I pulled my sweat- soaked hair tighter in the clip and wiped my streaming face on the tail of my filthy, wet t-shirt. Remember all those hours you spent in saunas at the gym and how good they felt, I reminded myself. Here in Thailand I have a free sauna. Enjoy!
Chaos and dirt reigned in the room we used for dining, tutoring, and meeting. We had reached the frustrating point in deep cleaning where things looked far dirtier and much worse than when we started. Andy and Bang busily picked stray puzzle pieces out of the Lego boxes and stray Legos from the Lincoln Logs that were dumped in a heap on the floor. Games and assorted stuff that had accumulated on the toy shelves littered the tables, waiting for me to sort them out. William shoved heavy furniture (storage cabinet, organ, etc.) from their places against the wall so I could sweep and mop underneath. Meanwhile, Preston, was on his hands and knees scrubbing the brick floor of our outside kitchen with a scrub brush.
“Is William over there?” Paul called through the window. “I need him.”
“You can’t have him,” I called back. “He’s helping me.” Paul was busy with his little crew washing the truck and doing outside chores.
“I need him worse,” he said. “We have someone here and I need him to translate.”
I sighed and surrendered my cheerful (and muscular) helper. Soon Paul was back.
“We need you.”
I left the mess and went over to see our guest. A young Lahu woman and her little boy waited in my living room. Her two-year-old didn’t have shoes. She didn’t have money to buy him any, so came to see if we had shoes in our clothing ministry boxes that would fit. I dragged the boxes out and we soon had the little guy fixed up with tennis shoes that lit up, several pairs of socks, and three sets of clothes.
She talked to me in Thai while we sorted through the clothes. I understood bits of the conversation. Something about work and her husband – probably was out of work, I gathered. Something about the little boy and school, which I couldn’t decipher. I called William back to translate again.
“She says can her little boy come and live with you to study,” he told me.
“But he’s a baby!” I cried.
“Not now. When he is a little older,” William explained.
I felt the familiar dismay. People are always trying to give us their kids. It seems unnatural that parents would willingly surrender their children, but these folks are in a difficult position. There are often no schools in the mountain villages, and the schools they have are frequently not good. Without education these kids have no future. They can only work in the tea farms and rice fields doing back-breaking manual labor.
As long as they can’t read and write and speak Thai, they will be intimidated and ripe for someone to take advantage of them. We’ve spent a good chunk of our two years here helping free some of them of that kind of oppression. So, we can’t blame the parents for trying to get something better for their children.
As a result of this problem, thousands of children are in children’s homes throughout the country. They are raised in institutions instead of families. When they age out, they may have an education of sorts, but they don’t have a clue how to function in society or how a family is supposed to work. Meanwhile, they are separated from their tribal culture and lose their tribal language.
What’s the answer? Good schools in the villages. How to make that happen? We don’t know, but we are praying about it. We do know it is too big a job for us right now.
At the moment we are immersed in the work God has already given us. Paul is busily preparing for his preachers’ training program which will start in November. He is chomping at the bit! And we are providing a home and education for six kids. Since we hired tutors for them, they are progressing and doing well. We have a good group of 20 to 30 people who come regularly to our Sunday services, including several Buddhist children from the neighborhood. Add English classes and traveling to the villages for ministry, and you have some very busy missionaries. Please pray with us for more workers. The fields in Thailand are white and ready for harvest!
After the young mom went on her way, I went back to the cleaning. I found a spotless kitchen floor and toys and games sorted and stacked neatly on the shelves. The bathrooms were clean and much of the mopping already done. William and I soon had it finished up.
As a reward for their hard work, we took the kids to the mall where they enjoyed video games as a special treat. But first, this missionary had a much-needed shower and a nap. Those saunas take a lot out of you!