Life -- Full and Overflowing!
Faster than a speeding bullet. No, not Superman, but our lives. Some seasons of life are waiting seasons. Even here in Thailand, we waited for years to finally have a dream fulfilled – our learning center for hill tribes kids. And now, we are within months of seeing the reality.
The teenagers in my evening prep class are reading and writing in English, already starting on first-grade work. I have no doubt that when they are full-time in a few short months they will take off flying, as our own kids have done. They are all planning to go to the Thai informal school next year, working for their certificates that will open the door for more and better jobs. I have hopes that most of them will continue on in higher education. That’s an accomplishment for kids who had already given up hope.
I only have two girls in my class because most of the village girls are married by the age of 15. All of my boys but one had dropped out of school already. It’s tough for them to continue on when they are so far behind. We are so excited to be able to catch them up and set them on a road to a better life. And, of course, when I have them in the learning center every day, they will hear the Gospel and memorize Bible verses. What an opportunity to touch precious lives!
Please pray for a boy I call “Jon.” He was ready to quit last week. A neighbor echoed the words he has heard all his life. The man was talking about Jon’s efforts to rise above a life of poverty and hard unrewarding manual labor. “Why are you trying to study English?” the neighbor asked. “You are too old to start. You won’t be able to do it. Just face it. You will never amount to anything.”
He had decided to quit but stayed awake all night thinking about it. He called Nora (who handles all our phone calls since we can’t speak Thai well enough to talk on the phone). He said that if we would let him live with us, he thought he could do it. We had already decided that we have as many kids as we could handle at our age, but we checked into his situation. His family isn’t encouraging, but not actively against his coming to the learning center. We told him that if he wanted to succeed, he could certainly do it. He’s one of my best students. He agreed to hang on but is having a tough time. Will someone commit to pray for Jon?
And then there is Lucy. She is not so committed, and not so able as the others. She hasn’t been able to master reading. In fact, not much English teaching has soaked in. She wants to be part of our learning center next May, but she has to be able to read. With our current lack of help, I can’t take newbies or strugglers. If I stretch myself too thin, nobody will be learning. I’m meeting her early before our evening prep classes to give her extra help. Please pray for Lucy, and for wisdom for me so that I will be able to get her across this hurdle.
We are also looking at another impossible dream quickly rising up before our eyes. We tried for so long, and so fruitlessly, to find our own place. There were so many hitches and glitches. Every time we found a likely place, it fell through. That wasn’t an accident. Our Sovereign God, Who has all things planned for us already, had a place for us and a time. And, at last, the time is here. Our ministry building is going up quickly. In just a few months we will be able to move in.
Last week was preachers’ training –always an exciting and busy time for us. It will be such a blessing to have our new building! It’s a challenge to teach in the same room where guys are camping out, changing clothes, listening to music, talking, etc. In the new building, they will have their own room for learning and hanging out. Our classroom will be reserved for classes!
And it will certainly be better in January weather! We bought a load of new blankets – 35 of them. (Some blanket seller went home happy with his sales day!) It is not cold by American standards, but there is no heat and no hot water. When it’s cold, you just get cold and stay cold. It nears 90 by afternoon, but mornings are tough here in the mountains. Paul teaches under an open carport behind our house. They do get chilly!
This will probably be the last time the men from Myanmar will be making the trek here. Paul will be traveling to Myanmar once a month, starting next week, to teach that group of men on the other side of the border. It will be cheaper because there will only be the cost of one person crossing rather than a dozen or so. They committed to half the expense of food and rental of a place. We were thrilled to see them willing to sacrifice. They say that many more will come for teaching if they don’t have to cross the border.
More and more Lisu men have been coming to the training. They have asked Paul to have a separate training for them in Thai, since most of them don’t understand Lahu. That’s going to be a load, with three trainings a month, but doable when Bro. Matt Villandry is finished with language school and here to help with them.
On the horizon – We are making plans for English camps (think VBS with an English class thrown in) in late February and in March. We are trying to make connections in a nearby village which has no church or Gospel witness at all. Please pray that we will be able to set that up and that the Lord will bless it.
And meanwhile, we still travel to the villages most Sundays. Once the Villandrys are here in Mae Ai and the building is finished, we hope to start regular Sunday church services. We will do the traveling on Saturdays, or the guys will take turns going to the villages while the other leads the services in Mae Ai.
Lots going on, and even more opportunities available if we had the strength and time to take them up. We appreciate your prayers for health and strength!
Below are some current photos. Some are village kids with gifts sent to us from ladies' groups in America. They were thrilled! We gave out homemade dolls and toys and lots of hats. Thank you to those who took the time and trouble to make these gifts of love for our precious village children!
Notice the strings on this little girl's wrists. They were "blessed" by the local witch doctor, or perhaps by a Buddhist monk, and are believed to protect the wearer from evil spirits. When people become Christians, they cut off the strings that tie them to a life of fear. This little girl was in the service with her family.