Have Wheels, Will Travel!
The dogs flew out of their yard, barking and howling like they planned to eat me alive. They stopped. A strange expression of wonder and fear wiped the ferociousness from their furry faces. They slowly backed up, then turned tail and ran.
I laughed as the same scenario played out over and over as I sped down the bumpy road in my new “Granny Buggy.” Those poor dogs just couldn’t figure it out!
One of our supporting churches sent money for me to buy a motorcycle. For some reason, no one here thought it was a good idea for me to ride a motorbike -- possibly because I can’t balance well enough to ride a bicycle securely anymore. We found a solution in my Granny Buggy. It has four wheels but isn’t much bigger than a motorcycle. I feel stable in it and can focus on where I’m going rather than on just staying upright. I can’t go far and it doesn’t go very fast, but I’m okay with that! I am content to drive only in our small town. Also, because it is slow, I won’t have trouble with the guys wanting to drive it!
On the other end of the spectrum, we are enjoying our comfortable new van. It's already been traveling many miles in God's service. We've found it is no more expensive to drive than our truck and can go almost (but not quite) everywhere the truck can go. We are so grateful for it!
In other, less cheerful news, wave number four of Covid is sweeping the country and, again, interrupting our plans. What a comfort that God’s plans CAN’T be interrupted! We have been fine all this time, but our home has been touched lately. Molly and Lala (our cook’s 12-year-old foster daughter who lives with her/us now) visited Molly’s friend. The friend had “a cold,” and the baby was teething and fussy. They kept their distance from the friend, but Molly held and even kissed the baby. You guessed it – both mother and baby are in the hospital now with Covid. We isolated the girls as soon as Covid exposure was confirmed. Lala is fine, but Molly is sick. So far, the at-home tests have been negative, but they are notorious for false negatives. If her symptoms worsen, we will take her to the hospital for testing. She is reluctant to go, because all the tests are given in one building, with exposure possible. If she doesn’t have it already, she certainly doesn’t want to get it! She isn't seriously ill, anyway, so even if she had a positive result, she wouldn't be doing anything differently.
Preachers’ training has been postponed again because of this fourth wave of Covid. It has been discouraging that every time Paul gets it rolling again, we have another shut-down. God’s work is going on, though. We (and you, our supporters!) have helped support a Bible school in Myanmar, run by Paul’s Preachers’ Training students. When the Thai government shut the border because of Covid, his Myanmar students started teaching there the things they learned from Paul in his training sessions. They have about 80 students living and studying at the school. Paul has been able to teach some via Zoom. Last time many preachers from all over Myanmar were able to join the meeting. He had about 200 people participating in his two-hour class. That was the last session before their break, but Paul looks forward to more teaching in the near future
Our young men who live with us continue to thrive and are making great strides in English. We look forward to next April when William, who has been one of our guys since he was 17, graduates from the university. He will be coming to help Paul with Thai interpreting and to help me with the students. If all goes as planned, we hope to include more day students from the community in our Learning Center. That was “supposed” to happen last year, but again, Covid happened instead. No problem. God has everything under control. I’ll be able to handle the larger class much better with more help next school year, which starts in April.
Here are five of our boys -- all boarding students. L-R Pat, Luke, Wayne, Wyatt, and Danny.
They have both LaHu and Thai names and nicknames, so I gave them English ones, too. Much easier for me to remember and say correctly!
Now we have seven boys in class every day – six who live with us (Eric is missing from the picture above) and one day student. We also have our workers’ three younger children and three young workers who are continuing their education. We have an opportunity to teach and influence every single day. Who knows what God will do with these we have poured our lives into daily? We tend to look at our large groups as success, but daily influence and example for the few could have an even greater impact. As it is, Molly, Moses, and Jay have been great workers for us. They speak and understand English well and understand our “foreign” ways. Cultural problems and misunderstandings (a giant headache) are not a problem with them. They've had plenty of time and opportunity to learn our ways and viewpoint. We look forward to seeing what God will do with these others He has placed under our care, too.
Here is Paul preaching at a Thanksgiving with William (Wichai) interpreting for him. He will be doing more of this when he comes to work for us in April. He is graduating in March from Payap University -- our first college grad! He will be helping in our Learning Center, teaching Thai classes to those who are behind in reading Thai, and, of course, helping Paul. Moses is more proficient in LaHu, which make up most of the churches we work with. William is stronger in Thai. He will be a blessing for the LiSu, Akha, and other tribes who speak Thai, but not LaHu.
If all goes as planned, Jay will be leaving for the university at about the same time William leaves. Preston has one more year, so we will still have two college students. I'm thankful that college is much more affordable here!
I was surprised to look back over my blogs and see that I didn’t post in November or December. How did two months get away from me? We spent them traveling to the villages nearly every weekend to celebrate Thanksgivings. Often we went to two churches on a weekend. Paul preached and the kids sang everywhere we went. We gave out dozens and dozens of hats and bags of over-the-counter medicines. We also were able to buy 500 warm jackets to give out to those in need. The people were so thrilled to get them! What a comfort to think of our friends -- and the little children -- staying warm, especially now that we are having a major, and unusual, cold snap at the moment. Thank you again to all who contributed to help us buy the jackets.
Paul preaching at one of the services with Moses interpreting in LaHu.
The year ended with our traditional New Years' celebration. We had a Thai cookout, with pizza on the side. I also made an array of desserts that I make every year. The guys don't like our "foreign" food much, but they do like our desserts!
Wyatt and Wayne after participating in one of the fun games.
This was quite a race!
One of the winners.
Mali and Moses organized the games and activities. They did a great job! After games we opened gifts. We drew numbers for the exchange and then we gave out our gifts.
Paul and I always buy one large group gift for the kids each year. This year we got them a Foosball table. They love it and every day we hear their shouts and the thuds of the balls echoing in every corner of the house. No problem! We think it's much better for them to be laughing and playing together than staring solitary at screens.
We enjoyed our many guests who came to join the festivities. Denises son, Joshua Johnson, and his family came and stayed for a couple of days. Josh and Sabrina are missionaries, currently in Thai language school. We also had William and Preston and our secretary, Pann. With the Johnsons' six kids and Pann's three, we had fun with a houseful of younger kids. We were happy t have local Thai friends join us, too.
While kids were on their New Years' break, Paul and I took a short trip to Chiang Mai for doctors appointments. I'm happy to say that my eye exam was a breeze this time, not like the painful and traumatic experience I had last time. Everything looks good and I can wait a year before going back for another check-up.
Holidays are over and now we are back to our regular schedule, working hard and looking forward to what's ahead. We pray for all our friends and supporters, that they would be blessed as we are. May the Lord grant you peace, joy, and a closer walk with Him in 2022!