Bible Camp #2 — Pa Tong Eh
The grubby little boys on the front row squirmed and poked each other. I sympathized with them. It’s hard to listen to a story when every other sentence is in a language you don’t understand. A temperature of above 100 degrees in a small building without even a fan doesn’t make it more conducive to attentiveness, either. In fact, I was having a hard time, myself, staying focused, and I was the speaker! But there were several pairs of dark brown eyes in the room, looking in fascination at the picture I was holding. Their interest was definitely captured. What a blessing to know that God isn’t dependent on my ability or the comfort of our facilities! He is the one who opens hearts, and He can use even the poorest of tools to do so.
We held our second camp last week in the little mountain village of Pa Tong Eh. Bamboo and board houses line the dirt road on top of the mountain, surrounded by million-dollar views. It seemed a bit more prosperous and less ramshackle than it did on our last visit here six months ago. That’s when we first saw the banner hanging on the church building with our picture, and the prominent warning, “Get Out” in three languages. Since then, this village has turned away from the man who had been oppressing them. They welcomed us, and our Bible camp, with open arms.
Pa Tong Eh is a small village, so fewer kids attended than we had the week before in Pa Sak 2. Still, kids of all ages and a heavy sprinkling of older teens and adults nearly filled the little building. All of them participated in the English lesson and songs and were reasonably attentive to the story. Afterwards, the older kids went out and played a game with David Thorne and Lek. The shrieks of laughter kept up unabated for the full time. Obviously, game time was a success.
Meanwhile, the younger kids made their crafts with quiet pleasure. As in the last camp, some of the adults couldn’t resist taking part, too. My heart particularly went out to a young girl – surely not more than 13 or 14 – who hung back from the other girls her age and sat with the adults. As she slipped shyly up to the table to get the supplies for her craft, I saw why. She is about six or seven months pregnant. I don’t know her story, but I am sad that her life will, out of necessity, be curtailed, with adult responsibilities before she is out of childhood. I’m praying that the Lord will open the door for me to help this child in some way – and the child she is carrying.
We were surprised to find a nice, Thai-style building housing a pre-school in the village. As near as we could gather, UNICEF built it and staffed it. We were dying to know how the people managed to get it here in this poor, remote village, but our Thai was not sufficient to ask the questions. I did find out from the teacher that it has been here about five months. We were happy to see the one-to-five-year-olds in a safe setting and doing educational activities. The young teacher was teaching them Thai, so if they have a school to attend, they will find it much easier since they will already speak the language. While the big kids were having refreshments, William and I took an abbreviated version of the lesson and a coloring page over to the little ones. They enjoyed it, but not more than I did!
The three days passed quickly. For two of them we were glad to have the help of Rebecca Raines. I’ve known her, and her parents, since she was a small child. Now she is a teacher at an international school in Korea. She came over to visit on her spring break and lent a pair of capable hands to our Bible camp. That was another instance of the Lord providing the help we needed from an unexpected source. With David from the US, Jason and Prisila Sumatra from the Philippines, and Rebecca from Korea, we had helpers from all over the world.
This week we have another camp scheduled. This one will be here in San Sai in our own facilities. The children will be Thai rather than Lahu, and we have several unknowns to face. According to Thai protocol, the mayor made the announcement about our camp and took the reservations. We said we could only take 30, so would take the first 30 to sign up. To our surprise, we have only eight signed up to come. A little disappointing, but the Lord is in control. We will take however many, or few, He sends. And we will give our best for those who show up! Please pray for us.
Blessings from Thailand,