The smaller children crowded around the table, their eyes focused on the picture I was holding and listening with rapt attention to the story. I loved it! Every week I try to record a story in English for the Villandry’s Sunday School. With their children and foster children plus the children of our secretary, Pann, they have a good group. I record it in English and Mali translates into Thai as we go. I am happy to do it, but it is certainly more fun to teach in person, looking at the faces and gauging their responses. We had a great time with their children and a couple of our younger ones in Sunday School when they visited us recently.
It had been a long time since we have been able to have visitors. We’ve been under Covid restrictions forever, it seems. As soon as the government began to relax the rules a little, another wave of the disease would hit. We have been shut out from the villages and forbidden to have groups here at the mission. Finally, that has begun to change, and the new rules have allowed us to travel and host guests.
First, we enjoyed a visit from the Villandry family and the guys from their Bible Institute. They had been more “penned up” in Chiang Mai than we have been here. Our guys have had much more freedom to come and go in our small town of Mae Ai. Their ministry in the city has been forced by government regulations to stay put at home. The teaching continued, but the guys weren’t allowed out for much recreation time, except for soccer at a small local park. We were happy to have them visit us, and we packed as much fun stuff into the schedule as we could. They went fishing at the pond and swimming in the river and played lots of soccer. In spare moments they sang, played board games and ping pong, and just enjoyed hanging out with our boys, who are close to them in age. We were happy for the opportunity to get acquainted with their students and glad they were able to make friends with our guys.
Sunday services were a blessing as we doubled our attendance and had numerous special songs from the Villandrys' group and ours. Paul preached a good message, as usual, and William translated into Thai for him.
We’ve missed the Villandrys since they left to start their own mission, but we can see God’s hand in the fruitful ministry He has given them. They have a fine group of young men – and Matt and Brittany are certainly busy serving with all their time and energy!
Next Da came to visit us. She is Jay’s sister and has been like another daughter to us. We enjoyed having her with us for a couple of days to help celebrate Jay’s birthday. He is 18 now and will be leaving us in a few months to go to the university. He wants to be a math teacher, and we think he will be a good one. He loves math and has shown he has teaching potential by his help to me in the learning center.
The greatest joy was welcoming the preachers back to the preachers’ training. Paul has only been able to host them sporadically because of the changing rules. Twenty men came in September and he had a prosperous and blessed session with them.
At the end of September, our boys took their semester tests at the Thai informal school. For many it was their first experience with testing there, so they were a bit nervous. We haven’t heard the scores yet and are hoping they all did well.
Tests over, it was break time. The boys went home to the mountains for three weeks and will be helping their families bring in the crops. Paul and I had hoped to make a trip to America during the break. We haven’t been back in 3 ½ years – long enough for many of our grandkids to grow from pre-teens to full-fledged teenagers. However, the school break came too early and the Covid vaccinations too late. We have our vaccine passports now, but there just wasn’t time to buy tickets and arrange for the trip. Perhaps we’ll make it during the longer summer break in April and May.
September was busy and blessed, and October has been even more so! But I will save that for the next blog coming up in a couple of weeks. I hope to keep caught up on blogging in the future. In the meantime, you can check in on us at our new Facebook page, Grace to Thailand. This work is not ours alone, but that of all those who give and who pray so that we can continue serving here. I want to keep everyone posted about what we are doing, and even more important, what God is doing here in Thailand. He is good!