m so thankful the Lord worked it out so that I can go with Paul and help with the English classes. Eve, a Christian young lady who is a student teacher at the kids’ school, will stay here with Molly while I am gone.
Today we have a packed schedule – so packed I had to eliminate some of my regular duties, like teaching an English class at the kids’ school. We are taking Preston back to the doctor to check on the wound he got in the motorcycle wreck. He had a hole in his leg just below the knee, which went right to the bone. By the time the doctor had snipped off the rough edges and cleaned it, it was the size of a quarter. It looks infected to me, so I’m glad he will be seeing the doctor today.
Then we, together with a group of local Christian groups, will be meeting with the governor of Chiang Mai. He’s an important man, and it’s good to have connections here. Paul will be speaking on behalf of the group — a great opportunity! We’ll be taking gifts and cards to him, wishing him a Happy New Year, and making a group donation to the Red Cross drive which he is sponsoring.
Eve is moving in tonight, so we will be busy helping her bring her things over. Lots of changes are ahead for us. Please pray for us and we serve these precious people who have such needs!