Bible Camp in the Mountains
Smiling brown faces looked up at me expectantly, dark eyes alight with interest and curiosity. I spotted several bracelets of woven twine around thin childish wrists. That symbolized that those kids were bound to the evil spirits their families worshipped.
Bible camp. It was finally here. We worked and planned and prepared for months – and our very first camp was here in front of me.
The children sat cross-legged on a big blue plastic mat, protecting them from the dirt of the village street. Overhead the shade of a battered canvas tent-roof guarded against the threatened rain that so unseasonably had blown in. At the fringes of the tent, women sat trying to look invisible so they could see what was going on. Farther back, the men of the village pretended to be working outside their houses and teenage boys were hanging out on the porch of the house nearest the tent. Our Bible Camp was the event of the day in this remote mountain village.
So – I jumped into action. English words taught with motions, illustrated songs (artwork by William and Preston), and then the main point of the whole exercise, the Bible story.
They cheerfully took part in all and listened to the story attentively. I noticed as I spoke that the teenage boys had crept in closer to hear the story, which Lek into translated into Lahu.
Next we divided into groups. We didn’t know in advance how many we would have. Estimates we were given reached the 200+ mark. We ended up with close to 50, which was just the right number for us. We divided the kids into three groups, which rotated to games, snacks and coloring, and crafts.
David Thorne, a volunteer from the US, took the games. Judging from the sounds of laughter floating down the hill from the game area, he did a terrific job. David has been in Thailand for several months, helping at a children’s home not far away and often joining our worship services.
Brother Jason Sumatra and Joshua took care of refreshments and the coloring contest. Brother Jason and his wife Prisila and daughter Joanna have been attending our services for the last couple of months. They are missionaries here from the Philippines and have been worshipping with us while studying Thai and preparing for the next venture the Lord has for them. Brother Jason has a real servant’s heart, ready to help in any projects we have going and to fix anything we have that is broken.
Brother James Sparrow also helped us this week. He teaches in a Thai school and attends our weekly services. He filled in wherever needed — which kept him busy.
And I had the crafts. Folks from Sherwood Baptist in Oklahoma City where I was the pastor’s wife for nearly 40 years will laugh at that. I’m notoriously bad at crafts. With help from friend Cheryl Santello, I got them together, though. Our kids helped with the preparation and William was an invaluable help. He speaks both Thai and Lahu as well as English, so was able to give the instructions and help with the projects.
The kids were happily cutting and pasting when I noticed a taller head among the group. One of the men from the church had joined the kids and was making a project, too. The man can’t talk and has the worst teeth I have ever seen in my life. We weren’t sure if he is mentally handicapped, or if his inability to talk – and maybe hear – causes him to appear so. But he had a lovely smile in spite of his bad teeth, and was eager to help set up the tent and to do anything else that needed to be done. He obviously enjoyed the craft and proudly showed it to the other adults.
The next day, several teenage girls came, two with babies in slings. The boys had joined us too, and the older ladies edged closer. At craft time all of them happily pasted “leaves” on their trees with the little kids.
By the last day, the mayor of the village was doing crafts, too, and seemed as proud of his paper-bag lamb puppet as any of the kids. And I, the despiser of crafts, have had a change of heart. I always saw them as a pesky necessity – an expected part of VBS. This week I saw them as a gift I could give and a way to open the door to friendship. We couldn’t talk because they speak Lahu and know less Thai than I do. But there is something about doing artwork side-by-side that draws people together, even if it is a simple paper craft involving paper plates and toilet paper rolls,.
God blessed in so many ways and answered prayers abundantly. We had terrific weather, unseasonably cool. The helpers were great and everything ran on schedule. Best of all, and most important, not just the children, but many of the adults of the village, heard the Gospel. What a privilege to be part of it!
And the privilege will continues this week as we go to another village for our second camp. Please continue to pray for us. We need God’s hand on us this week as much as last.
Thank you to all who have prayed for us and a special thank-you to our supporters who make it possible for us to be here and to have these camps. Though you may not be here physically, you are by our side as we serve.
Blessings from Thailand,