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  • Susan Brown

Through the Valley

In just a moment everything can change.

I was determined to get the boys back on track with their schooling after our big building dedication and all the Thanksgiving celebrations. Perhaps a shortened New Years’ break?

A phone call from my brother Mark in America turned my plans upside down. My mother was in the hospital. Covid caused a blood clot, which is common in older patients. It had exploded in her brain, bringing on a massive stroke. It was life threatening and had unknown repercussions if she survived. We had to go.

Getting from here to there wasn’t easy, especially since the airport had just recently reopened to travelers. And it was the week before Christmas. Finding a seat at any price would be doubtful, but the Lord took care of it for us. We were able to get seats on December 22. They were painfully expensive, but we had set aside money from our personal funds in case we had to make an unexpected flight home in a situation like this. We were thankful to be able to leave.

We closed the Learning Center early (So much for catching up!) and flew back to Oklahoma. When we arrived, Mom had just been transferred from the Covid ward to the stroke ward, so I was able to stay with her.

I’m so thankful I had the opportunity to be with her day and night during those first difficult weeks. It was so hard! While she retained most of her physical abilities, the stroke devastated her memory. She remembered nothing from the last several years. She was shocked and grief-stricken to learn my dad had died eight years ago. She asked after many friends and relatives, all of whom had passed away years before. Although she had already experienced times of grief for them, it was all new to her now as if it just happened. Then, because her short-term memory was destroyed, she went through it again a few hours later – over and over again.

It's a testimony that she remembered two things. She remembered us, her children. The first days she would repeat our names over and over, afraid she would forget one of us. The other remembrance was that she was saved. She repeated John 3:16 and portions of Psalm 23 again and again.

The Lord was near us all and answered several prayers during those weeks. One of the biggest had to do with her future. She could stay in the hospital only two weeks with her insurance coverage. After that she would have to be transferred to a long-term care facility, unless we could find a caregiver to stay with her while Mark and his wife Stacia work. She has lived with them for several years, although those memories were lost, too.

The possibilities of finding a qualified caregiver/sitter in the tiny town of Hugo, Oklahoma looked bleak. But impossible is no problem to God. He provided the perfect person to stay with her so she could safely stay at her home. Judy Huffman is a member of their church, so she already knew Mom. She has been a caregiver for many years. She has become a friend and is great with Mom, reading to her since she can no longer books and keeping her busy with activities she is able to do.

Mark arranged home health, so Mom has physical therapy, speech therapy, nurse check-ups and help with bathing.

We appreciate Mark and Stacia so much. We were able to come to Thailand ten years ago because they cared for Mom in their home. It isn’t always easy having someone living with you. Now that she asks the same questions numerous times in a space of a few minutes, it takes a toll on a person’s store of patience. They haven’t complained and continue to treat mom with kindness.

My other siblings also call and visit, although they all live several hours away. It was hard to leave for the far side of the world, but the care of the rest of the family made it tolerable.

A new problem has come up for us. I resolved to call more often, although the time difference makes that a challenge. It seems, however, that my calls are counterproductive. Instead of cheering her up, they set her off into depression. She has had crying spells which elevated her blood pressure and heightened the danger of another stroke. Please pray with us about this. It makes me feel so helpless to do anything at all for her.

We are back in Thailand and settled back to work now. The boys were already back from break and back to work. I’m thankful for Denise, Wichai, Molly and Moses for getting them started and carrying the load until we got back. We couldn’t have managed without them

Which brings up another prayer request. Each year I make it a matter of prayer whether to continue on with the Learning Center ministry or not by adding new boys to the two-year cycle. I turn 70 this year. (How is that possible?) and each year my struggles with health seem to get more challenging. But we had two young people who were tentatively planning to come and help. I thought, “Well, it looks like we can expand this year. Where can we cram in more beds so we can take more boys?”

Then things changed. The two who were coming found their plans falling through. Molly, I knew, would be out of the Learning Center because she is going to college this next semester.

“Looks like we better just keep the same number of students,” I thought.

Then we learned that Denise will be going back to America in March. No problems – just a situation change that God obviously led in. That definitely changed the picture! Paul is tentatively planning more travel and another Preacher’s Training in Thai for the LiSu, who don’t speak LaHu, that would take one or both of my remaining helpers, Wichai and Moses. How could I handle even the students we already have alone?

One by one, the situation of the boys changed, also. Two would graduate and be out of the Learning Center. One had to return to help his family after his father died recently. Yet another decided that the sixth grade certificate he gets this year will be enough for him and he has a new job in his village. One last student broke an unbreakable rule of the house (a long unpleasant story) and won’t be allowed back. That leaves just a few, most of whom aren’t sure now about their return.

How could things fall apart so quickly? They didn’t. We checked and double-checked to make sure that none of the “drop outs” were related. It would be a typical Thai response to make up an acceptable reason and hide the real one if they thought it would give offense. However, it would seem all the circumstances – staff changes and students leaving – are a coincidence. Except we don’t believe in coincidences. We believe in God’s sovereignty. He knows what is ahead and what I am going to be able to handle. We have to trust Him that the Learning Center ministry, so close to my heart personally, is on pause, if not stop.

Perhaps next semester I will be teaching a few boys by myself. Perhaps my focus will change to teaching English to neighbors in the evening. Regardless, I’ll not run out of ways to serve!

Paul, meanwhile, is looking at several options to expand his ministry. A second monthly preachers’ training? Monthly seminars at the Bible college we support in Myanmar once the border opens? Perhaps opening our doors to young men called to preach to have them live with us and learn from Paul? We have had some earnest requests for the latter.

What a comfort to know that the ministry here is His ministry! We don’t have to fret or wonder. We have the assurance He will direct. He is good!

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