The morning sun burned away the heavy fog, and the boys industriously mopped up the moisture the mist left behind on the long rows of chairs – 600 chairs. It was a beautiful morning, but I was little short of terrified. Today was the big day. The day of the building dedication.
“Make sure your room is perfectly neat,” I had admonished the boys the night before. “Remember that everyone we know in Thailand and a few we don’t know – hundreds of people -- will be looking in your bedroom today when we give tours.”
I’m the person who freaks out and cleans house when a repairman is due to arrive to fix something. The one who cleans the hotel room before housekeeping gets there. The one who breaks her neck trying to make perfect arrangements, which never, ever are perfect. Or even close.
Was I ready for this? As ready as I would ever be.
The building dedication had been hanging over my head for two years. Initially postponed because of Covid, Paul decided the first of October that we would schedule it for November 12. A few days later we left for a long-awaited trip to America.
I had multitudes of unanswered questions. I didn’t know the protocol for an event this large. Who should be invited? What should the service look like? Most important of all – how would we feed them all?
Paul wasn’t worried. “The hill tribes have big meetings all the time. We’ll just provide the meat and the rice and ask each village to bring something to contribute.”
That sounded easy, but who was to do the cooking? On what? We don’t have enough stoves, or enough cooking pots for that matter, to cook for 500-1,000 people. That was another worry. How could we plan when we didn’t know within several hundred how many people would be coming?
But we hadn’t seen our family in more than four years. Our grandchildren had grown up in that time and we no longer knew them – and they didn’t know us. Reconnecting with them was so important that I put the worry about the building dedication on hold.
And God blessed. We spent just a few days with each family, but that was long enough to enjoy and get to know our grandkids again. (Super kids, every one of them!)
Then we were back and just a few weeks away from the big day. And the Lord took care of my worries for me. A Thai friend volunteered to help with arranging catering, tents, etc. Our secretary, Pann, helped with advice and with dealing with numerous details. The staff coped with other jobs and the boys willingly (more or less) helped scrub the house and prepare the lawn.
Now, on the big day, tents for the service and for the meal were set up. A stage was prepared and decorated, hung with a banner proclaiming the event, the date, and a scripture. “God has done great things for us, whereof we are glad.”(Psalm 126:3)
Programs were written in three languages and printed up to distribute, orchids for special guests awaited in boxes in our refrigerator.
We were ready. Except for my shoes. I was wearing my Lahu traditional dress which always seemed too elaborate to wear. This was the occasion, though, and I was decked out in a lovely, but heavy overdress and colorful skirt. (Remembering the one other time I wore the outfit and the difficulty I had holding up the wrapped skirt, I cheated and had it made into a fake wrap skirt, with the opening sewed shut and fastened with hook and eyes.) I didn’t have a nice pair of dress shoes – just plastic ones that were beginning to come adrift from the soles. A church in America gave me a generous love offering for my birthday, so I spent part of it on a nice pair of shoes. Most of the time I stick with inexpensive plastic shoes, because they are the most practical for life here. For that special day, I splurged on expensive ones.
But where were they? They had to be in the closet. Finding them was a challenge since for the last-minute tidying up I had resorted to the stuff-and-hide method. Everything that might detract from the appearance of the room was crammed into the closet. I took EVERYTHING out. No shoes. I frantically crammed everything back in and pulled everything out of Paul’s closet. Not there. I had looked everywhere they could possibly be, so I looked everywhere they COULDN’T possibly be. No good.
In the end I put on my pathetic plastic ones which needed a good scrub-up and ventured out. And I found them under the front seat of the truck where I had stashed them on our last trip to Chiang Mai the week before. (Note: In all the pictures I seem to be wearing the plastic version. They must have been taken before I found the new ones.)
By then people were arriving in droves. So many people! My throat tightened as I realized that almost all these people were those whose lives Paul had touched with his teaching. The pastors he taught came, with their church members to whom they taught the truths they had learned from his preachers’ training classes.
Paul often quoted “his” verse – II Timothy 2:2. “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men who shall be able to teach others also.” What a joy this day to see the fruits of that calling.
We’ve been in Thailand nine years now. We came with expectations that did NOT happen. We expected to take over an established ministry. We ended up having to put down heresy and corruption and start again. It was a struggle but standing with our people here through the trouble earned Paul their love, trust, and respect. He was able to establish a work here in far less time he otherwise could have done.
We expected to live on a property already purchased and established. Instead, we were homeless in a land where we didn’t know the customs, the language, or any people at all. God gave us all those things and more. Many of those who came were friends we made here in Thailand. And they were here to celebrate with us the answer to prayer – a land and buildings of our own.
And that provision was a miracle. We were sent out by a small church and supported by small churches. Yet, our supporters gave generously for this mission base. Unexpectedly large gifts came from small churches. A lot of the resources came from a cousin of mine and her husband, Carla and Frank Wells, who I really only knew through Facebook. It is amazing that all we have here is debt free. Truly, God did it and deserves the glory! We are so thankful to everyone who gave, by little or much, to provide this place for the work to be carried on.
We were thankful to have our pastor, Bro. Bill Lee, with us for this landmark ceremony. Our faithful friend, Ricky Cash, who has been with us for numerous medical mission trips was also with us. So were friends from Chiang Mai and former students who had lived with us before they grew up and moved away. (Above l-r, Ricky Cash, Moses, Molly, and Bro. Bill Lee)
It was a blessed day, with a good message from Paul, translated twice – once in LaHu and then in Thai. (Above, Bro. Aidonkham, translating into LaHu, Paul, Wichai translating into Thai.)
Our boys and staff sang, and so did a choir from each village. That was a lot of singing!
Then the meal. We had it catered, so it turned out to be no problem for me at all. The food was good and there was enough to go around, which was a relief!
The afternoon was spent in tours of the building. (Yes, the boys’ room looked great, and I had managed to poke everything back into the closets.) Most of the attention that afternoon, though, was on the soccer tournament.
We were all exhausted by the end of the day. And relieved. I was totally unprepared to handle the event, but it didn’t matter. The Lord sent faithful helpers and my part turned out to be easy. It was a meaningful and blessed day. He is good!