Ow, ow, ow! Vacation didn’t go as planned – well, not as I planned, anyway.
We had hoped to make a trip to America during the kids’ fall break. We have our vaccination passports, but we didn’t get them in time to make arrangements for the tickets. In the past, we have used the time for an R&R time in the south of Thailand. Covid is still raging there, though, so a trip to the beach was out of the question. Instead, we opted for a week in Chiang Mai. We can rent a hotel room for the equivalent of $18 a night and food is also relatively inexpensive.
We left on Monday, my 68th birthday. It was a good one! I received many kind notes and birthday wishes, including a lovely birthday card via email from Community Baptist Church in Elmendorf. I even received a physical card from Sherwood Baptist in Oklahoma City. It actually arrived on my birthday. That never happens with the Thai mail system! They must have sent it back in July. Thank you everyone, for remembering me and sending your encouraging notes! .
On Tuesday I set out to all my appointments with the American Consulate and at the hospital, thinking I would wipe them out in one day.
Dental and G.I. appointments were no problem. My eye exam was fine, too. I have had one detached retina, which was not fun! When I began having symptoms again, I was a bit panicked. The doctor has had me come in at monthly intervals for several months and so far my retina looks good.
This time another problem arose. It took an unusual amount of drops to get my eyes dilated and, since I am sensitive to the drops, it took a good bit of numbing drops so that I could endure them. I went back to the hotel and straight to bed after the ordeal. When I woke in the morning, I discovered my eyes were still dilated. All day long I hid out in our darkened hotel room, waiting for them to return to normal. Didn’t happen. By afternoon they started getting red and drippy. We went back to the doctor with me red-eyed as a vampire. Much of the rest of our vacation I spent in the room doctoring up my eyes and listening to audio books. It wasn’t what I had in mind, but it was certainly restful!
Sunday at Canaan.
By the time we left for Sunday services at the remote village of Canaan, I was completely recovered. I’m so thankful, because it was an incredible encouragement to us! We noticed right away that the shabby, neglected church building had had a face lift. It still would not be considered much in America, but we could see that loving care had been taken to spruce it up as much as possible. A plastic covering had been laid over the cement floor and plastic chairs replaced the rickety board pews. Termite-eaten ceiling beams had been replaced and the walls had a fresh coat of bright blue paint. They even had a new pulpit.
Pastor Yacab -- far right with the new church members.
But that wasn’t the best part. Paul preached a good message (as usual) and afterwards they had a time of testimony. What a blessing! They have seven new members – all recently saved. A woman with a face shining with joy told how the Lord saved her and delivered her from her drug addiction.
Another said that she had been coming to church for many years but had never really understood the Gospel. The preacher’s teaching on salvation helped her to finally understand and she was thankful to be saved.
Yet another member told that everyone felt that meeting once a week just wasn’t enough. They meet daily in their homes for Bible study and to sing and worship. What a joy, also, to learn that this pastor, who is one of Paul’s faithful students, is teaching his people what he has learned and is reaching out to the lost in other villages.
More blessings were still to come! We really needed a new vehicle, as our trucks are showing their age – and the effects of the mountain roads. We prayed about it and did some research. We came to the conclusion that we need a 16-passenger van to transport all of our students and staff safely. But the price tag made it impossible. Impossible? No problem to God! Before we even mentioned the van, several churches contacted us and asked if we had a special need. Others gave as soon as they heard of our transportation troubles. God used them to provide exactly what we needed. The van is ordered and we will soon be able to travel safely and in comfort. God is good!
We celebrated October birthdays when the kids returned from their break. We had a Thai-style cookout and the usual ice cream cakes from Dairy Queen. Our two college boys, William and Preston, joined us for the week the kids returned. We were so glad to have them back for a visit. We’ve missed them! They both are October birthdays. Denise just missed October, with a birthday on November 1, but we included her as one of the honored birthday people.
It's Thanksgiving season now and we have already started traveling to the celebrations. We went to Hoe La Bong first. That church has been through the trials! The church suffered a split when another denomination offered them a new building –“no strings attached.” Of course, the hidden string was that they become members of that denomination. A group of the church members thought that was too good a deal to pass up, but the pastor, another of Paul’s faithful students, refused. He pointed out the errors in the theology of the other group, which are significant. He would not go along with the plan and the church split. The few who stood firm met at the pastor’s home. Gradually, they are building their own building – by themselves. It’s been a slow process as they’ve done the work with their own hands and built as they could gather the funds. We met in the unfinished new building for the Thanksgiving. God is already blessing this group with new families. Please pray for this church and her pastor. He has had health issues requiring hospital stays twice in the last few months.
Thanksgiving meal at Hoe La Bong. (l-r) Jay, Danny, Eric and Wyatt
Work party preparing medicine to distribute at the next Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving dinner at Bon Saw.
Last Sunday we were off once again to another Thanksgiving about 2 ½ hours away. We thought a lot about our new van as our oldest truck sputtered, slipped, and balked on the steep road. We made it there and back but are reluctant to take it on any more long trips. We have so many people now, though, that we don’t fit in one truck, even crowded in. The Thanksgiving, one of the larger ones, was a blessing! Paul preached a great Thanksgiving message from Psalm 103, one of my personal favorite chapters.
Our kids sang a special song. It’s amazing how much they have come along in their singing ability since Bro. Sabat has been teaching them music. They are singing parts now. I’m especially thankful for that since the Lahu sing four-part harmony. Our kids had missed out on learning to harmonize because we are, alas, not musical. I’m glad God sent someone to pick up the slack in that area!
We passed out hats and bags of over-the-counter medicine and ate a huge meal. It was a good day – and we were ready to arrive back home and collapse!
We have a couple of additions to our family. I had said, “No more little ones. We are just too old to take on any more to raise.” And we are! Now that our original crew is grown up, that aspect of our ministry has changed a bit, with the focus on providing education to older teens who haven’t had an opportunity to learn. However, Seme, our cook, and her husband Sabat live in the tiny staff house on our property. Their niece and nephew Lala (12) and Papo (9) have come to live with them, so they are, by extension, part of our family.
The schools are still closed because of Covid, so Molly is helping them with online classes, along with Samuel, Sabat and Seme’s 13-year-old son. They are fun kids and we are enjoying them, but we are trying to remember that we are here to lend a hand with them – not to be their parents.
Our older kids are doing well in English and absolutely great in reading and writing English. They started out not even knowing the alphabet and now are reading at a 2nd - 3rd grade level after just one semester. I’m proud of them!
We have two Thanksgivings coming up on Saturday. We didn’t know how we would get everyone there since our “good” truck is in the shop again. Even using motorcycles, we couldn’t fit everyone in. As it turned out, it won’t be necessary. The kids will be getting Covid vaccines at the Thai informal school. We just learned that our group is scheduled to get theirs this Saturday. Denise volunteered to stay home with them.
Now we have to figure out how to get them to the hospital for the shots, since we have more kids than motorcycles, even doubling up. But we will work it out. Meanwhile two of our three motorcycles are not running and are going to the shop today. Please pray that we can get them running before Saturday.
So many blessings and answers to prayer! It is easy to be thankful when God pours out His blessings this way. He is good!