I held my breath as I watched him sign the papers. Those papers said he gave up any claim to the lands purchased by the churches in America for the Lahu Christians in Thailand. It would be an end to the tyranny he held over the uneducated mountain people.
Or would it? Would he find a way to hang on to the control so important to his twisted mind?
The court case on April 20 brought to a close the legal battle we had been fighting for a year. And we came out with what we wanted – the freedom of the people from the mafia-like control A. had gained over the years.
But we soon saw that he had no intention of giving up. The first test came in the village of Plang Hoc. The court documents allowed A. to appoint a committee to handle the business of the church properties. Those properties were to belong to the people and to be used by the whole community. He was forbidden by the court decree from interfering. He was only to advise.
In Plang Hoc, a small but purposeful group of Christians gathered weekly in a home while the church building remained padlocked. We traveled to the village to help set up a new committee and to try for a peaceful reconciliation with P., the one remaining member on A.’s committee. All the others, like so many who formerly followed him, had resigned.
It went well. P. signed in agreement with the other new committee members. Together with the mayor of the village, he broke off the padlock and opened the church building.
Leaves and dirt littered the filthy floor and the air smelled stale from being locked up for so long, but the people quickly opened the windows. Light and fresh air streamed into the room. We rejoiced to think of the freedom and light now able to penetrate to that mountaintop village, so long the site of dissention and anger. More than one eye was wet as we held hands and prayed, thanking God for deliverance.
But it wasn’t over. A. heard about our visit before we even came down from the mountain. He was furious. Soon he had the weak P. intimidated into filing charges against us and against the Thai mayor. It stated that he was forced to sign the documents against his will and that we forced him to break the lock.
Paul, Lek, Manat (our Thai friend and worker) and Mr. Youngyut went to the police station to discuss the charges. Mr. Youngyut is a well known Christian and influential leader. He has often helped us navigate the byways of “who you know” in the Thai legal system. At the police station P. was upset that A. didn’t show to back him up as he had promised. When the guys showed the pictures of a smiling P. breaking off the lock – with no signs of coercion – he admitted that the charges were false. He told the police officers that A. had forced him to file the charges, that he didn’t even know what his documents said because he can’t read Thai. A. had written them all and ordered him to submit them.
The officer threw out the case and the guys started home, rejoicing. But A. is not used to being thwarted. On the way home they noticed that he was following them. A black pickup truck, bearing the name of another Christian foundation, whipped past our truck and pulled into a diagonal stop in front of them, blocking the way. The road was a winding mountain one, and Paul had no place to pull around. A’s truck blocked the road behind him. Both drivers got out and stormed toward our guys. Paul recognized the second man that the man — A.’s brother, who works for another foundation.
He opened one of the back doors and A. opened the other, shaking their fists and making threats, out of their minds with fury. Manat took A.’s picture, which further enraged him.
“Give me your cameras and cell phones,” he ordered. The guys refused, and Manat turned away holding his camera away from A.’s grasping hands. A. lost control entirely and hit Manat in the back with his fist.
Meanwhile, A.’s brother, who is huge for a Lahu – nearly six foot tall and heavily built – taunted and threatened Lek – who is about 5’5.” Paul was afraid, not that the brother would hurt Lek, but that Lek would get out and hurt the guy. Lek is a kickboxing instructor and could have taken him down and done serious damage. No doubt A. would have reported his attack on us as an attack on HIM if one of them had been injured.
Then the brothers realized that Mr. Youngyut was in the front seat calling the police. In an instant, the situation changed. The cowards fled. The police came and the other guys (not Paul) filed charges. They have pictures and videos of the brothers attacking. In the courts here, officials are not very concerned about the tribals fighting each other, and they assume that foreigners are always in the wrong. Two of the men the brothers attacked are Thai citizens, though, and the law takes attacks on citizens seriously.
Paul notified the American consulate and the foundation where D., the brother works. We feel for D., who no doubt believes the lies A. has told about us. Please pray that this guy will see his brother for what he is and that the strong family coalition of power will be shattered.
Meanwhile, we are forging on. We made several medical mission trips while our pastor, Bro. Bill Lee and pharmacist Bro. Ricky Cash were here. We had another big trip after they left. We saw close to 150 “patients” that day and Paul gave a short exhortation to them. Afterwards, several young preachers from Burma asked to speak to him privately.
“We are young and we don’t know much,” they said. “But there is no one else to preach. Would you come and teach us?”
He is eager to go and can’t wait to get started. First, though, we need a place in Thailand to train them. Our home is too small and too deep in the city. Please pray with us for exactly the right place to begin this work.
So – we have seen victory in the court, but more battles lie ahead. God’s is good and His grace is sufficient!