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  • Susan Brown

A Taste of Paradise

A guttural, outraged growl suddenly shattered the peace of the seaside. The lighter feminine voices screamed and the little ones whimpered in terror. Someone was on a rampage and the sounds of smacks and things thrown – followed by more screams – gave evidence that things were getting violent next door.

These monkey families are definitely dysfunctional. Those furry little critters look cute from a distance, but spending a week with them has convinced me that they have a darker side.

We are at an oceanside resort on the island of Koh Jum in southern Thailand. We had long planned to be in America for the weeks the kids are on break, but Covid 19 restrictions put an end to those hopes. We could possibly leave, as Thailand has had no Covid cases for months. The trouble would be getting back into the country. We reluctantly canceled our plans.

The first two weeks of the break were busy ones. We had the first preachers’ training in our new facilities. We were so busy getting ready – and then were disappointed. It is harvest and Thanksgiving season. Paul had asked if anyone would find it too difficult to come at this time. No one replied. He assumed that meant it would be no problem. It really meant that no one wanted to say they couldn’t come. Instead of the expected 40 men, we had 15. The men who did come were eager to learn, though, and it turned out to be a good week.

Then came two Thanksgivings back-to-back. We went to the beautiful village of Pa Tong Eh on Saturday. Paul preached a good Thanksgiving sermon – which, as always, included a strong Gospel message. Moses interpreted it into Lahu. He’s still learning to interpret, but he is very motivated and studies for hours to prepare. Please pray for him as he works to become proficient. We are proud of him! After the service, we had traditional Lahu Thanksgiving food and then gave out medicine and hats.

On Sunday we traveled north for two-and-a-half hours to a Thanksgiving service at the large village of Bon Saw. Paul preached and his regular interpreter, Bro. Ai Donkham, interpreted in Lahu. Moses and Molly helped me with the medicine and this time Paul gave out the hats.

Making and distributing hats has become a tradition for us during the Thanksgiving season. This year was a challenge, because all the ladies who knit and crochet hats for us couldn’t get them to us. We already knew that it is too expensive and too difficult to mail them. (More than one expensive boxful were caught in customs and we had to pay a fortune to ransom them out.) Usually we work ahead to arrange for visiting friends to bring them in suitcases. That couldn’t happen this year, since Covid kept our would-be visitors in America. All but a few of the ones I made disappeared in one weekend of Thanksgivings.

But the Lord had a solution for us! The family of Esther Thorne, from one of our supporting churches, set up a fund in her honor after she passed away recently. She had a love for missions and a heart for children, so they designated the fund to be used for children’s clothes and other needs in Thailand. We have hats again!

The week after preachers’ training the last of the kids went home for a visit with their families. We went to Chiang Mai and I went shopping. I had not found a single hat in Mae Ai where we live or in the bigger town of Fang. I went to the large market on the river and found hats galore! I bought them by the dozens. I also bought baby clothes, socks, and blankets for the littlest hill tribe children.

We still have funds left, which we plan to use for school uniforms and shoes. Some children can get to a school, but cannot attend unless they have the required white shirts and khaki shorts or navy pleated skirts. They also have to have regulation socks and shoes. The lack of money for clothes can keep a child from an education. We will be working with the pastors to find the neediest families and to buy school clothes for the children.

We are so thankful to the Thorne family and friends who have made it possible to help these kids. What a wonderful way to be remembered – by children staying warm in the cold season and able to go to school wearing new uniforms and shoes!

I enjoyed the three-days orgy of shopping and visiting friends in Chiang Mai. It was sooo good to see Denise Johnson again. She was my right arm the year she spent helping us and we have sorely missed her! We had to concede Joshua and Sabrina Johnson’s superior claim to his mom, though, when they finished deputation and arrived in Thailand. We are excited to see how the Lord is already using them as missionaries here even while they are busy learning the language.

Then we flew out from Chiang Mai for a week to rest. It was our consolation trip since we didn’t get to go to see our family in the US. I know our friends and supporters are happy to see us take a few days to recharge – but I do want everyone to know that the trip came from our personal savings. Mission giving goes only for missions!

This has been a dream vacation. The island depends almost exclusively on tourists. There are none due to Covid 19. We are the only guests staying at our resort. We had booked an inexpensive room, but the manager upgraded us to the best cabin right on the beach at no extra charge. We walked in to find the room decorated with a special welcome. Since we are the only ones to eat at the restaurant, the cook knocks herself out on our meals. The free breakfast is amazing. Every day we have salad, fresh fruit, fresh-squeezed fruit juice, eggs and toast, fried bread and sticky rice or banana pancakes. And coffee. The table is laid ready for us at every meal and the waitress shows up as soon as we sit down to take our order for our other meals. The workers have taken us under their wings and try to anticipate our every need. The waitress even noticed I was rubbing my sore shoulder and she came over and gave me a quick massage!

We have the beautiful beach to ourselves. What more could we ask?

The monkeys are the only detractors. Since there are few people, they have taken over the area. They are fearless. They come onto our porch and open our door. We’ve learned to keep it locked! They invade the outdoor restaurant and make ferocious noises when the workers try to shoo them away. One bold creature ran across the restaurant, climbed up onto our table, and snatched Paul’s bread off his plate. Paul didn’t want it anyway, but it was rather startling.

Koh Jum is a beautiful island, unspoiled by development. There are nice resorts on the beach, but the towns look just like the poor villages in northern Thailand. Anyone who wants to shop and party will want to find a different island. This one is quiet and peaceful. On our motorcycle tour of the island we found a Muslim mosque and a Buddhist temple, but not a single church. They need a missionary here in paradise! I wish we could be in two places at once – but we have our hands more than full with the work in the north.

We will be heading back home in a couple of days. Lots of opportunities wait for us there. The kids will be back on Sunday. Our learning center will start back on Monday. On Tuesday evening we will begin our evening English classes. I hope to start a children’s Sunday School in a couple of weeks and an advanced English class. We will have regular Sunday church services – and the Thanksgiving season has only begun. I’m thankful we had this time to get refreshed and ready!

We miss our friends and family and are sad that it will likely be another year before we are able to see them. But we are here, doing what God has called us to do. He is good to us, and we thank Him!

Edited to add: After I posted this, we received a phone call with some distressing news. Our seventeen-year-old Jay was in a motorcycle accident. He lost three of his toes in the accident. Please pray for Jay as he recovers.

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