I looked at the thermometer with horror. Since I had taken on the job of taking temps and blood pressure, I had rarely seen a temperature past 98. Most were between 97 and 98. This child was clearly sick. He lay, limp and miserable, on the hard plastic chair. Slow tears slipped from his brown eyes and dribbled down his thin cheeks. They were the tears of a child, too old to wail like a baby, but too young to be stoic in suffering. I guessed he was eight or ten years old. We rushed him to the head of the line. While Sister Janice examined him, I went back to my job.
This group of people were a mixed lot. Half of the people arranged on the church patio were Akha and half were Lahu. All were from Burma where medical care is even sketchier for the tribal people than in Thailand. Today we had plenty of interpreters for a change. Samuel, a young man who speaks Akha and English well, translated with his mother, Mi Ju, who speaks Akha and Lahu. Together they cross-translated and were able to get the information from the patient to the volunteers.
I even had translators to help me. Katie, whose husband is the pastor of the Chinese Baptist Church who loaned us their courtyard, showed up because she heard we might need help. Katie speaks Chinese, English, and Burmese. Her friend (whose name I could never pronounce) knows Burmese and Akha. Another man spoke a little Lahu and English. With the combined help of these three, we managed to take the vital signs and find out the main problem each person had. I would write it down on the sheet of paper with the vitals so that the exams could go more quickly.
The main trouble was that at least six people were organizing the patient flow, and each had a totally different view of how it was to be done. Sister Janice and Bro. Anond took care of the Lahu and Bro. Ricky and his translating team took care of the Akha. I lined up two rows of chairs, Akha in one and Lahu in the other, and went back and forth preparing the patients. But people kept moving the chairs and the workers kept saying, “Do some Lahu, we are out of patients,” and “Where are the Akha? We are ready the next Akha.” Since I can’t tell the difference between the tribes and since Paul, Bro. Lee, and three or four tribal leaders kept changing the seating arrangements, I was tearing out my hair! We saw nearly 60 patients that day.
I stopped by Sister Janice’s station when she was rechecking the little boy who was so sick. She had given him meds and had the mother keep him nearby to make sure he was okay.
“He has a throat infection,” Janice told me. “But he also has a rectocele. It could kill him. He needs surgery as soon as possible.”
Will he get it? Not in Burma. She worked through the translators to figure out a way he can get help. A pastor agreed to try to find out if the boy can have surgery there in Maesai. If not, they will bring him to Chiang Mai. Who will pay for his life-saving surgery? You friends who support our work will.
Many of you have commented on our blog and on Facebook that you admire our work among the sick here in Thailand. It’s true that Bro. Ricky, who comes to serve on his vacation from the pharmacy where he works in Grenada, and Sister Janice, who comes in spite of her own poor health, deserve medals for their sacrificial service. But those who support the Thailand work are, in a way, working right there with them. It is you friends who have bought the medicines, who have provided the supplies. Through your giving, you are making a difference. Sometimes it is a difference between misery and health. Sometimes it is a difference of life and death.
Bro. Lee commented that some people have criticized him for spending resources on the physical needs of the tribal peoples. It’s true that the spiritual needs are by far the primary concern. However, Jesus looked on the people with compassion. He healed the sick and fed the hungry. As long as our priorities are right, I think He is pleased with our efforts of love.
Today the Lees, their daughter and grandson, and Brother Ricky will fly back to the U.S. and the medical part of the mission will become more minor. Bro. Anond will still help. He carries a bag of medicine with him when we visit the villages, and often people make their way down to the children’s home to ask for help. He doesn’t make trips specifically to treat illnesses, though, like he does when Janice and Ricky are here. They were counting up and figured they have treated more than 500 people in the two weeks they have been working here.
After the last of the patients had been treated, several of our group went over into Burma briefly to see the sights and to take pictures. Paul and I wandered around the multitudes of stalls on the Thailand side, where they sell everything imaginable. We saw clothes, fish, shoes, jewelry, and even guns. (Which are illegal in Thailand. Maybe they weren’t real.) There were shops selling candy, toys and spices. One ramshackle bamboo shop, perched on a narrow sidewalk by the river, sold iPhone 5s. Really! At least, that’s what the box SAID they were. Who knows where they came from. They were cheap, too. We passed on them.
Then we started the trip back. The driver, a Buddhist, talked to Bro. Anond at length. He had been afraid to stay in the hotel room Anond had reserved for him. There was a bad spirit there, he said, and he was afraid. He had been honking in deference at every spirit house we passed, and had done all he could to appease the evil spirits who tortured his life. Anond spent most of the journey talking to him about the Gospel which brings true freedom and the God who is all-powerful as well as all-loving. This man appeared to receive the truth with great joy and promised to be at church Sunday with his family. Please pray that this man, Chon Deng, will be truly saved and another light in this dark place.
The trip back seemed long, since we took the trip up in two stages. At long last, though, we reached our little home and fell into exhausted sleep. We awoke early this morning, but at 4:30 a.m. instead of 1:30, which was more reasonable. I am itching to get our house organized and clean — and do laundry. So Pic, our taxi driver and handyman, hooked up the washing machine for me.
We left early, though, to take Dang (a 17-year-old resident of the children’s home) to school at the vocational school where he is learning electronics. We then had an interesting breakfast of exotic fruits and yogurt with muesli all mixed together, eaten in a market I had not seen before. Paul dragged me away before I could shop, but I did manage to buy some spices. Now we are at the hotel to use the Internet and to pick up the Lees to take them to the airport. After that, shopping and back home.
Please pray for us about Internet, and about the truck.
Also, the meeting with the group from Burma who want a Bible school in the area fell through. We aren’t sure why. It is often that way. We will think something is set up, and then we discover we misunderstood — or the other party misunderstood.
Please pray about the languages! I hope to start Thai language school next week.
Thank you for your prayers and for your support!
Blessings from Thailand,