- Susan Brown
Monday Travels and Trials — and Blessings
When I saw the tractors, I knew the truth. I was going the wrong way. Much of the cityscape looks the same, but I surely would have remembered those tractors. I sighed and pushed the button to let the taxi driver know I wanted out.
A taxi in Thailand isn’t a nice yellow car. It’s a little pick-up truck with a cover over the back. They are handy things, but it’s annoying to discover you are headed the wrong direction. That happens to me often since I can’t speak Thai and the drivers usually don’t know English.
I went the wrong way all day yesterday. I walked down the road about a mile to the highway and caught taxi number one. It was full, but I climbed in. Cries of dismay met my entrance. A young monk in his orange robe sat in the shadow of the door. It is taboo for a monk to touch a woman in the slightest way, and I was too close for his comfort. I scrunched as far away from him as I could on the narrow middle bench seat and he drew back as if I smelled bad or had leprosy. He looked like an older teenager, or in his early twenties, at most. His smooth face looked blank and serene and I wondered what he was thinking. (Other than that I was unpleasantly close, of course.) I longed to be able to talk to him, to tell him about the true, living, and loving God. But the language came between us. That’s why I was headed to the city. I planned to enroll in language school.
At the taxi stop, everyone got out. Remembering how I once was carried to a far-off town because I failed to get off at the last drop spot, I climbed out, too. Paul and Bro. Anond were far away on the border of Burma preaching at a prison, so I knew I had no one to help me if I got lost.
Wrong place. No worries, though. I found another taxi — this time a red one, piloted by a young woman with her friendly little girl. I showed her my AUA brochure and she took me without incident to the language school.
But there I hit a snag. The class was full. I paid the tuition and enrolled in the afternoon class — which would mean English for the Bible school students would have to be moved to the morning. The diminutive lady told me in careful English that she would call me if someone in the morning class canceled.
Bro. Anond had told me that I could walk from the school to the day market where there was a taxi stand.
“Nice walk. Walking save money. Cheaper,” he said. I like to walk and am all for saving money, so I asked directions from the receptionist and started out.
How far did Anond consider a nice walk to be? I trudged on and on, ever hoping to see the familiar market at the next curve of the street. Nope.
“Kad Luang?” I finally asked after a couple of miles. The two ladies in the food booth responded — one pointing onward, one pointing back the way I had come. They argued for a while, but the lady who thought I needed to backtrack won the debate. By this time I was tired and hot and no longer cared about saving money. I flagged down a taxi, who took me a long distance back to the market.
I purchased a couple of umbrellas and then went to look for a taxi home. The white and yellow ones run between Chiang Mai and a town farther south. All I have to do is remember to get off at the right place as the road they travel is the one down the mountain from the children’s home. The yellow taxi driver couldn’t understand a word I said when I asked, “Mae Rim? Ho Nam Rim?” He looked blank, but I would just ring the bell and get off when I neared home. I climbed in back and, after waiting for a few more customers, we started off.
After a while I became uneasy. Were we taking a different way to the highway? It was taking too long to get out of the city. I scrunched down to look out the window to look for landmarks. That’s when I saw the tractors. Paul once had a beloved red antique tractor back home in Oklahoma. I would have remembered seeing these that looked so similar. I rang the bell and tried again to talk to the driver.
“Mae Rim? No, no. Doi Set. You get out,” he said with a lovely smile. Why, I wondered, didn’t he say that before I got into the taxi? I paid him, crossed a busy highway and waited for another taxi on the other side. Almost immediately one pulled up. “Kad Luang?” he asked hopefully. Evidently my taxi driver friend had called a coworker and told him a bewildered American lady needed to go back to the day market.
I have noticed that the Thai people seem to worry about me a lot. They are sure I will wander off and get lost unless they help me. “You go somewhere?” strangers frequently ask, meaning, “Do you know where you are going?” I don’t mind! I climbed aboard and took the long trip back to the market.
I made sure the next taxi was a white one and that the driver understood me.
“Yes, yes,” he said. “Mae Rim.”
The taxi was full, but I was determined to get home, so I squeezed in. We were uncomfortable, but then took on about five more passengers, several with large packages. I counted heads. Twenty people crunched into the back of the taxi.
I decided that I WOULD NOT feel claustrophobic. I would not scream. I would focus on getting home. I breathed deeply and checked Facebook on my iPhone. We stopped to wait for some school kids who evidently had a standing arrangement with the taxi. We stopped again so people could get off to buy ice cream. At last we were out of the city and moving.
All day long I had messed up my travel arrangements. I was determined I would not miss my last stop. In spite of the objections of my close-quartered seat mates, I scrunched around to look out the narrow side window for landmarks. There was the Makro. Almost home. There was the temple with the lion dog statues. The sign saying, “We make paper from elephant dung,” The temple with the statues of little ladies lined along the cement fence. And here it was — the temple nearest home. It has flying dragons on its fence.
I was off at the exact spot, and only needed to get up the mountain — preferably before it started pouring rain. However, I did have a new umbrella, so it wouldn’t be a total disaster.
Done — and none the worse for the experience. Just tired!
Paul, meanwhile, was having a much more profitable day. He and Bro. Anond left early and traveled for two hours to a city near the Burma border. There Paul preached and Anond translated for a Bible study in the men’s prison. They had a large group of more than 100 men from several different tribes. They went from there to the woman’s prison, where eight Lahu women came with eager faces to the Bible study.
Paul called me (I was in a taxi) to tell me about the studies. I could hear that glad note in his voice that told me more than his words that it had gone well. He so loved volunteering at the El Reno FCI in Oklahoma. Teaching these prisoners had brought him the same joy. He also had a good time with Bro. Anond on the long journey. I know they will soon be the best of friends.
At the prison, they learned that one of the ladies had just been released yesterday. The others were concerned, because she was truly destitute. She had nowhere to go and no family to help her. She and her little boy would be without food and basic necessities. Evidently the little boy was in prison with her — an arrangement that happens often here.
Bro. Anond was so concerned for this lady, that he and Paul set out to find her. They traveled to several villages, and finally tracked her down. But the road to the village where she was staying was impassible because of the rain. It was narrow and slick, and the mountain dropped off sharply at the edge of the road. They reluctantly dropped their quest, prayed for the lady, and headed home.
On the way, they stopped at the hospital to to see if Ha Na Mi La was ready to be released. “Tomorrow,” the nurse said. And that’s where Paul and Bro. Anond are now — picking him up. We are so grateful to all you who prayed for this sweet little guy, and for especially for those who gave to help make his life-saving surgery possible.
Please continue to pray for him and his family. His grandmother has been staying with him at the hospital because his mother has a little baby to care for. The baby’s father just left with all the family’s resources, leaving them penniless and without a way of earning a living. They live in Burma, where conditions are far worse for the tribal peoples than here in Thailand.
Burma has been much on our hearts. Ha Na Mi La’s grandmother told Anond that the hospitals there are few and far between. They also require you to provide your own food and linens. And they have no bathrooms. You have to make your own arrangements. (That’s what she said! I don’t know what that means, either.)
There are a growing number of churches in Burma among the tribal peoples. The government has recently relaxed their visa requirements and the country is more open than it has ever been. Please pray with us about how we can make use of those open doors, so near to us, to spread the Gospel.
Answers to prayers:
Our Internet works great! We purchased an iPhone 5 and the hot spot it creates gives us reasonably fast and reliable service. The phone was expensive — twice as much as in the U.S. However, the service is not too costly, and we are delighted to have good Internet here at home. This was one of our biggest prayer requests that we asked when we were on deputation — and the Lord answered.
The truck is due to arrive in a few days. Paul will be so happy to have wheels again! Please pray for safety as he learns to drive Thai style.
We bought a hot plate, an electric oven, and a crockpot. With these additions, and with careful shopping, I have been able to cook actual, edible meals. Thank you to those who suggested recipes and prayed for my food problem requests.
Long post! I’ll try to make shorter, more frequent ones. I the meantime, we are often on Facebook to give updates. If you haven’t already, please send us a friend request. We love “seeing” and hearing from friends back home.
Blessings from Thailand,