Let the Little Children Come Unto Me
They swarmed in, clutching their coloring contest pages and grinning in anticipation. It was English Camp day, and we had more than 100 village kids ready to learn English. Maybe they weren’t aware of it, but they were going to hear about the Living God that day, too.
Our friends from college, Dan and Eloise Stinchcomb, came to visit us and offered to help with a project while they were here. If we have helpers, we can have a project! We decided it was a good time for an outreach we have been planning to one of the many neighboring villages. We asked our helper A’sha to help us set up an English Camp (think VBS with English thrown in). We prayed for the right village and that our camp might open a door to ministering to the people there. While it would be easy to have a camp in a village where we already work with the church and the pastor, we specifically asked for a village with no church and no Gospel outreach.
A'sha soon had one set up with the help of the pastor of a nearby church, who is one of my regular English students. But it fell through. The reason why didn’t come through the language barrier, but he assured us he set us up with another village. That one fell through, too. The third try was successful. We went to the remote village of Mae Hang.
We met with the village leader early last week and scouted out the territory. The church building has one room and no church yard. We arranged to have games in an open area and refreshments at the leader’s house.
For VBS in Oklahoma we always had a flyer that doubled as a coloring page. The kids colored them and brought them in on the first day for a contest. I prepared the flyer, and realized these kids probably don’t have crayons. Back to the store to buy more crayons. Nora helped me bag them up with a few crayons in each little bag.
As we drove up the steep narrow road Friday evening, kids followed our truck. By the time we parked, children and parents swarmed around us. There was no need to go door to door to hunt up the children!
I was a little worried. There were lots of little ones, and we planned for ages 5 and up. Babies barely toddling reached up grubby hands to get a flyer and crayons, so of course we gave them.
“Have A’sha tell them that the kids need to be five or older to come,” I told Nora.
She spoke to him and he talked to the kids.
“Did he say that we can’t take the little ones?” I asked. They certainly didn’t look troubled about it.
“No,” she said. “He said that everyone should come and you can decide tomorrow which ones you want to keep.”
Ack! Now I was in a position of taking little ones we weren’t prepared to teach or sending disappointed babies away. That’s our life. Things get lost in translation and mixed up because of cultural assumptions.
I prayed about it – and sure enough, lots of toddlers milled through the crowd of children waiting for us at the church the next day
. Of course, I didn’t have the heart to turn any of them away. Of the 100+ kids, 49 were 5 and under. And it worked out just fine. Several moms stayed to help, and did the crafts with the kids. The moms heard the English lesson and Bible story, too, as did the adults standing at the windows to look on and listen.
The next major glitch was that venders had set up in our game space. The people directed Moses, who was in charge of games, down to a soccer field. It was a steep, rutted path to get there, but the kids – even the toddlers -- scampered up and down it like mountain goats. The adults made it a little more tentatively and with a bit more huffing and puffing, but we made it.
It was so fun to watch those little ones run the races Moses organized. One tiny girl ran behind the runners in every race. About the time the winners received their awards (candy) and run back to the other kids, she would get there, ready for a piece of candy, too. The next race – here she came again. She didn’t get the concept of racing, but she figured out that running across the field would result in a piece of candy, so she ran it five or six times on those little legs!
We revamped our schedule and made some changes to make things easier this week, and with a little more effort will be ready for week two next Saturday. I'm so thankful for all our helpers who made this project possible! Dan and Eloise did crowd control and supervised kids. Brittany did the crafts (which I don't like to do!) and Bro. Matt led the singing. Their kids joined ours in leading groups and taking care of things like refreshments and games. Preston and William came from Chiang Mai with the Villandrys to help. William translated the lesson for me.
On the first Saturday I taught the Creation story and introduced them to the all-powerful God who does all things well. Next Saturday I will teach about the Fall and the Savior who came to pay for the sins of His people. Please pray for me as I teach these kids who may never have heard the Gospel.
Coming into a village where there are so many unknowns is a challenge. You can’t plan everything out, because there is a good chance something will go awry. (As it did with toddlers and change of venue for the games.) But if we waited until we knew everything, we would never venture out into the unknown. We just have to pray and trust and be ready to change our plans at the last minute.
We can see already God’s hand in the first two villages falling through. Mae Hang needed us. There are two Christian families in this village of spirit worshippers. One man has been having Sunday School with the children each week, but they have had no one to preach in three years. We are going there Sunday to break that drought! Paul is trying to line up some of the preachers he teaches to take turns going, so they can have services regularly again. It is close enough that we can go to help often. Please pray for Mae Hang – for the Gospel outreach there and for a preacher for this church.
This week is preachers’ training. Paul has a larger than ever group with more new men. The group of Lisu men is growing fast. They want Paul to have a separate training for them in their own language. He is already doing two intensive training weeks a month with a new one in Myanmar for the Burmese men as well as the one here in Mae Ai. Adding another would be a huge load. Perhaps when Brother Matt is through with his language course and can help it will be possible.
The new building is coming along quickly. The outside walls are up and they are ready to put on the roof. We can’t wait! Teaching my evening classes is always a challenge with the preachers talking, singing and listening to music at the other end of the room where we are having class.
The building where we do our ministry is about four miles from the rent house where Paul and I live with the boys. That’s too far to walk and, since it is uphill, too far for me to ride my bike. My motorized bike has been defunct since I wrecked it, so I have to depend on people to drive me or pick me up on their motorcycles. The new house will be about a half mile away – easy walking distance.
We hope our funds will cover the remaining expenses of the ministry building and the boys dorm/preachers’ training dorm. Their garage-like room is uncomfortably hot for them, except in winter when it is uncomfortably cold. It’s also noisy and almost impossible to keep reasonably clean. Our house will come last when the others are finished. We are thankful for a recent generous donation that started our house fund!
It's a busy and demanding time, but we are delighted with all the opportunities. We just need the strength and endurance to meet them all. We appreciate your faithful prayers! God is always good.