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  • Susan Brown

Miracles and Blessings

It was a miracle.

Danny had always been a challenge. We understood. He endured years of abandonment, neglect, and abuse before he came to us as a nine-year-old. This kid carried significant baggage. As he grew into his teens, the problems escalated. His angry outbursts became more frequent and more violent. He was depressed. A sad, angry soul looked out of his brown eyes.

We loved him, but saw it was becoming dangerous to keep him with us. Broken windows, a fist through the door. Paul could control his fits of anger by putting him in a wrestling hold until his rage was spent, but I couldn’t. Unlike Paul, I didn’t go in for wrestling in high school. Danny was much stronger than I.

Paul was in Chiang Mai when the last dreadful episode occurred. He was furious with me. I had confiscated his phone weeks before because he kept breaking the rules. He demanded it back. I refused.

“I don’t want to study anymore,” he said.

“You want to go back to the village and work in the rice fields?” I asked.

“Yes,” he snarled, belligerence emanating in waves from him.

“Okay,” I said. “This isn’t a prison. We are here to give you a chance for a better life. If you don’t want it, you don’t have to take it. We’ll always love you, no matter what.”

“I hate you” he yelled. He stomped off, slamming doors and knocking into furniture.

I felt powerless. There was no one here who could hold him down if he started breaking things or even attacked one of the other boys. I hurried them all outside to play soccer and prayed. It felt like we had a ticking bomb in the house, but there was no more violence that night.

The next day he was withdrawn and cold, totally unresponsive to me. He spoke only to tell me he was leaving on Friday.

I admit it. I gave up on him. I sadly acknowledged that he would be one of the kids we could not reach.

On Wednesday he knocked on our door. Immediately, I saw that the anger was gone.

“I’m sorry, Grandma,” he said. “I want to stay and to study. And I want to be a Christian.”

How did that happen? God did it. That’s the only answer!

Denise, our helper, commented that she had never seen such a dramatic change in anyone in such a short time. It was true. He has a new heart, and a new boy is looking through his eyes. He smiles now, and I want to hug him every time I see that sweet expression on his face.

He requested baptism, and we had a joyful service yesterday.

Happy faces at this baptism!

I’m so thankful that God did what we couldn’t do. He is truly the Almighty God!

Danny is the second of our kids to be baptized since my last blog. Pat, who is one of our new boys, was saved under Paul’s preaching and was baptized a few weeks ago. We feel sure the Lord is dealing with a couple of our other guys, too.

Here is Paul baptizing Pat.

While our main, and most important ministry here in Thailand is the preachers’ training, God has blessed our ministry to these boys. Some people have expressed to us that we shouldn’t be involved in education but should stick to spreading the Gospel. But our learning center is an outreach. Besides the truths they read in their curriculum and the Bible survey class I teach, they hear the Gospel every day in morning and evening devotions. The guys respond to Paul’s clear teaching and answer questions, showing us that they do get it.

Recently he taught on “What makes the angels happy?” When he asked that question at the beginning of devotions, one of the boys suggested, “Eating manna?” Earlier we had studied Exodus in Bible survey class and learned that manna was “angel’s food.” I guess that’s a logical deduction from an always-hungry growing boy! By the end of the devotion, all of them knew that seeing a soul repent makes the angels happy.

Our learning center is a second-chance ministry. Our boys have either dropped out of school already or never had an opportunity for school in their villages. We are helping them get the certificates that are necessary for a job that is more than manual labor and we are teaching them English – a skill that will give them added opportunities for success. Much more than that, we are training young men who we hope will be a new generation of Christian leaders for the LaHu people.

We are thankful to have Denise Johnson with us again. She took some time off to help her son, Joshua and his wife Sabrina settle in Chiang Mai. Now she's back helping teach and supervise kids. She has been a special blessing with Eric, our fifteen-year-old boy with special needs. She patiently teaches him every day and he is making progress, slowly but surely.

Paul asked the boys recently, "What makes you happy?" They gave varying answers, but Eric's was one of the best.

"Studying," he said. Coming from a boy who routinely skipped school and couldn't pass fifth grade, that says something! For him to say that studying makes him happy is definitely a breakthrough. Thank you, Denise!

Covid has affected all our outreach ministries, as it has throughout the world. We had several students from nearby villages who wanted to come, but the shutdown put that off for another school year. We aren’t allowed to meet in groups, so only those who actually live with us can be in our learning center. They are a promising group!

Paul has only been able to have a couple of preachers’ training weeks between Covid waves and shutdowns. We have hopes that the restrictions will ease again in September. Meanwhile, he keeps in contact with the guys by phone whenever possible. We’ve been able to help many of the churches with food and medicine. We can’t go to them, and they can’t come to us, so he arranges to meet on the highway and gives the pastors bags of supplies for the whole church. Thanks to our faithful supporters, we can help these brethren with basic needs.

In other news – we are in the middle of one of the rainiest of rainy seasons for decades. Perhaps because this year we are on a mountaintop, we get more wind with the rainstorms. Our bamboo carport was a recent casualty. Originally it was a sala, a thatched roof on bamboo poles with open sides, for the workers building our buildings. Afterwards, our cook and her husband parked their car under it (the trucks are too tall with their camper shells with bench seats). It was also the spot for motorcycles, lawnmowers, etc.

We watched from the window as the poles bent under the buffeting of the wind and came crashing down. We were thankful the only harm done was to a mirror on the car.

Paul and I were returning from an errand to town one day soon after the great fall – and saw people walking down the road carrying long poles of bamboo.

“Hey – those are our guys!” Paul said.

And they were. The poles wouldn’t fit in the truck, so Moses took the boys to a nearby place where they sold bamboo. The guys cut down the poles they wanted and proceeded to walk home, balancing the poles on their shoulders.

Sabat, Moses’ dad and one of Paul’s helpers, directed the rebuilding of the carport. The boys worked at it steadily, and now we have a new, sturdy carport.

Our new carport

We now have our "newer" truck (2013 model) back from its long sojourn in the shop and it is running well for now. Our "old" truck (2004) is in the shop with a bad transmission, among other things. At least so far they take turns breaking down one at a time. They both have been good vehicles, traveling many miles in God's service.

God continues to bless us and provide all our needs -- and we are thankful! He is good!

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