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  • Susan Brown

Mountain Travels and Serving

“Tomorrow where you go?” Danny asked.

“Say it correctly, please,” I answered.

He paused, his thick black eyebrows drawn together in thought, and tried again. “Where are you going tomorrow?”

We’ve been studying the irregular verb “to go” in English class. Lately they’ve had lots of opportunities to practice using it. We’ve been on the road almost every day for the last couple of weeks.

We were blessed to have Bro. Matt and Brittany Villandry with us, as well as our pastor, Bro. Bill Lee and friend Bro. Ricky Cash. Bro. Ricky is a pharmacist who has been making medical mission trips here for the last ten years. Bro. Matt came, in part, to learn his methods. Matt is a pharmacist and also a pastor in Wagoner, Oklahoma. He and Bro. Bill took it in turns to preach at the many villages we visited. Afterwards he and Bro. Ricky would run a mobile clinic.

Brittany assisted and I, well, believe it or not, helped translate.

Not that I was very good at it. The first few days I assisted Bro. Matt. I would talk with the patient in Thai and then relay the information to him. Some of the people didn’t speak Thai, though, so I had to have a helper. Usually Asa helped me. He’s a cut-up and joked with our patients as he translated our questions and instructions into Lahu. Our line had the most fun, but it was the shorter line. More people were on the other side of the room, waiting for Bro. Ricky’s help with Bro. Ai Donkham translating. I suspected I knew the reason.

It was awkward going through two translators, one of whom was not entirely fluent. (That would be me!) Several times we had to borrow Bro. Ai Donkhom , who was translating for Ricky, to ask for more details when I ran out of vocabulary.

When we switched translators, Bro. Matt’s line grew mysteriously longer, confirming my suspicions. I didn’t blame them. If I had something wrong with me, I would certainly want someone who understood my language to be speaking for me!

Please pray for me as I study Thai, that I would soon get to be actually fluent and able to speak Thai well. It’s a tricky language and finding time to study while raising and teaching the kids and running a household is a challenge.

The Lord blessed our journeys as we traveled to ten villages in a ten-day stretch. We would arrive, have a service and usually lunch in the village. Always we had rice, piled high in a bowl and handed to us. The people always gave us their best. Usually that was mountain vegetables with a bit of meat for flavoring to go on top of the rice. Some villages splurged on pork fat fried crisp, or even fried chicken. Most meals were topped off with freshly picked bananas or other fruit.

Then we would get out the medicine. It was chilly in the mountains, so we huddled into our sweatshirts and sweaters as we arranged the boxes The cold from the cement or tile floor bit through our socks and numbed our feet, We were so busy with the long lines of people coming for medicine that we soon forgot about the chill, though.

A few of those ten days were rest days, so we sometimes traveled to two villages in one day, traveling on and on over rutted, twisty mountain roads. We didn’t count our patients, but we saw hundreds.

Kimmy, meanwhile, kept the home fires burning and took care of the kids. I wouldn’t have been able to go at all if she hadn’t been here. I can’t imagine what we are going to do without her when she goes back to the US in May.

We already miss the Villandrys, who left yesterday. Bro. Bill and Bro. Ricky will fly out tomorrow. It’s always sad to see our friends leave, but this time we have the comfort of more guests on the horizon. Jem, Rusty’s fiancée, will be here in two weeks and will stay with us until their wedding in the middle of February. Then, Kimmy’s pastor, Bro. Joe Head, his wife, and a couple from their church will arrive. We treasure all our guests and look forward to seeing them.

I’ve been laid low the last couple of days with stomach ailments, so I took the off time to read Isobel Kuhn’s book, “Nests Above the Abyss.” Compared to those first missionaries to the Lisu people, our lives are a piece of cake! I’m thankful for the privilege of serving here. And, while the early missionary years were perhaps more exciting, I’m happy to have the comforts that make it possible for an aging missionary to serve! God is good!

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