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  • Susan Brown

Car Wreck!

The flashing lights of the ambulance and police blinded me in the dusk and froze my heart with terror. The truck was smashed against a tree, teetering on the edge of a cliff. Where was Paul?

A flood of relief welled up in me as I saw him walking toward us. Blood poured from his head and down his arms, but at least up he was up and coherent.

I had been scrubbing out a school storage cabinet when the call came, telling us he was in a car wreck about 45 minutes away. My one thought was to get there as soon as possible. I grabbed my purse and shoes and ran out.

I’m so thankful for God’s timing! Wichai had just graduated from the university and moved in with us to work a few days before. Paul had taken our “good” truck – the 2013 Nisson – to Chiang Mai and Moses was running errands in the old 2004 pickup. That left our new 16 passenger van, and Wichai is the only one besides Paul who is able to drive it.

It was a long 45 minutes, but at last we arrived at the accident scene. The ambulance workers cleaned up Paul’s head wound and tried to persuade him let them take him to the hospital. He refused but agreed to let us drive him there. We went into Chiang Mai to a trusted and up-to-date hospital.

On the way he told us what happened. A flash rainstorm came up and the road was slick. Since we had just taken the heavy camper cover off the pickup bed, it was lighter and handled differently. Paul didn’t realize that and lost control on the slippery road as he tried to pass a slow-moving truck. The pick-up spun around twice, then slid off the road and smashed into a tree.

We are thankful for the spin. If he had gone off the road facing the other direction, the damage would have been on the driver’s side. It’s hard to see how he could have survived a blow of that magnitude. We are especially thankful for the tree. On the other side of the tree was a steep drop-off. No doubt the truck would have rolled down the mountainside. Again, he most likely wouldn’t have lived through the wreck.

He was battered and bruised, but the CT brain scan at the hospital was clear and X-rays revealed no bones broken. We are thankful! The doctor stitched up his head wound and bandaged the multiple cuts on his arms and hands.

They wanted to keep him for observation, but Paul objected. We compromised by staying in Chiang Mai in a nearby hotel so we could get back to the hospital if problems arose. We would come back in two days for a follow-up check.

It wasn’t until I was in the ER waiting room that I realized I was in my oldest clothes. They were wet and dirty from scrubbing the ministry building in preparation for opening our learning center on May 2. I had been so worried and so eager to get to Paul that I didn’t notice how filthy and bedraggled I looked. And no clean clothes to change into – not even a hairbrush with me!

I’m a notorious over-packer. When we make a trip to Chiang Mai, I bring twice as many clothes as I need, plus a month’s worth of projects to keep me busy in case I have a slow minute with nothing to do. Not this time.

And we managed just fine. A stop at 7-11 for toothbrushes and combs, etc., and a little washing of clothes in the sink and we made do. Early the next morning I ventured out to the shops near the hotel and picked up clothes to replace Paul’s blood-stained shirt and my work-stained clothes. Clothing is inexpensive here, and we were respectable again in short order.

Paul spent some uncomfortable days but he managed the pain and barely slowed down. He probably would have been out on his bicycle, except it was another casualty of the wreck. It was thrown out of the back of the truck and disappeared down the mountainside. I think he was sadder at the loss of his bike than any other aspect of the wreck!

On the way home we visited the shop which had towed the truck. It was a sad sight. We bought it new in 2013 – the first brand new vehicle we had ever owned. Since then, it has gone thousands of miles over the roughest and steepest roads to take the Gospel to remote mountain villages. It’s been in the shop for repairs often during these last few years, but it still kept going. We bought a new 16 passenger van just a few weeks before the wreck, so we are able to get around with our ever-growing family of kids and staff. God’s timing is so perfect! We would be in a bad way if we only had our old 2004 5-speed truck. It’s not reliable for long distances and we can no longer all cram into the small cab and the seats in the covered back.

What to do about the white truck? We paid cash for it, thanks to a generous donation back in 2013. But we dropped all but the liability insurance as it grew older. The man at the shop assured us he could fix it for the equivalent of about $7,000. We should be able to sell it for about $8,500 or continue to drive it as a back-up. Paul decided to go ahead with the repairs. Because of Covid, used cars here are scarce and expensive. We need another vehicle, and it seems the most economical way to get one.

We are currently on break from our regular school routine – and it has been a rough ride in many other ways. Covid hit our small town with a vengeance. We had to postpone the opening of our Learning Center ministry because our staff came down with the disease. It was a mild variety for them and Paul, Denise and I escaped the illness.

Poor Pat, one of our 18-year-olds, couldn’t go home to his village when the others left because he wasn’t released from the doctor yet. His cut tendon was slow to heal. And the doctor postponed his final appointment twice! During the two-week delay, he came down with Covid and had to stay here for two more weeks. He had hardly any time at home when his grandmother passed away. This grandmother had raised him, and he took her death hard. Please pray for Pat.

Danny also had a tragedy during the school break. His girlfriend was killed in a motorcycle accident. It has been a tough time for him. Please pray for him!

A brighter note is that Danny received his ninth-grade certificate from the Thai informal school. We enrolled him in a local vocational college. We are hoping this new venture will help move him back to life from his fog of grief.

Another milestone day last week. Moses preached in our worship service for the first time. He did a great job!

Paul was preaching at a meeting in a LiSu village several hours away. Wichai went along to drive and to translate the message into Thai. One of the men translated the Thai into LiSu, since we don’t have a LiSu interpreter yet. We are praying for a LiSu boy to add to our learning center. We’ve raised most of our staff from young teens and children. Now we need to add one who can speak LiSu.

The Lord blessed the LiSu meeting. While Paul was there they asked him to baptize four recent converts. Also, an erring church member was restored to fellowship and gave a moving testimony of God’s convicting and forgiving grace. Please pray for this church, her pastor, and the work among the LiSu.

The rest of the boys will be back next weekend. We have four new boys enrolled – all 15 and 16 years old. One, Tony, has not finished sixth grade and will continue in Thai school for one more year. With Danny going to vo-tech, that gives us eight boys in the learning center plus two day-students from a nearby village. In addition, we will have three young ladies in their twenties who have been in my Zoom English class. They asked if they could come and study in our learning center. They will need to find their own accommodations since we are chock full of guys, but they feel that won’t be a problem. This is our first time to include adult students, but we feel it is a great opportunity to expand our outreach and to extend the offer of the Gospel to these young women I’ve come to care about.

So, we have lots of prayer requests. Besides the things already mentioned, please pray for NaSaw who is recovered from a leg amputation due to cancer. It doesn’t appear that her government health insurance will cover the cost of a prosthetic leg, so we will be checking into what we can do to help with that need. Also, she has a seizure disorder that is not under control.

Please pray for me for strength as we go into the new school year. I’m thankful for our faithful staff! Denise and Wichai will be working in the learning center this year along with Moses and I. Mali is our school secretary and will help in the learning center as needed. Paul is also involved doing daily devotions and taking over the Bible Survey class. With all the help, I believe I can manage the daily English classes and management of the Learning Center.

Paul is planning to start Preacher's Training again in May as the pandemic seems to be losing its hold in our area. Many of our villages have been hit hard, and it has been our privilege to help them with food and supplies during their illness and quarantine. The country is loosening restrictions now and unless another strain develops, we hope to see the our ministry back to normal soon.

Lots of trials and heartaches all around during this school break, but God never fails us. We are rejoicing in Him as we go forward in serving Him. He is good!

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