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  • Susan Brown

Heading Back to Normal

“Can I have this, Grandma?” one of the kids asked, holding up a pair of snazzy sunglasses.

“Sure,” I replied cheerfully. “But you will have to pay for it. Think it through. How much do you want it – and do you have enough money to last the rest of the month?”

The sunglasses went quickly back to the rack. I had an idea that our new plan was going to save me a lot of trouble, as well as money. That’s not the reason for the program, though. It started the day before.

I handed each of the kids 1,000 baht – about 30 dollars or so.

“Instead of getting spending money you will now learn to budget for your own needs,” I told them. “This is your money for the month. We will pay for food and have bargain shampoo, soap, etc. on hand. If you want something extra, want more expensive supplies, or need clothes or shoes, you need to work out a budget. You will be paying for those yourself.”

I talked to them about tithing and giving, and about saving and planning ahead. Those life skills are important for everyone, but for our teenagers it seems doubly so. We have heard the sad stories of kids raised in children’s homes. They show up in the cafeteria for a plate of food, have their clothes distributed to them, and live in a group rather than a family. It’s better than being alone and hungry, but kids grow up without knowing what family life is like. They don’t have a chance to learn about work and handling money. We want our kids to be prepared to live life as adults. They are so quickly hurtling toward adulthood!

The same day as the sunglasses incident, I looked over the grocery cart. “What happened to the milk?” I asked Jay. “Didn’t you get it?”

He shrugged. “I didn’t want to spend my money on it.”

I had to smile, but assured him that milk counted as food and was our part of the bargain. They could ask for food items, and we would happily provide them. It was only sugary snacks and soft drinks that had to come from their monthly allotment.

I think the new plan will be a blessing. Other new things are also on the horizon. After the long break due to the virus shutdown, our family is reunited and we are moving on to a new normal. Thai schools will open the first of July, and we are planning to open our learning center officially then. In the meantime, we are having “school light.” The kids are working a few hours a day on their studies to get ready for full time.

Above -- We have enjoyed having William (left) with us for a couple of weeks. He starts back at Payap University in Chiang Mai in July. From left: William, Moses, Jay, Danny, Nora and Molly.

Bang and Danny will be full time in the learning center for the first time. Nora and Moses have promoted out of the learning center and are working for us. Nora is working part time as a secretary and as my assistant after her vocational college hours. Moses is working as a full time monitor in our learning center as well as overseeing the boys and continuing his own education online.

And we are preparing to move. Our new building was scheduled to be finished already, but the number of workers was limited to under ten because of the virus, delaying its completion. We are looking forward to moving in about a month.

It's taped and bedded and has a primer coat of paint, but our living/dining/kitchenette area upstairs still isn't habitable yet. I'm REALLY looking forward to getting the railing around the stairwell.

Meanwhile, I’ve been cleaning out closets and sorting through stuff in storage. Solomon said there is “a time to keep and a time to cast away.” I wish I hadn’t been so diligent about keeping. The casting away time wouldn’t be so much work! At least it isn’t hard to get rid of things here. Broken chairs, barely functioning microwave, miscellaneous junk – all are eagerly claimed and carried away.

The delay in moving means we will be starting our learning center in our old rented building. It will be more challenging and not as nice as starting a new year in a bright new facility with everything arranged conveniently. But for a few more weeks we can manage.

Here is a guy working on the ceiling in our learning center. You can see the room has a ways to go yet before it is ready for students!


The villages are opening now and workers are back on the job. In fact, I offered to meet with the four village kids who will be coming to study full time. I told them I could teach them in the afternoons before we officially start. They had an opportunity to work in the fields to make up for the time lost due to the shutdown, though. They will be giving up their jobs to come to learn, so I understood their need to get some money ahead.

The Villandrys will be moving soon to a rent house near our property. We will be so happy to have them close! They will continue their Thai studies online and will be here to oversee the building of their new house after the ministry building is completed. They’ve been busy serving already, even from a distance. Being on site will open even more doors of ministry for them. We will try, though, not to take them too much away from their studies. Paul and I struggle on, but while I can speak and make myself understood, I still can’t understand what

people are saying to me. Folks who know me will think (if they are too polite to say) that I’ve always been better at talking than listening! I am personally praying for a miracle to get over the hump to fluency before I’m so old I get dementia and forget everything anyway.

Already my time of quiet study has evaporated and I had to drop my classes with our tutor, Kruu Maam. Having both boys and girls means that we are chaperoning and supervising kids full time. As soon as the ban on meeting in groups is lifted, we will be traveling and holding church services again. We are thankful that life is beginning to return to normal for everyone.

The response to our plea for help for our tribal brethren during their time of need was answered in an amazingly generous way! We had enough to give ample supplies of food to those who were in need. We bought, bagged and delivered more than 400 bags of groceries to needy families. We also were able to send money to trusted pastors in Myanmar so they could buy food for the people there, too. Thank you for feeding the hungry!

Here are a few more pics of a birthday party for Molly who is 17 this month and Caleb Villandry who just turned six. Pizza, ice cream cake from Dairy Queen, presents, and a rousing game of spoons. It was a fun evening!

We thank the Lord for these two -- and for all our family here in Thailand. God is truly good to us!

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