Taking a Deep Breath — Ready to Plunge In
“Why did they think this was a good idea?” I muttered. I stopped to catch my breath and looked with dismay at the steep path still before me.
It’s a hill tribes custom. They build their churches on the highest piece of ground in the village. This church building was on a VERY high mountaintop. Rough steps were carved into the winding path. Otherwise, church-goers would have to use mountain climbing gear! Well, almost.
We weren’t headed to a church service, but to a meeting with the pastor and some of the church members of this new village. It was our first contact about the Learning Center we will be opening soon.
We had held our own service in the afternoon that Sunday. Sabat, one of the most faithful and knowledgeable of the pastors Paul trains, was traveling through the area, so Paul asked him to preach. Sabat had preached in his own church in Plang Hok that morning, then came north to meet with us. Afterwards, he left for Myanmar to preach at a church there in the evening. We enjoyed hearing him preach, although Paul, Denise, and I weren’t able to understand the message. It was our turn, though. Usually Asa and I’kha miss out when we don’t have an interpreter since they don’t understand English. The kids, of course, understand both languages.
Since we didn’t have service that morning, Asa explored the area and stumbled on a church in a nearby Lahu village. He attended the services there and saw droves of children – many of them teenagers of the age we plan to serve in our Learning Center.
We returned there after our service and met with the pastor and some of the members and discussed our plans. They were excited and the pastor had a lot of questions for us. He is going to discuss the opportunity with his church members. It’s a Baptist church – and it turns out we already had a connection with the pastor. He is the one who told Brother Ai Donkham about the land we are purchasing. Paul invited him to the preachers’ training and he quickly agreed to come.
There are lots of kids in the village, but we can only take about 10 for now. Denise and I will be teaching our own four full time in the Learning Center. We look forward to Cowen and Lyla Villandry boosting that number to six! Bang and Danny will attend Thai school for one more year to get their sixth-grade certificate and continue learning English after school.
The new group will have to start at the beginning, learning English and then learning to read and write. After that, they will do all their subjects in English using the Accelerated Christian Education program. We are getting a head start by teaching them English one hour a day after school this year. By next year they will be ready to work independently with the others.
Crowds of children roamed the streets of this large village. Asa counted 109 houses. Often there are fewer than 50 in the villages where we minister. I would love to take them all – but we don’t want to take more than we can handle with the staff we currently have. I confess to looking with longing at the laughing children playing in the street. If only we could clone ourselves to reach more! But the Lord knows. Perhaps there are more young people like Kimmy who will commit to coming to help for a year. Or others like Denise who are free from other commitments and willing to come and serve.
In the meantime, we will look at setting up Bible and English camps on Saturdays. Do pray for me. The schedule will be busy, indeed!
Most of our children are visiting their families in their mountains now during their long summer break. We look forward to seeing them again in a couple of weeks. The few who stayed enjoyed the Sankran experience here. It’s the Thai New Year and is celebrated by a giant water fight. The kids enjoyed spending time at the local water spots — there are several rivers and waterfalls nearby. When not going somewhere, they joined the water throwers. All along the major streets people (mostly kids) stood by with barrels of water and buckets to scoop and throw the water on passersby. Paul made sure and drove slowly when we were traveling so plenty of people could throw water on the kids.
Paul has been busy preparing the big house for preachers’ training. We are short on bathrooms for that many men, so we got permission from the landlord to build a Lahu-style outhouse in the back yard.
We are settling in to our new, temporary homes. The little apartment where Paul and I live next to the dress shop- turned-boys’-dorm is great, except for a problem with the well. Something is wrong with either the pump or the electrical system, and the water stops several times a day. Paul has it down to a science now, flipping the breaker, priming the pump, etc. It’s a pain, though! The landlord promised to get us on city water. We are eagerly waiting for that!
We’ve collected furniture and found room for everything, although the big house still lacks some fundamentals. There is still no kitchen sink , but we are working on getting a canopy to cover the free-standing sink in the yard. It has begun to rain now, so a covering is moving up on the priority list.
Meanwhile, we’ve made a big step forward toward getting the title for the new land. We have the paper that was stuck at the government office for months. We will meet with the local authorities and the landlord this week. We would appreciate prayers!
We have a couple more weeks of breathing space and then all the kids will return and we will move into our new schedule. We are excited and a tiny bit nervous, but mostly happy that our plans are at long last actually happening. God is good!