Progress and Updates
I carefully stepped around the pungent piles of pig manure. Next time we come, I vowed silently, I will bring a shovel and at least clear a path to the church door. The children weren’t bothered by the stuff, though, and landed in it with unconcern as they scuffled with each other and chased each other around the church building. The pigs run free through the mountain village of Mae Hang. So do the kids.
And there are lots of them. Kids, that is. Most have probably never been in church before, and it shows. The first week we tried for a regular church service. We had about 50 children and three adults. Bro. Matt preached valiantly through the deafening noise and constant movement. We decided that our next attempt would be aimed more toward the children.
And it worked better that morning. We had Sunday School first. Bro. Matt and Cohen Villandry played the guitar and took charge of the singing. I was thankful, since I can’t carry a tune!
I included some English lessons to keep the parents happy to see us. Then I told the story of Cain and Abel, with Moses interpreting for me. There was still a lot of motion and some noise, but there were many sitting and listening intently – including the two moms who came with the littlest kids. The telltale strings around their wrists identified them as spirit worshippers. What a privilege of sharing the Gospel with them! Yes, the Gospel is in the story of Cain and Abel. Cain’s sacrifice of the fruit of his labor couldn’t satisfy God, just as no amount of human efforts can save any of us. Only Christ’s sacrifice can make us right with God.
The children colored a picture of Cain and Abel tending the vegetables and the sheep. While they were occupied and quiet we moved ahead with a church service. Our interpreter was unable to be there that day, so A’sha preached a short message in Lahu and our teenagers sang a song.
We’ve been in Mae Hang for the last four weeks on either Saturday or Sunday, but this week we will have to miss. It’s the end of our school year and the kids going to the Thai informal school have tests this weekend.
Moses will finish and get his 12th grade certificate – a real accomplishment for a Lahu young man raised in a mountain village. We offered to send him on for more education at the local technical college. He’s thought about it and may take us up on it yet, but he said, “Maybe later. Now I want to help you in the learning center and study with you. I want to be strong in English.” You can imagine how happy that made this teacher! Not everyone is going to appreciate the opportunities we have to give. Not everyone will have the ability to become proficient. But Moses has always been determined to learn and wants to be an interpreter. He’s 20 now and my right hand man. I thank the Lord for him!
Bang and Danny are already finished at the local Thai elementary. There is still no news about whether they passed the sixth grade tests, but they both seem confident about it. Please pray for the salvation of these two. They are both 15 and have been in trouble at school. They are on probation but will attend our learning center full time next school year. We hope removing them from the bad influences at the Thai school will help, but a new heart is the only thing that will really make a difference.
Both Moses and Nora will move from being “students” to being staff when they return from their long break. They will have a small salary and a definite job description. It won’t make much difference to us financially, as right now we take care of all their needs. We think it’s a good plan, though, to teach them to earn and to be responsible for their own needs. We want to raise people who are able to live their lives without depending on us.
Nora will attend the vocational college nearby and help our secretary with the volumes of paperwork needed to stay in this country. Pann works for us in Chiang Mai, so Nora is already doing the many chores that must be done locally. She will be studying accounting, which will be a help to us. She’s found she enjoys teaching, too, and will help in the learning center when her school schedule permits.
All the kids will travel to visit their relatives in the mountains on Monday. I have to admit I’m ready for a break! I love teaching and I love these young people, but I have been “on duty” full time since Denise, our helper, returned to the US last October. I’ll still have my evening class of local teenagers twice a week and a couple more evening classes of children but will have the days free for the next few weeks.
Paul and I will travel to Chiang Mai next week to pick out fixtures for the bathroom, etc. for the new building. I’ll be glad to have Brittany help me with the choices since Paul always says, “Just get what you like. I don’t care.” That’s nice in one way, but not helpful when I am unsure about what I’m doing. If I make a mistake, we will have to live with it a long time!
The building is coming along quickly, and we are excited about the move. It will be so convenient to live just upstairs from the place I do all my work, especially since I don’t drive here in Thailand. Getting back and forth over the four miles between our apartment and the house where we have our ministry has been a pain, especially when Paul is gone.
Paul has been in Myanmar this past week, teaching the preachers there. He loves to teach, and the Burmese preachers are young and enthusiastic. He comes back each time satisfied and encouraged. I hope to go with him next time while the kids are still on break.
Several have asked about the Coronavirus and its effect here in Thailand. We haven’t had any cases here in the north, and have seen no obvious panic. They took our temperature before we went into the Makro – our big box store – and the teenagers had a special class at school on how to make hand sanitizer and masks. Other than that, life has gone on as normal.
It’s a different story in the tourist areas, though. There have been a few cases in Chiang Mai and more in southern Thailand. Tourism has slowed to a trickle. Tourists from some countries are banned and Thailand has stopped issuing visas on arrival. To get here at all you have to get a visa from a Thai embassy in the US and have a medical certificate saying that you do not have the virus and have not been exposed.
Since the economy depends heavily on tourism, Thailand is really suffering. Most of the shops and restaurants are mom and pop affairs and don’t have the resources to carry on when the customer stream dries up.
There is resentment about the measures the government has taken, but most go along willingly. We are not far from China and we hear of the horrors they are enduring with so many sick and dying and not enough doctors or hospitals to care for them. People there are only allowed out of their homes once a day to buy food. Guards stand at the gates of the apartment complexes to make sure no one leaves. We don’t want to get to that point! From what we hear the epidemic is still spreading there in spite of their efforts to contain it.
We appreciate prayers for our continued health, but we are probably safer here in our small town than many are in the US. We just need the strength to continue on and to take advantage of the many opportunities to share the Gospel here in our beloved country of Thailand!