The toddler stared at me with huge brown eyes that were shadowed with apprehension. At last she made a decision. She took her finger from her mouth and reached out for the pink hat I was offering her. Success! Immediately the other children gathered around to pick a hat. It evidently took just one child to break the ice. In moments the hats had flown from the sacks on the tailgate of our truck onto numerous little heads.
It was Thanksgiving in the mountain village of Bo saw last Saturday. Unlike the American custom, the Lahu people have Thanksgiving when their crops are in. It’s a similar celebration, though, with feasting and fellowship.
On that Friday we had left our home in San Sai and drove to Mae Ai, where Paul will be training preachers. We brought our refrigerator with us – an extra since our landlord provided one in our furnished house. A load of chairs and some miscellaneous items came, too, as well as gifts for the children at the Thanksgiving. We arrived to find that Lek’s parents, who are the owners of the property we will be renting, had been busy making preparations, too. Cabinets, a new sink, pots and pans, and various other things needed to house 20 plus men and feed them three meals a day were already purchased. We are so thankful for those who sent extra offerings so we can make these one-time preparations. Expenses will be much less in coming years once we have these initial supplies purchased.
We spent the night at the comfortable western-style house on the property. Then we were up and on the road again in the morning, headed to the Thanksgiving service yet further north in Bo Saw.
After a couple of hours on a twisty mountain road through breath-taking scenery, we arrived in the village. One of the ladies in the church had prepared breakfast for us. All we had to do was climb up a long, up-tilted road to get to the house.
At last we arrived, breathless and panting, only to see an even steeper path from the road to the house.
We scrambled up the path, shooed the chickens out of our way, and entered the lovely house where our breakfast was waiting. The house was a surprise, being block and plaster instead of bamboo. Actual furniture sat on the attractive orange tile floor. Breakfast was ample and filling and afterwards we set out again for the church building. Going down was more exciting than coming up – especially on the crazy-steep path — but it was a bit easier nonetheless.
Lek wasn’t able to come with us, so Paul spoke only a few words of encouragement in the service, which Moses, Lek’s dad, was able to translate. We heard many specials in song and a message from Sabat, who pastors in another village but often comes to Bo Saw to preach. We couldn’t understand what he said, but we could see his sincerity and zeal.
Then – it was time to eat again. Up the steep road we went and up the mountain-steep path. Perhaps if American traditions included that kind of hike, folks wouldn’t have to worry about gaining weight over the holidays!
Finally we came to the most fun part. We gave out hats and blankets to the babies and small children of the village. They hung back at first, but after the ice was broken, they crowded up to the tailgate of the truck to choose a hat and a blanket each. We had a few children’s shoes with us, too, and those also quickly disappeared.
Since I didn’t have a translator I almost didn’t bring any medicine with me, but tossed in some staple meds at the last minute. Sure enough, I soon had requests by pantomime for stomachache pills and something for itchy skin. The people there mostly work in the tea fields, and the chemicals are hard on their skin. I gave out lots of soap and creams as well as meds for aching joints and tummy troubles. Moses speaks a little English and I was thankful for his help.
At last we climbed back into the truck and headed home. Paul had hours of dangerous driving ahead along the steep, curving, mountain roads. The first of the Thanksgivings had been an encouragement and a blessing. We are looking forward to more that are to come as the different villages bring in their harvests and prepare to give thanks to God.