News and Updates
Updated: Jan 5, 2020
“Grandma, I’m sorry for yesterday,” she said. Her eyes were soft and a little abashed and her tentative smile was sweet. Best of all, she stood within hugging distance, not pulled back with a gap of anger between us.
God is so good. Just the day before I was almost to the point of giving up — again. Maybe these kids need more help than I can give them, I thought. Maybe this girl needs professional counseling. But where can we get it? We are all they have. I was at a loss at how to deal with her anger and bitterness, which I knew stemmed from years of neglect and abuse.
But I was wrong. The One who redeemed this girl was able to give her the direction she needed. She told me with shining face how when I sent her to her room she was in despair, not wanting to be in rebellion but not knowing how to overcome her anger. She asked for God’s help and spent time reading the Bible.
“It was like a heavy load was just gone,” she said.
Will we have more ups and downs? Yes. But I was extremely encouraged to see God’s work in this precious girl’s life. He is able to help her overcome the wounds of the past. He can do what I can’t.
Life with a houseful of teenagers, most of whom have a background of pain and dysfunction, is not an easy task. I teach them every day in our learning center – but that is the easy part. They all want to learn and tackle their schoolwork with eagerness. Navigating the emotional minefields and keeping alert to dangers that face them – that’s the hard part. Please pray for me, for wisdom and patience as I do my best for them.
Paul is, of course, involved in their lives, too. They think the sun rises and sets on him and eagerly jump aboard if he has a project for them to do. He has been particularly helpful with them since Denise Johnson, our faithful helper, returned to the U.S. Since we have both boys and girls (and one set of Romeo and Juliet) we have a rule that the kids are never left alone. He often takes his studies with him as he chaperones the kids so that I can do preparations and sometimes get in a nap before my evening English classes.
Putting together our new piano. The old died after years of service.
His main calling, though, is to the churches and pastors of the mountains. His preachers’ training keeps growing and the pastors frequently call on him for advice and counsel. Nearly every week finds us on the road, going to a Thanksgiving service. It’s a time of celebration for the harvest the Lord has given. Songs (lots of them!) preaching and food make up the day. Paul’s favorite – pork balls roasted in banana leaves – appear on the menu as often as turkey does on the American Thanksgiving menu. We also have purple sticky rice, which is a favorite of mine, and various vegetable dishes like mountain cucumber and pumpkin. The meal is always topped off with fruit for dessert. The time of fellowship with these precious people is a treasure to us.
Last week we took the kids to the Far East Regional Student Convention in Chiang Mai. Dozens of schools from all over Asia met together for a contest and convention. It was a blessing to see the kids compete together as a team and to hear them root for each other in their individual contests. Before the week ended, they were making friends with kids from other schools and talking of plans for training and preparation for the contests next year.
The girls each won a medal in photography. Molly won third place for her black and white photo of flowers, and Nora won first. There was some confusion over whether it was for her color scenic photo or the one of flowers, but, at any rate, we were thrilled at her first place win.
The boys placed third in soccer against some stiff competition. We only had five players, and had to get special permission to add one of my evening students so that we had those. With no subs, they played with injuries, so we were especially proud of their win.
Don, who went to the convention with us, is one of the nine students I teach every evening. I call them my “prep class” because I’m preparing them to be full time students in our learning center next year. They are learning English and to read and write so that they can do the Accelerated Christian Education curriculum we use in our learning center next school year. Most are doing well. Two are adults who come with the kids (I didn’t have the heart to turn them away). All but one of the others are school dropouts, ranging from ages 14 to 16. They were young people without hope. Without the all-important certificates, they can’t get a good job. They can only do manual labor. Those who join our learning center will get a Christian education in English and will hear the Gospel every day and memorize Scripture and Christian songs in English. Four days a week they will spend in the learning center. The fifth day they will attend the Thai informal school so they can get their certificates. With the ability to speak, read and write English fluently in addition to the certificates, they have the hope of a brighter future.
In addition to these kids, I have also grown attached to my other two English classes. One is a group of children and the other an adult group. I did teach each of these classes twice a week, but my aging body couldn’t keep up with my zeal. When Denise left, I acknowledged I would have to cut back, and dropped back to one evening a week with each of these.
Teaching is no hardship to me. I enjoy doing it, and I love my students. It’s not the main part of our ministry here, but it is important for more than one reason. It’s an excellent way to make connections to the community – and to reach them with the Gospel is one reason we are here. Also, we have to satisfy the Thai government that we are doing something profitable in order to stay and serve in the country. Unfortunately, the Buddhist government doesn’t consider teaching preachers and training pastors a needed work. My efforts, though less important, are a way of establishing our place here in Thailand so that Paul can do the most important work.
In other news, our building is going up – already paid for. We are excited about the progress and can’t wait to move in, probably the middle of next year. We are also looking forward to the time the Villandrys will be able to move here – maybe about the time the building is finished. They are in language school several hours away in Chiang Mai now, but still find time to go to the Thanksgiving services with us and to come to church services whenever possible. They are already a blessing to us!
And another prayer request. Paul’s interpreter, Bro. Ai Donkham, is having heart surgery in a couple of weeks. Without him, preachers’ training is not possible. Two of our kids, William who is studying at Payap University in Chiang Mai, and Moses, who is studying in our learning center, are able to translate. They interpret for Paul at church services and in conversation. Neither are to the point of handling the demands of a week of intensive teaching yet, though. If Bro. Ai Donkham is not able to work soon, we will need a new interpreter until these two are able to take over the work.
In this season of Thanksgiving, we give thanks to our good God for allowing us to be here in Thailand. And we thank each of our supporters! Our work is your, work, too. The rewards will be yours, as surely as they are ours. We appreciate your sacrificial giving for eternity!