Prayer Letter - December 2019
It’s a new year, but we are still finishing up with Thanksgiving celebrations here in Thailand. We had five of these special services in December. We enjoy these blessed times to gather with the brethren in the churches to thank the Lord for His provision for this past year.
We met Ephraim at one of the celebrations. He is a thirty-one-year-old interpreter from Myanmar, fluent in English and Lahu. Meeting an interpreter an exciting answer to prayer, as our interpreter has health problems and our young men who are studying for the job are not quite there yet.
The men who came to a thanksgiving from Myanmar asked if I would come to teach the preachers there every month, since it is difficult for many of them to cross the border into Thailand for preachers’ training. It would be more cost effective, too, since we would only need to pay for my passage, rather than for the crossing for the 15+ men who usually attend.
We will be talking more about this at our next preachers’ training in January. They are checking to see if they can get permission for me to travel and teach in the interior of the country. If not, we will meet on the Myanmar side of the border in Tacheliek.
Our new ministry building is coming along quickly. The builder assures us it will be finished in April. We will continue to have training here in Mae Ai until then. What a joy it will be to have PT on our own property! We were happy to teach in carports and tents with our feet in puddles and rain dripping through the roof, but we are thankful for the prospect of a more comfortable and efficient – and permanent – set up.
December brought us a funeral as well as celebrations. I received word that a friend and dear brother in Huay Dua was sick. I immediately made plans to come, but he died before I could get there. He was the oldest man in the village and a respected leader there. When I first preached in this village five years ago, he asked that I “preach long.” They had not had a pastor in the village for many years, and he was hungry to hear God’s Word. He would smile and sometimes laugh out loud with joy during the sermon as he sat on the front row.
“This is what I believe,” he told me afterward. He said a missionary came and preached the Gospel in Huay Dua in 1978. He was saved then, but the missionary left after a few short years and he had been without much teaching since then.
William (Wichai) accompanied me on the long, treacherous journey to the remote village for the funeral. The road had not been graded since the rainy season and the bumps and pot-holes were bone-rattling. They had prepared a meal for the guests of boiled pig skin, bell peppers, and, of course, rice. Then we hiked over two mountains for the burial. The casket, made of thick mango wood, was so heavy it took 11 men to carry it. They had to stop every 100 yards or so to rest, so it was a slow procession. In the mountains, the job of a pall bearer is much more than an honor! Wichai interpreted while I preached the funeral message. Then we rushed back over the mountains to the truck to begin the homeward journey while it was still light.
Life at home is what you would imagine with six teenagers to raise. Moses will finish up at the Thai informal school in March and receive his high school diploma. That’s a huge accomplishment for a Lahu young man! He will continue to study with Susan and will help her in the learning center next year. He wants to work with us as an interpreter.
Nora has her ninth-grade certificate now and will start classes at a local technical college (similar to a vo-tech school) next semester. She wants to study accounting. She had her 18th birthday on January 1, so is now enrolled in driver’s training. We are looking forward to having another driver. It will make life much less complicated.
Susan is looking into GED preparation for Jay and Molly. We learned that students with a diploma or GED certificate from America automatically are accepted into any Thai university. Both of these two are bright and ambitious. We feel they have the potential to do well at the university. They are 16 years old now, so they have two years to prepare for the test.
Our youngest two, Danny and Bang, (ages 14 and 15) are completing sixth grade this year. They will join the others in the learning center next semester, in May. Two years at the informal school, which meets one day a week, will enable them to attend the vo-tech. They both are interested in a motorcycle mechanics course. Since far more people ride motorcycles than drive cars, it is a job with plenty of opportunities.
Susan’s prep class of Lahu teenagers from a nearby village are coming along well with English speaking, reading, and writing. In May, six of them will come to the learning center full time. Since they are new readers, and since Danny is a struggling reader, Susan and Moses will have their hands full. We’re still praying for another helper from America. We’ve had three helpers who stayed varying amounts of time, and all have been a huge help and blessing to us and to the kids. We are able to provide room and board and transportation. The helper will only need money to get here and to pay for incidentals. The Lord knows our need and He knows who is ready for this experience. Young people or retired people or anywhere in between. If God lays this opportunity on your heart, we would welcome you to Thailand!
New building, new opportunities, new people to minister to. We are excited about everything God has for us in 2020. We pray that it will be an especially blessed year for all our supporters and friends, as well!