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  • Susan Brown

Terrors and Traveling

I jerked awake with a start. “What was that?” I mumbled, still befuddled by sleep.

“Phone,” Paul said as he fumbled to find and answer it.

There is something about a phone call late at night or early in the morning that strikes terror to the heart. You know that something is wrong somewhere in the world. This time we had awakened at our usual 4:30 a.m., but because the kids were visiting family in the mountains, I had dozed off again. It was not quite 6 a.m. – too early for a regular phone call.

“Oh, no,” Paul said after listening a moment. My heart sank. It WAS bad news, I thought.

And I was right. It was our secretary, Pann, calling to pass on info from Andy’s mother, who doesn’t speak English. He was having repetitive seizures. We had let him go home because his seizures seemed to be under control. And because he is the one of our kids who misses his home and family the most. He counts the days until his break time. But now he was seizing and in a remote mountain village far from any medical care.

In a short time we were up and on our way. It was a three-hour drive to get there, and we worried all the way there. We arranged to meet them at the hospital nearest to their village. His family only had a motorcycle. How do you transport a kid having seizures on a motorbike? Why had the seizures come back?

Another call from Pann shed light on the reason for their recurrence. Andy  had forgotten his medicine, so Pann had sent it overnight mail. The medicine had never arrived.

After stopping first at the wrong hospital, we did at last make connections. Andy stood with his mother and stepfather by the pick-up truck they had borrowed to get him there. He was pale, but alert and on his feet. We drove straight back to Chiang Mai and to the emergency room. Once there, he started seizing again.

IV meds got them under control and he was admitted to the hospital again, this time in ICU.  The doctor warned him that he had to take the meds for another year, possibly two, until the calcified dead worm in his brain dissolved.

“You might not wake up from the next seizure,” she told him bluntly.

To my surprise the doctor okayed his trip back to the mountains and Paul took Andy and his mother back after he was dismissed the next afternoon.

The following day was Sunday, and it was back in the car to travel again. This time we went to two Lisu villages. The roads were slick and not a little treacherous, but we made it there safely, and then slogged through slimy mud to get to the house where they were having the church service.

Lisu houses are different than the Lahu homes we are accustomed to visit. The

houses are built flat on the ground with dirt floors instead of on stilts like the Lahu build them. The clothing is also different. The Lahu only wear their traditional costume for special events. The Lisu wear them all the time. The women wear a colorful overdress with full black culotte-type pants. The men wear western shirts, but with loose, brightly colored culotte pants.

Paul preaching with William translating. Can you tell my “chair” wasn’t comfortable?

A good number of people crowded into the house. Duangsuwan, a Lisu preacher who attends Paul’s preachers’ training, has been traveling there for months in an effort to reach the village with the Gospel and to establish a church there.  Paul preached a good message and William interpreted, since most of the people spoke Thai as well as Lisu.

After a good service, we gave a bag of over-the-counter medicines to each family and brought out reading glasses for them to try.

We also gave out color books and crayons. Children in Vacation Bible School at Lakeside Baptist Church in Mena, Arkansas, donated money to buy something for children in the villages. Coloring books are rarely seen in the mountains, and Bible story coloring books are nonexistent, even in the Christian bookstores in the city. We put together a book and had copies made to give out. The children were thrilled. Well, except for one little guy. He bawled at the top of his lungs.

“No,” his mother cried, pulling the crayons away from him. “It’s not a snack. Don’t eat it!”

Evidently he had never seen crayons before and thought they looked delicious. We hastily gave him something actually edible and his sobs subsided.

We were tired by then, but there was another village that asked us to come. This village also did not have a church building, but a few interested people showed up to hear the Lisu preacher who visited when he could.

Another good message, another distribution of meds and color books and crayons and we were at last on our way home.

The driving was tense as the mountain roads were slick and heavy clouds threatened more rain. Paul had driven six hours on Saturday night and then two more to get to the first village, another hour to the second village, and then another three to get home. That, alone, would be enough to wear out a much younger man, but he also preached twice between the exhausting and dangerous times on the road. I’m amazed at his stamina and dedication!

Lisu ladies trying on the reading glasses we brought. They were so excited to get them!

Next weekend we are traveling even further from home for a Thanksgiving celebration in a Lahu village near the Myanmar (Burma) border. It’s a large church and several smaller villages will also be coming to join in the festivities. This one will be a two-day trip on Saturday and Sunday. Paul is busy preparing several messages he will be preaching and I have medicine to pack and more to buy. And more (non-edible) crayons to purchase!

The “break time” hasn’t been as relaxing as usual, what with hospital stays and extra trips, but that’s okay. That’s why we are here – to serve. We are thankful for strength and grace to be able to do what God called us to do. He is good!

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