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  • Susan Brown

Horrible Roads — Wonderful People

I gulped and swallowed hard, trying to beat down the waves of nausea that rose to swamp me. No use. Between the curvy mountain roads that were practically a series of u-turns and the deep ruts and holes that jarred us to the bone, motion sickness won, hands down.

But nothing lasts forever, even the horrible road to Hoe Dua. At last the sickening trip came to pass – and the truck stopped in the middle of the village at the end of the mountain road. I stumbled up the steep path to the tiny bamboo church, nausea accompanying me all the way. Melodious singing in the Lahu language floating down to me as I climbed. The tiny ramshackle building was crammed full of people who came pouring out as they saw us coming. The bright smiles and eager handshakes and cries of “Abooijah!” shoved my illness to the background. By the time the church service started, I was on my way to recovery.

Paul preached a good message as usual, with Idonkhom interpreting into Lahu.

Idonkhom is a diminutive man. I am half a head taller than he is at my moderate 5’4″. He is greatly respected among the tribal people, though – which is far more important than stature. He grew up in Burma, educated in a mission school. There he learned to speak English fluently and earned a scholarship to a Bible college. He is close to our age (we are in our sixties) and has been serving the Lord about as long as we have, teaching the Bible and pastoring churches. He has a friendly smile and obviously loves the people. We can see them warm to him immediately. Incidentally, he is a cousin of our old nemesis, A. I am happy to say that he is nothing at all like his notorious relative.

After the church service we were invited to share a meal in the home of the headman of the village. We sat on the floor around the low table and lunched on rice (of course) and a stew made of potatoes and squirrel, dove, and white chicken. I’m pretty sure that the color referred not to light meat, but to the color of the feathers. Black chicken is supposed to be the healthiest, but I think white chicken is more of a delicacy. They are big on hunting in Hoe Dua and we almost always have wild game there, although it is often supplemented with chicken.

After lunch we brought out the boxes of medicine and set up our clinic in a little public pavilion.

We’ve been doing lots of medicine lately. Next week we will be leaving for a month in America (hurrah!). The children are already out of school and visiting their relatives in the mountains, so it’s a good time for us to go. Before we leave, we are trying to visit all the churches, bringing them messages of encouragement, making sure they know we will be back, and, of course, dispensing medicine.

It’s summer now in Thailand. There is no spring or fall here – just an abrupt change from winter’s cool mornings and mild

days to the blazing dry heat of summer. Every season change brings sickness and we have heard the same complaint in every village – sore throat, runny nose, cough, and headache. I gave out cold medicine and antiseptic throat lozenges to the majority of the villagers. We also had the regular complaint of stomach pain, easily attributed to the lack of refrigeration and overuse of chilis in the food. Always there is back pain and knee pain due to the hard work in the up-tilted fields and “itchy” from exposure to insecticides in the fields. We gave out medicine for those and other illnesses. Everyone also received soap, Bandaids (which they call “plasters”) and vitamins.

Then, sadly, it was time to climb in the truck and start back on the dreadful road. Some of the log bridges have been replaced by narrow, but safer, plank bridges. The worst ones, though, are even more hazardous. At least the stream beds they cross are not deep, and the streams are in their dry-season state of bare rock. We first crossed these bridges at the end of rainy season and the rushing water looked deep and treacherous. Very scary! Now we know it isn’t deep, but we still don’t want to slide off the bridge. The logs are almost bare now, their plastering of mud washed away. Paul has to carefully straddle the holes with the truck and balance on the edge of the logs. It is hardly wide enough for the truck to get across with a mere couple of inches on either side. Paul is an amazing driver to maneuver the road and bridges as he does, but he usually pays for the white-knuckle trip the next day with sore hands.

But we made it home, safe and sound and the remains of the motion sickness have vanished. We have one more village to visit on Tuesday– a new one called Hoe Sai.

I have lots of cleaning, shopping, and packing ahead this week –then a quick visit to see our loved ones on the other side of the world.We leave on March 23 and arrive there about 30 hours later. That’s longer than usual because of an unusually long layover in Korea.

We hope to see some of you there!  Please pray for us on our journey, and for the precious people here in Thailand while we are gone.

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