- Susan Brown
Endings and Beginnings
The birthday cake caught on the lump in my throat and I had a hard time swallowing the cake along with my tears. It was a party, but one with bittersweet overtones. It was a time of endings and goodbyes, and they are always sad.
We had returned from our emergency trip to America exhausted physically and emotionally. I hated to leave my mom, who is still experiencing the aftermath of a stroke. The fact that the Lord provided a great caregiver so that she could live at home and that my brother and sister-in-law, Mark and Stacia Boyd, can be counted on to give her loving support made it possible to come back to Thailand.
We had to hit the ground running in order to help the kids finish the school year and to pick up the ministry where we left it. We are so thankful for our great staff who rallied around and kept things going while we were gone. The kids were finishing their learning center schoolwork and taking tests for their certificates from the once-a-week Thai informal school. All but one of the students passed their tests. That one was understandable, since he had to leave school when his father died a few months ago. He was able to re-take the test and pass it.
Wyatt, the student I mentioned, is not only taking care of the family fields to provide for his widowed mother but is also preaching in the church his father had pastored. We are so proud of him – and of this fruit of our learning center ministry. We hope the Lord will raise up many others to preach and teach! We miss Wyatt, but he has been attending the monthly preachers’ training course, so we know we will see him often.
Our end-of-year party was especially poignant. In addition to the February and March birthdays, we also included the birthdays we missed in January. And we celebrated the graduates. We had three who completed their twelfth-grade equivalency tests.
Our graduates Molly, Pat, and Luke
Luke has been a great student. Learning wasn’t easy for him, but he was determined to succeed, and he did! We offered to send him on for higher education, but he chose to get a job to save up to get married. Here the guy’s family must pay a dowry to the girl’s family to pay for the wedding and to compensate them for the loss of their daughter. Luke’s family wasn’t able to come up with the dowry, so he is working to earn his wife. We are living in a different world here!
Pat, our second graduate, took our offer for more education and will be going to the local college in May. We are glad, because he is bright and eager to learn. We are confident he will do well.
The higher education system is different here. The college is a cross between our vo-tech school and a community college. Danny is finishing his high school course there and Pat will start working toward his associates and, later, bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering.
One of our first group of kids, Prasit, (Preston) graduated from a college in Chiang Mai this year with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering and is in training for his new job with a petroleum firm in Bangkok. We aren’t sure what this will involve, but he did mention that most of his work will be done on the computer.
Wichai (William) graduated last year with a degree in English from the university, which is distinct from college. He is working with us now, helping with the learning center and other ministries and serving as Paul’s Thai translator. Jay finished his first year at the university, studying accounting.
We want to give a special note of thanks to our supporters, especially those who gave to our higher education fund. These guys won’t be dependent on our ministry to the poor, because they will be able to support themselves and their families. They will be able to give back and help their people. Each successful student represents a step up out of poverty for many.
Mali (Molly) is our third graduate. She has been working for us as she finished up work for her diploma at the Thai informal school. She assists our secretary, Pann, by taking care of the huge load of paperwork we must carry on to legally stay in the country and do our ministry. She also has been the secretary for our learning center and has helped with the students when we were in a pinch.
She was enrolled at the college and was looking forward to more education. The Lord had other plans, though, and she will be learning in a different sort of “college.” She and her husband Moses are expecting a baby in September. We are all excited about the prospect of having a little one around. She will continue working for us part time.
The rest of the guys and the next year? We will be continuing the learning center, but with fewer kids. Denise is back in the U.S. for good (another sad goodbye) and Paul has several more outreaches lined up, so Wichai and Moses will be gone more often to help and to interpret for him. We have to keep the number to those I can handle with little assistance, which will make it more like homeschooling and less like a school.
Three of the guys will be back. David, who already speaks and reads English well, will be taking a course to prepare for the American G.E.D. test. That diploma holds a lot of weight here and every university in Thailand will accept it without problem. We are hoping for another university student next year!
Shawn and Nathan, who live in a nearby village, will be back for their final year next year.
Noah and Steven will be back for their second year, which is usually the encouraging year where we see real progress toward fluency.
We decided not to accept new students this year. However – I have learned to never say “never!” Luke’s younger brother really wants to come and had been looking forward to it for years. I told him and his mom that I couldn’t guarantee more than one year. The others will be finished at least to the next level at the end of this year. It takes two years in the informal school to get an elementary diploma, two for a junior high, and two for a high school certificate. All but Noah will be graduating next year, and he will have earned his elementary certificate. When we explained this, his mother replied that God was in control and if He wanted the boy to have more than one year, He would take care of it. And it may well be possible that more help will arrive and this ministry will grow again. We are just taking it year by year.
We have a young lady, Anna Holshouser, who is planning to come in August to help us. That’s good timing, because she will be arriving about the time Molly is out with a new baby. I’ve known Anna since she was a little girl in my Sunday School class and can’t wait to have her here. Please pray for her as she takes care of the many things that have to be done before leaving for the mission field for a year.
We will start teaching again in May. In the meantime, I’ve worked on household projects. Moses has been a terrific help, doing whatever needs to be done, no matter how dirty the job. I’m past doing things like carrying mattresses upstairs, cleaning out the shed (and disposing of the mice) and scrubbing mold off bathroom walls. He takes it all in stride without complaint.
I’m also working on new projects. We are putting together Sunday school curriculum for Lahu children. When it is translated and printed, I will be training the teachers. The hardest part will be the illustrations. Please pray for me as I try to figure out visuals for the teachers to use.
Paul taught on the home recently in preachers’ training. The men asked if I would teach their wives about the home and raising children. Of course, I will be delighted to do that. We are aiming for June.
I originally planned an outreach to the community with a three-week, all-day English course like I’ve done the last couple of years. It gets the new learning center students off to a running start. The others who come follow up with twice-a-week evening classes. I’m not sure at this point whether I’ll be able to swing it this year. Maybe later on when Anna is here.
Endings are sad, but it is always exciting to start the next chapter! We appreciate your prayers as we move on to the next thing the Lord has for us.
The Birthday Boys: Moses (23), Wyatt (23), Danny (18), Shawn (18), Pat (19), and Nathan (18)