Sunday Service — Lahu Style
A rubber band flew past my nose. I jumped and turned to look for the source of the missile. Two little boys sat in the aisle which divided the men’s side of the church from the women’s. They busily entertained themselves with a game that involved shooting rubber bands. No bother about nursery and children’s church here in the mountain villages of Thailand. The kids entertain themselves while everyone ignores them. If they become too rowdy, the parents simply send them outside.
Perhaps the little guys with the rubber bands carried this freedom a little too far, though. So did the baby who climbed up on the platform with Paul while he was preaching. He was a cute little guy, with a charming smile on his grubby face. (The baby, I mean. Paul has a charming smile, but does wash his face.)
But is this something that should be addressed and corrected? Or is it another of those cultural things better left alone? I’ll need to think about that. Meanwhile, we try to be a good example by making sure our kids are quiet and attentive during the service. Of course, ours are older – young teens and preteens. Still, they have been fidgety enough to recognize “the look.” You know the one – all of us moms have it in our arsenal.
“Grandma, your eyes are going to come out of your head,” Molly said the other day.
I resolutely ignored the game and turned back to the preaching. It was a good message — as usual. Paul preached on redemption and illustrated by pretending to have Lek buy his pen. Then he tried to take it back, but couldn’t, because it now belonged to Lek. He explained that Jesus bought us when He died on the cross. When we are saved, we belong to Him. We don’t belong to the devil, to the world, or to ourselves. We are His, and He won’t give us back. What a wonderful thought! What an inspiration to walk a life yielded daily to Him.
I glanced around at the people. They were smiling and nodding. They got it.
We were in the village of Pa Tong Eh. Lush green growth flowed down the mountainsides and lapped near the bamboo huts and the narrow dirt streets. It was good to see the healthy corn and the trees clothed once more in rich green. The drought has been long and severe. What a blessing to see it end and to see the abundant growth.
We gave out water filters and then did medicine. I noticed an unusual number of people with strings on their wrists coming for help. Spirit worshipers. The witch doctors, or shamans, had “blessed “ the strings and tied them on to protect the wearer from harm from the evil spirits. Most of them had come to the service. Were they there just to get medicine? Maybe, although we have never denied help to anyone who came and stood in line to receive medicine with the church members. At any rate, they heard the Gospel, whatever their motive. We were happy for that!
Afterwards some of the church members asked to talk to Paul. They told him that a preacher we knew who had fallen into wrong doctrine had come to their service the last Sunday. He wanted to preach for them and sing a song about the year 666. We never did figure that out, but were happy to hear that they told him he was welcome to join their service, but not to preach or sing.
They also had been offered a new church building by another group. The one who was a go-between arranging this gift was yet another preacher we knew who had drifted into heresy. Paul didn’t tell them what to do, but reminded them that only Christ was in charge of the church. We aren’t, and no other group is. “What will they expect from you if you accept a building from them?” he asked.
“They will just come to the dedication ceremony,” one of the men said.
“Yes,” said the pastor. “And then later they said they would come once a year.”
“That’s true,” another church leader said. “They do keep changing what they say. Maybe we should pray about it some more and ask them exactly what they want from us. If they want to control our church, we will say ‘no thanks’ to the building.”
The others agreed. We rejoiced to see these folks who once were held in a vise-like grip of an unscrupulous man now thinking for themselves and making their own decisions. We didn’t know when we came to Thailand that freeing the churches and helping them learn to stand on their own would be one of the first jobs the Lord called us to do. We are thankful to see them growing and making wise decisions.
Back into the truck and home again. The trip to Pa Tong Eh was a two-hat trip. It was long enough that I was able to crochet a hat both coming and going. That means it was a lengthy truck ride! We were glad to be home again once more.
And to begin another week. Paul is teaching the preachers from Thailand in Mae Ai this week while I am home with the kids. So far our water was cut off, I discovered that I forgot to get money for groceries and supplies from Paul before he left, and our drinking water dispenser broke. That’s about par for the course for the days he is away. We are praying for the time we have our own property so he doesn’t have to be away for two weeks of the month! The Lord is sufficient, though, and we are weathering the trials in the meantime.
Speaking of weather, the torrential rains that have battered the house all morning have at last come to an end and a watery sunshine is lighting up our soggy yard. That’s my cue to dash outside to hang out some clothes and to walk to the convenience store before the deluge starts again. That’s life during rainy season! God is good – in every season of the year, and every season of life!