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  • Susan Brown

A Day of Preachers’ Training

The class snickered, trying to swallow their laughter.

“Ca,” I said again as I pointed to the letters on the board. It was English class for the preachers in Mae Ai and we were blending letters as I taught them to read. They tried to repeat after me, but the snickering grew into loud guffaws.

“Sorry,” Lek said. “But that word is not good in Lahu. It means poo poo.”

It could have been worse, I guess. At least the laughter lightened the mood. These guys from the Lahu and Lisu tribes in Thailand struggle to learn English. They have a much harder time than the young preachers from Laos. They have less education, for one thing, and they are older. I happen to know personally that the older you are, the more difficult it is to learn a new language!

While Paul taught the preachers earlier this morning, I practiced reading Thai. Whew! It’s tough! Not only do the letters look loopy and strange, you have to remember tone rules for each class of letters. They also change sounds depending on where they are in the word. I spent the morning muttering miii – no mi. Wait, that’s not it either. It’s mai.”

But I really want to learn Thai and I would like people to be able to understand what I’m saying. Learning to read will help with that. I hope.

Then it was my turn to teach. Nobody could remember the words from yesterday’s lesson and nobody could grasp the dialog (“Hello. How are you?” “Fine, thank you. How are you?”) We soldiered on. They told me via Lek that they wanted to learn the alphabet so they could master the sounds. I wasn’t planning on starting the reading lessons this week. But, since that was what they wanted, we jumped in.

Then it was lunchtime – a dish from pork intestines, a spinach and pork soup, a chili dish and some really good noodles and vegetables. And rice, of course. Dessert was fresh fruit – watermelon and oranges, both grown locally and fresh picked. They have a very different taste than the cold storage fruits we get in America! Lek’s mother and sister-in-law cook for us, and they are good cooks. Judging from the amount of food these guys put away, the arrangement is working out well.

During lunch Lek told Paul, “The men say they are really excited about what you are teaching them. They say they hope the people at home will be patient as they study so they can teach these things.”

“I’ll tell them to teach a little at a time,” Paul said. “That’s how I’ve seen I have to teach them. Not a lot of deep things and not too much at a time. Just bite-sized pieces of truth.”

Paul is particularly good at that – making great truths clear enough for the most simple of God’s children.

After lunch he taught about being the servants of God. Everyone, he told them, is God’s servant because He made them. Christians are His servants, because He has redeemed them. And we are His servants willingly because we love Him.

Then I taught English again, which went a little bit better this time. We struggled along with colors. I discovered long ago that colors are hard for them because there are no color words in Lahu. Instead of “blue” they will say “sky.” They will say “leaf” when they mean green. Before I learned that, I wondered if Lahu men were colorblind. After some diligent work, we learned red, blue, green, and yellow today. Even harder was the concept of pronouns, but I think most of the guys eventually caught on.

After English class we had a quick supper of very spicy pumpkin and pork. We left as early as possible so Paul could take a bike ride up the mountain before dark. A walk to the local 7-11 was the extent of my exercise, personally.

Now it’s night and cooling off fast. Although it was hot in the classroom this afternoon, the mountain nights are cool – not to say cold. We have learned to shower early and go to bed before it gets cold. We are tired and ready to turn in, so that’s no problem. It’s been a long and busy day, but we are happy. It has been a profitable day, spent doing what Paul has longed to do for the past two years – training preachers for the work of the ministry.

God is good!

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