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  • Susan Brown

Washing Hands with Friends

Cool water slid over my hands and into the dishpan held below. My Lahu friend smiled, moved on to Paul and tilted the plastic bottle – which formerly held orange soda – over his hands as she had done with mine. Then another person followed, smiling and pouring water over my hands. One by one, the church members passed in front of us, washing our hands in the age-old tradition.

It was a precious ceremony, dating from who-knows-how-far past in their cultural history. In the beginning of the new year it’s a Lahu custom to honor people by washing their hands. The village of Plang Hoc chose to recognize us this year, and we appreciated the honor!

Last Sunday we traveled up the steeply winding road to that little village with the amazing views.  We could see for miles down the mountain and across the valley to the next range of mountains. The vistas always leave us gasping with wonder at the beauty of God’s creation.

That day we were treated, first, to cultural dances, which resemble those of the American Indians. Rhythmic beats of drum and cymbal and intricate steps danced around a central tree were made even more picturesque by the traditional Lahu clothing.

Then there speeches from the pastor and from representatives of two other churches who had come to join in the festivities. They presented us with gifts. We were given hand-made bags and they gave Paul a vest decorated in Lahu style. He was thrilled and plans to wear it when he is preaching in the villages.

After that came the hand-washing with sweet words of “thank you,” and “God bless you” spoken in the lyrical Lahu language. Women with towels to dry our hands followed the last of the water pourers and then everyone filed past again to shake our hands.


Paul preached a good message for the church service and we ate in the pastor’s home. The pastor and his wife are proud of their new bamboo home which clings to the side of the mountain. They don’t need pictures. The views from the windows are enough to keep anyone spellbound.

Then we did medicine. The pastor’s wife showed me her toenails that are now free of fungus. The fungicide cream I gave her last time did the job! She was happy, and so was I.

Back home again we went, another Sunday of service for the Lord behind us.

Another small church, Long HKoad came to visit us in the city to honor us with a hand washing ceremony. They brought a huge stalk of bananas and a couple of big pumpkins, as well as some papaya as their gift to us. That church is building a new building, since they lost access to their old one. The church is growing and prospering. God is good!

We made a quick trip to Myanmar this past week. We have to go out of the country and come back at least once every three months to keep our visa current. I always angle for a trip to Laos or Viet Nam, or even a cheap flight to Singapore, but so far we always head to Myanmar, because it is the closest. If we leave by 6:30 a.m., drive the four hours there, cross the border and shop for a couple of hours, and then drive the four hours back, we can make the trip in a day. It’s a rough day, but we can do it. And that’s what we did again this time.

I made a few purchases in Myanmar this time, including an iPhone 7. Well, I’m sure it’s not REALLY an iPhone 7 – or even an iPhone. It cost about one-tenth of the price of a real one. Besides, it takes Android apps. However, I needed a new phone and I wanted the larger size for reading. My dinosaur iPhone 5 is just about dead, and I hated to spend the money on a new one. So, I have a new phone that is functional and LOOKS like an iPhone. Good enough for me!

Yesterday was International Children’s Day, which is celebrated in a big way here in Thailand. Lek took the kids to the big celebration in the park while Paul and I celebrated by keeping our doctors’ appointments. I came off well, with the news that my eyes are still fine. The retina of my bad eye is still well attached and there is no problem showing with my left eye.

Paul didn’t fare so well. The doctor looked at the lesion on his forehead and said, “That’s cancerous. It needs to come off at once.” So he burned it off then and there, along with another suspicious-looking spot. It was painful, but I’m thankful that it is removed already.

Then he had another doctor look at his painful ear.

“What’s that?” the doctor exclaimed. “What is in your ear? It looks very strange.”

She worked to get out the substance in question and at last succeeded. It was a grain of rice. ??!! We can’t imagine how it got there. He did help winnow rice once, but that was three years ago. Surely it couldn’t have hidden there for three years before causing a problem? But how else would rice get in his ear?

Life is full of mysteries! And that’s one thing about our life here. It is never boring!

Paul leaves for preachers’ training in the morning. He is expecting a large group this time, since the Thailand men and those from Laos and Myanmar will meet together this month.

Specifically, please pray: 1) For the translation issues. Everything Paul says will have to go through two translators to cover the languages spoken. 2) That God would give the men eager and attentive hearts. 3) That He would give Paul clear words and illustrations so the men can understand.

And please pray for me as I stay at home with the kids. It’s always hard when Paul has to be gone.   We are earnestly praying for property here so he and Lek don’t have to be gone so much of the time. It would be wonderful to have our own place where we can raise the kids and Paul can teach the preachers. We also are so burdened about the education needs of the Hill Tribes. We have a plan for a school, but must have a place first. Our lease is up in April. If we don’t find a place soon, we will be committed here for another year.

Property is expensive here – very close to what the prices run in Oklahoma. We are thankful that God can, and will, provide in His time. He is good!

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