Tumbling down a steep mountain was always a danger, but I didn’t expect to do it while standing still. I was just standing there when my feet suddenly slipped out from under me and I landed on my knees, sliding down the steep mountain path.
The ladies cried and grabbed me, stopping my slide and holding me up. I was minus some skin on my knees, but a quick inventory showed no serious injuries. After that my Lahu friends made sure I stayed upright. One lady firmly held my right arm, supporting me as if I was a feeble 90-year-old woman. Another held an umbrella over my head to protect me from the sun beating down on us, and several others walked as close to me as possible to catch me if I slipped again – which I did. Twice. I did my best to ignore the slicing pain in my knees and enjoyed my entourage. I felt like the queen of Thailand with all that attention. I made a mental note, however, to carry tennis shoes with me in the truck on our next trip. Flip flops just don’t cut it on mountain paths.
We were on our way to a baptismal service, and I was not going to let a couple of skinned knees keep me away. We arrived at the muddy brown river and found it teeming with nearly naked – and completely naked – children. They were doing backflips into the water, performing hand stands, and in general putting on quite a performance. Impressive, but we needed their swimming hole for a baptistery. Lek climbed down the steep bank and waded into the water. It wasn’t quite deep enough to baptize, so he recruited the kids to dig out a hole so that the mayor, a Lahu woman, could be immersed. They fell to their task with zeal. Then Lek lined them up across the river to make a human dam. I don’t know that it made the water deeper, but it did get the kids out of the way so we could have the baptism.
The crowd on the bank broke into song as Paul and the new convert climbed down into the river. In spite of the giggling dam of children, the mood was solemn and reverent as Paul spoke the familiar words, “I baptize you, my sister, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Buried with Him in baptism and raised with Him to newness of life.”
Baptisms are always a joy – and this one was particularly encouraging after so many months of trials and troubles. It tasted of victory, as the devil himself can’t stop the work of our sovereign God.
The whole week was an encouragement and a blessing. Our pastor, Bro. Bill Lee, and Bro. Ricky Cash, a pharmacist from Grenada, Mississippi, came for a visit. They hit the ground running! We traveled to eight churches in four days. Bro. Bill and Paul spoke, exhorting and encouraging the people. We did medicine and gave out clothes, Bibles, song books, and even a couple of guitars for use in the worship services.
These churches have been through so much turmoil, but are now free from the one who had controlled them for so long. Only one of these had lost their building, but they are meeting faithfully in a house and the Lord is blessing them.
One of our stops was at a Lisu village. There they are able to meet in the church building, although it has been sold. They don’t have a pastor, but the man who travels there to preach once a month has been threatened by A. and told to stay away. He’s still coming, and we assured him we are standing behind him.
After a day for more preparations, we were off again. This time we traveled far northward, up to the border of Burma. At a village there we saw more than a hundred people who had come for medical help.
Bro. Ricky Cash was a huge help. He has been doing medical mission trips for years and has wide experience with third-world ailments. We gave out pills for worms and charcoal tablets for diarrhea, cream for scabies and anti-inflammatories for back and knee pain. The week was a continuing education course for me as I peppered Bro. Ricky with questions. Although I don’t have a medical background, these folks who have no access to medical care look to me for help. I was thankful to be able to profit from his knowledge.
Then to the border city of Mae Sai to spend the night before heading into Myanmar (Burma).
To be continued……