I heaved the mop and bucket into the back of the truck, stretched my aching back, and took a last look at the house. End of an era. We were moving once again. Our life in Thailand has been a series of changes and surprising twists and turns.
Our first home was a room in a mango orchard. We slept on air mattresses on the floor which we piled up to become a couch during the day. We learned to deal with swarms of ants in the night and lizards that squished underfoot when you stepped on them with bare feet. Paul taught and grew to love the hill tribes men, and we both fell in love with the children in the children’s home. We loved everything about Thailand – almost. We began to see that our native coworker was not the man we thought he was. I had the horrifying experience of seeing him viciously beat the children with a bamboo rod. He frequently was angry and seemed to pick fights over basic doctrines. Could we work with this man? Paul, the most patient and forbearing of men, thought we should give him the benefit of the doubt. He came from a different culture. And the opportunities were so great. We decided to come and give it our all.
The next home was not a house, but a car. We were off on deputation. What a happy time that was! From May to September we crossed the country, visiting churches. We had wonderful visits with old friends and made countless new ones. In every single church we were welcomed and blessed.
Then, in October 2013, we landed in Thailand for good. But it wasn’t so good. The house was better as we had TWO rooms, doubling our living space. We soon discovered, however that the problems in our associate went far deeper than culture. The man was corrupt and we were unable to work with him. Those six months of struggle aged us at least ten years! Little did we know that we had only a hint of the evil of this man.
The next era was another one of homelessness, but not of joy like our last stint without a house! We had to stay in hotels and resort cottages and eat at restaurants, which consumed our funds. We knew no one who spoke our language. We knew no one who could help us. But we had the Lord, and we had each other. Even in that time we were blessed.
At length we rented a house in Chiang Mai and set about finding the children that wicked man had hidden in the mountain villages in order to escape government prosecution for abuse. We felt an obligation to make sure they were well and cared for. Three came to us. After years of an empty nest, Paul and I began child-rearing again. Our two teen boys and eleven-year-old girl were delighted with our huge teakwood rental house. We had six large bedrooms, plus an office room, big living room and huge dining room. We were prepared for lots of kids, so our three had lots of room to roam.
Joshua, a young pastor, was the first who stood with us and became our first worker during this time. He was fired by the deceiver who had taken control of all the churches and had run them like a mafia boss. Joshua was a huge help to us, ordering the water and propane, paying the bills, and helping us settle down to life in Thai culture.
At the end of this six-month stay, we acquired three more little boys – all around 11 years old. Then we learned of a three-house complex for rent. We went to see it and, underneath the clutter and peeling paint, we saw an arrangement that was perfect for us. The government is not picky about fostering kids, but they do insist that if you have both boys and girls that they are to be housed in different buildings. This property has two, nearly identical houses, side by side. The third house has a large meeting room and a smaller room for an office. Exactly what we need!
So we scrubbed and painted the new home and went back to polish up the old one before handing over the keys. As we finished up, I looked at the impressive building and wondered if I would ever again live in one so large and palatial. Probably not, but I’m not sorry. We are ready to move on and raise the kids the Lord has sent us. Each of them is precious to us already.
Our new home has smaller rooms and some odd quirks of design, but it will be a good place to raise our kids. The school is better here and a great park is just a few blocks away. The third building will work well for Paul’s ministry to the hill tribes preachers.
It seems each section of our lives has been defined by the houses in which we lived. We are praying this one will be the one most blessed to the Lord’s glory!
Blessings from Thailand,