The angry little girl stood beside me with stiff shoulders and a mulish expression on her face. Paul and I were smiling in the picture, but Molly was definitely not happy. She did NOT want to come live with us and she let us know it, that day and in the days – no, years -- to come.
I look back at that time in amazement. Why on earth was I so determined to keep her? Why did I repeatedly give her chance after chance when I rarely saw any results at all? I can only say God insisted and I never thought about giving up. Well, only once in a while!
Flash forward seven years to the day. “Here, Grandma,” Molly said. “I bought you a present.” It was a pair of house shoes with particularly thick, squishy soles. I had mentioned in passing that my bare feet were taking a beating on the hard tile floor. (No one wears regular shoes in the house.) She found these shoes online and ordered them for me.
That’s one of her God-given gifts. She takes note of what people need or particularly want and she delights in providing it. She remembers every preference – mustard or mayonnaise, Coke or Sprite, etc. That’s a gift I lack, so I appreciate it when I see it.
In more ways than one, that naughty, mouthy little girl has grown up to become my right-hand man. Not that she’s perfect, but since God saved her, she is always ready to listen to correction and direction –something I thought I would never see.
Molly and Moses' wedding day two months ago.
So much has changed since that day exactly seven years ago!
Sometimes I feel like I’m inside a kaleidoscope, with every turn of the months bringing our lives into a different pattern. Suddenly, it seems, the children we took to raise are grown and gone. Jay is here for one more year as he prepares for the university. Only Danny is left as a student in our Learning Center from our original group.
Now we have a new set of young men -- seven of them -- who are already settling into our home and into our hearts. We had become accustomed to having English speakers always around. The new guys came with little or no English at all. They are picking it up quickly – some more so than others – but it is a change.
Back row: Me, Molly, Paul Middle row: Danny, Shawn, Wayne, Wyatt, Luke, and Pat
Front row: Jay, Eric, Samuel, and Moses
They all look slightly pained because of a cultural norm. Here you aren't supposed to smile in pictures.
My days are exhausting, but I have good helpers. Molly and Moses work for us now while they are doing distance university studies. So many new readers keep us busy! By 2 o’clock my responsibilities are usually finished and I collapse. After my required daily nap, I’ve been enjoying long walks in the late afternoons as the oppressive heat dissipates and spending quiet evenings studying Thai. As soon as the Covid restrictions are lifted, though, my days will be flowing into yet another pattern. I’ll have evening English classes for the community again and will restart my Sunday School class for the children from a nearby village. I would appreciate prayers for strength. I can tell I don’t have the stamina of my youth!
We are looking forward to having Preachers’ Training again soon. Paul hopes to have the preachers back later in the month if our area stays Covid-free. He also is champing at the bit to travel to the villages. He is planning a trip which will make a circuit to all 18 of the villages we work with. I’ll be holding down the fort with our students here, but Moses and his father, Sebah, will go with him. Moses is coming along well as a translator and has helped me with medicine so often he knows how to do it as well as I do. He also can drive, which will be a help to Paul on the trip. He’s just one of the young people we invested our lives in – and we are seeing returns on our investment!
What a blessing it was that our new boys arrived just before the lockdown on the second wave of Covid here in Thailand! We didn’t feel the time confined to home was wasted, but especially profitable as I taught what I dubbed “Intensive English.” Maybe I should have called it, “Emergency English,” since I had to get them communicating as quickly as possible! Between my struggling Thai and their emerging English, we generally (but not always) make ourselves understood. Best of all, they picked up reading and are able to study using the ACE curriculum. Meanwhile, our English speakers help in the learning center and interpret as Paul teaches Bible. He is particularly good with the kids, able to communicate profound truths in a simple, easy-to-understand way.
We have a crowd on Sundays, even in lockdown when it is just our kids and staff. The little girl on the front row was visiting our new cook that week.
We are thankful for our wonderful big building which accommodates our crowd so well. We use our ministry room every day for devotions, English, and Bible class. Then the guys work in their "offices" or study carrels in the Learning Center. Our cooks fix our meals in our huge, clean kitchen -- quite a change from our kitchens of the past. We have a daily contest for the most neatly-made bed in our big dorm room, so the boys' room is unprecedentedly tidy. It's taken a few weeks, but the guys are also learning to do their daily chores the "farang" way. They do their own laundry and do the sweeping, mopping, dishes, and bathroom cleaning. I don't think I would survive doing it all myself!
Here I'm teaching how to wash dishes -- a necessary skill!
In spite of changes and, yes, our share of difficulties and heart scalds, we are blessed. And we know it. That's an extra blessing -- to be aware of God's gifts and to enjoy them in the moment. He is good, and we can never praise Him enough!