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  • Susan Brown

Trials and Blessings

I was going to fall.

The tires skidded in the soft dirt on the shoulder and slid sideways. Desperately I tried to regain control of my motorized bicycle, but in my panic forgot to let go of the power grip.  It bucked and flew out onto the busy road, skittering across the pavement. A pickup truck swerved around me at the last minute. I had to get out of the road, pronto.

But my leg wouldn’t hold me when I tried to stand and I couldn’t get the bike up. My belongings scattered on the road and the cars continued to whip around me. A kind lady stopped and helped me up and pulled the bike to the side of the road. An angel sent to help me?

Maybe, but she wasn’t an English-speaking angel. Every word of Thai fled. I couldn’t understand what she was saying and couldn’t think of anything to say to her. She pointed to my knee which was dripping blood onto my torn pants leg.  I caught the word for hospital and shook my head. It hurt, but having regained my equilibrium, I could stand on it.

The pedals were bent and the handgrip that controlled the motor and speed was broken off, but once the bike was up I could push it. I had thoughtlessly sent my phone in my bag with Paul as he drove the boys to the other house.  I couldn’t call for help. I would have to walk it home. Or limp it home. Each step was a knife in the kneecap.

I was nearing the house when Paul drove up. He has worried about me with my poor balance riding the bike on the busy road, so when I didn’t show up, he came looking for me.

I felt so stupid. Everyone here rides motorbikes – even young kids. Paul has a big motorcycle which he loves. And I can’t even manage a silly little Mo-ped! I still haven’t decided if I’m going to try again. I hate to be defeated, but I’ve spent a painful week hobbling around on a swollen, purple knee, minus a good bit of skin. I’m not sure the independence of being able to go places by myself is worth it.

But in spite of the pain, it has been a good week. On Monday, the day of the big wreck, I started a new class – one that I’ve been praying about for a long time. We’ve been concerned about the young people in the villages. They have few educational opportunities and are often doomed to a life of hard, manual labor – unless they try to escape by selling drugs and end up in prison.

We’ve been praying for an answer, and believe we have a plan. We’ve been teaching our kids at home using the Accelerated Christian Education system and have seen them take off in their learning.  Now that we are living near hill tribes villages, we plan to open our Learning Center for kids around us.  The class I’m teaching is the first step to prepare them for full-time learning next school year. They will learn basic English first, then to read and write. By the end of the year I hope to have them ready for working in all subjects in English.

I wondered if the kids would like it, would be willing to study. Would anyone even show up? I apprehensively waited for Denise to return from collecting the kids from the village. At last our old silver pickup pulled into the drive – and teenagers poured out of the crowded covered back.

I had asked the Lord for ten kids and nine showed up that first day. I thought some might drop out after seeing that we had an intense hour of English – lots of work, not all fun. Some still might, but by the end of the week our number grew to 12. All the kids who showed up on the first day were still with us.  We might lose some yet, but we are off to a good start. I’m thankful!

My new students range in age from 14 to 20. All of them have dropped out of regular school for one reason or another and are working full time. I’m excited about giving them a second chance to succeed. To my surprise, I also acquired three older adults. The song leader from the village church who works with the youth came with them and has been one of the best students. A mother showed up with her daughter the second day and our cook, I’kha, came in to join us the next.

Our four full-time students for this year.

Please pray that the Lord will bless this ministry. We want to give these kids a chance in life, but, more than that, we want toshare the Gospel with them. Christ is the center of our Learning Center. In our opening each morning we learn and sing a hymn of the month, read the Scripture passage they will memorize (John 6:35-44 in June) and have a short devotion. The curriculum is Bible-based and each subject directs them to God. We also have a Bible class in which we’re studying the Life of Christ. That’s more important, in our eyes, than the English conversation, reading and writing they are learning.

Taking on several more kids full time next year will be a challenge. We are praying that perhaps the Lord will call someone to help, even for a short time.  Our short-term workers have been such a blessing so far. Shelby Banks Cunningham, Kimmy Hasselbusch, and Denise Johnson have all had a part in the lives of our kids and helped make their education possible. Denise will be leaving us in October to start another phase of Thailand ministry, helping her son and daughter-in-law, Joshua and Sabrina Johnson. She will be homeschooling their kids as the parents are learning Thai and working in a ministry in Chiang Mai. 

A year spent serving the Lord on the foreign field could be such a life-changing experience for a young person still searching for life direction, or for a retired person without commitments. We are making plans to manage on our own, but are wondering if the Lord has another helper for us in the wings.

Next week will be another big week. It’s preachers’ training, the main reason we are here. We’ve always had to rent facilities and Paul has had to travel to teach the men who come to learn from him so eagerly. This time we are planning the training at one of the houses we are renting. There is a covered carport area in the back of the house which Paul will use for a classroom. We’ve purchased mats and tents and have made a set of Lahu-style toilets and shower.  No doubt we’ll find glitches and inconveniences, but the guys are so undemanding and adaptable. They don’t require a lot of comfort.

I will have the opportunity to teach English to the preachers in the afternoons, between our Learning Center in the morning and the beginner class in the evening. I love teaching and I’m looking forward to that. I could use prayer for added stamina, though!

At the end of the week next week, our friends, Bill and Freda Daugherty, will be arriving from America.  Bill has years of experience in construction and will help us take the first steps in getting ready to build on our property. We have to decide where to put the well, where the buildings should go, etc. They will be with us for three weeks. Please pray the Lord will bless the time and we will be able to really get our building projects going.

An update on our water: We still don’t have any! Well, that’s not exactly true. We have a bit in the well now that the rains have started. It goes on and off, so we still have to haul water in big buckets to be sure to have water for washing and flushing. I was super excited when a water department truck parked in front of our house the other day. I thought sure we would be connected to city water at last. It was a big disappointment to discover they were working across the street. We’ve been on the list to get city water since April 27 and had struggled with insufficient water for weeks before that. I’ve decided to quit worrying about it and assume we’re never going to get water here. We’ve managed this long. We can get along without it. That way no more disappointment!

At least we have water in the big house we rented. It’s a challenge with Paul and I and four boys in this little house, but if the main house where all the ministry takes place had no water, we would be in trouble.

We hit another milestone or two this week. It was “Gotcha Day” on June 6.  Five years ago on that day the first of our kids, Molly, came to live with us. She was an angry, troubled little girl — but the Lord has made a huge difference in her life. We thank the Lord for her! It happened that June 6 was also Nora’s Gotcha Day. She has been with us two years now. We’ve had ups and downs, too, but this very competent and helpful young lady is a huge help to me.  And Paul’s and my Gotcha Day will be on June 9. This is anniversary number 46.

It’s my “day off” today. I’ve learned from painful experience the dangers of burnout. If I’m going to keep giving, I have to take a couple of solitary hours a day to regroup and rest and one day for planning, cleaning, and to just recharge and prepare for the work coming up. The kids go to Thai informal school on Fridays to get the certificates that are so essential to get into the university or to get a good job. I decided to have my evening class Monday to Thursday to preserve that day off.

An Akha church

Tomorrow is another super busy day, though.  We clean on Saturdays and this week we will be doing extra preparation to get everything ready for preachers’ training.  I’m not sure about tis week, but we usually we travel to a village for church services on Sunday. The last couple of weeks we have been to Akha villages – a tribe we haven’t had opportunity to minister to before. It’s been interesting to see how they differ from our Lahu and Lisu brethren in their clothing and customs.

We’re so thankful for the opportunity of serving Him in this needy land! We have more open doors for ministry than we can walk through.  Thank you to all our supporters for your gifts that allowing us to be here.  We are grateful!

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