Saturday, January 28, 2017

Interview With Elisabeth

I'm really excited to bring an extra post to you today.  I had such a fun time sitting down with my friend, Elisabeth Yancy, yesterday and getting her perspective on Stepping Heavenward.

Elisabeth is 16 and a big sister that loves to make homemade pizza for her family.

M: So, tell me a little bit more about yourself. What do you like to do?

E: My number one hobby is to play the piano.I love to listen to classical music. I also really enjoy reading The Hardy Boys.

M: A woman after my own heart, lol. I absolutely had a crush on Joe Hardy.  :-D
Grandma told me that you are such a blessing, playing for their church services. 

So, Elisabeth, is this your first time to read Stepping Heavenward?

E: No, I read it last year.

M: What do you think of Katy at this time in her life? The very first time I read the book, I thought she was a bit much. Too much drama, you know.   

E: I think that she should control her emotions a bit more. I agree with you about the drama, though. It is hard to control myself when I really want something.  Or rather, how I want something done.

And pride gets in the way, too, sadly. When mom says something works and I don't like it until I try and see that it really DOES work, then I don't want to admit that mom was right.

M: haha, that is so true. It always cracks me up when someone describes pride as being a particular trait of their family. The Hudson pride or the Kimball pride. It's Adam's pride and we all inherited it .

It was challenging for me in some ways, growing up in a Sovereign Grace church, because I knew I needed to be saved, but I didn't know how to get there.  It was a real searching time for me. What has been your experience as you seek the Lord?

E: Although this is not in the beginning of the book, I remember when I read it last that Katie was asking Dr. Cabot how to know if she was saved if she didn't know exactly when she was saved, and he said that knowing when is not the point, but just knowing that you are trusting in Christ is more important. That has helped me a lot.

M: Absolutely. The way she describes it in the beginning of the chapter makes so much sense. Since we are dead in our sins and unable to will or exercise any faith, we must depend on Him to provide that first spark of life. That first twinge of conscience, that dread of displeasing an utterly Holy God. These workings of regeneration are the gift of God as much as the faith they later produce.  

My dad used to caution me  not to have faith in my faith. That used to really puzzle me,
E: Yes, that is a good point. I have been reading through Pilgrim's Progress since the new year, and it is amazing to see the deep doctrines of the Bible written for all to understand.
This is changing the subject slightly, but I was thinking about the differences between the 1830's and today. Human nature is, of course always the same. That is why the truths of Christian Classics are always relevant. In what ways do you think today is different than Katie's time and in what ways similar?
E: some servants to load the dishwasher for me would be nice...
M: lol, I get a little jealous whenever I read of them having a cook!
I really appreciate having the opportunity to chat with you 🙂 Do you have any quotes that stood out to you or final thoughts?
E: Yes, it was so sad that her father died. And how at the end of the chapter, she says she would give almost anything to live in a world where nothing painful would happen. I know I would, but I do not have to, because Christ has given Himself for me.
M: Katie's mother displays that same Christian fortitude. It is helpful to know that your loving Father sends only what is needful and is there to help us through every trial. I just read today in Psalm 56:8 that God treasures up our tears in a bottle. I feel awkward around others who are bereaved and hurting. It is so easy to thoughtlessly say something that is even more hurtful, as Katie so vehemently illustrated   
E: It is a comfort to know that God knows every hair on our head and every tear we weep. 
M: Well, a very pleasant hour has sped past. I'm sure you have much to do today. The pictures of the dinners you prepare for your family are always mouthwatering! 
E: I enjoyed chatting with you too. And now I am going to get some pizza started. It is fun to talk to someone older than me.  I really enjoyed our discussion! 
All right, ladies!  If y'all want to jump in and join the discussion, we'll be here all week :-)   

"What is Personal Love of Christ?" - Chapter ll

It's all around us.  We can forget for a measure of time, but it's always there, lurking in a corner of our mind.

When I was a young teenager, I had a surprising amount of anxiety that I kept suppressed.  No one knew that I was terrified of my bedroom wall collapsing over my bed in the middle of the night.  (And this was before our epidemic of weekly earthquakes!)  No one knew that this roller coaster loving gal kept envisioning the entire framework of the Wildcat crashing to the ground, with me mangled in the middle.  I didn't want to acknowledge that I was a 'fraidy cat, to myself or anyone else, so I kept these thoughts of mayhem and murder stuffed way down deep.  But at night, they took on a life of their own.

To the natural mind, it is the end.  To the the reborn mind, it is just the beginning.

None of us would be here without death.  Our very lives are sustained by the deaths of others. 

Animals had to die to supply us with food, leather, and fur. 

 The plants we depend on are caught in a cycle of death, burial, resurrection, reproduction, and harvest. 

Without the heroic sacrifice of our soldiers, we would not have the freedom to sit here and blog in an open forum without fear of persecution.

 Without the deaths of the martyrs, would the Gospel ever have made it to our corner of the world? 

Without the death of the Son of God, we would be yet dead in our sins.

Last week, I asked my friend, Rebekah, what her Word for the Year is.  This is her response:

"My word this year is actually a bit of a rough one. Die. God has been teaching me that it is mine to lay down my rights, dreams, and expectations to die to myself so that I can truly live in Him."

It's kind of ironic.  My Word of the Year is Grow.  But I was wanting to grow without dying.  This is what Jesus has to say about that:

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a (kernel) of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." John 12:24

There has to be a death before there can be life.  Christ's death has secured our eternal life! 

 Katy is wondering if she truly loves the Lord.  She wants to, but being honest with herself is frightening.  She writes, 

"I tried once more, this morning, as it is the first day of the year, to force myself to to begin to love God.  I want to do it; I know I ought to do it; but I cannot.  Every day now I go through the form of saying something that I pass off as praying.  But I take no pleasure in it, as good people say they do..."

  Her pastor gives her hope, however that perhaps her love is a newborn thing,

" . . . something as new and as tender and perhaps as unobserved as the tiny point of green that, forcing its way through the earth, is yet unconscious of its own existence but promises a thrifty plant."

Katy is very naturally looking to her feelings to see what they can tell her.  But our feelings are so up and down.  So very changeable.  You cannot accurately judging anything by your feelings.  As Dr Cabot puts it,

"You cannot prove to yourself that you love God by examining your feelings toward Him.  They are indefinite and they fluctuate.  But just as far as you obey Him, just so far, depend upon it, you love Him."

And to get to this place of surrender and obedience requires death.  Giving up your own will and submitting to Christ's will as supreme.

It's the one thing Katy doesn't want to do.  She stubbornly professes that she much prefers to be miserable,

"Why shouldn't I brood over this sorrow?  I like to brood over it; I like to think how wretched I am; I like to have long, furious fits of crying, lying on my face on my bed."

She does not understand how her mother can be so patient in the face of crushing loss, and miserable comforters to boot.  She can not comprehend what there is to look forward to in Heaven.  She does not know her mother's secret.

"Oh, my darling Katy!  What you need is such a living, personal love of Christ to make the thought of being where He is so delightful as to fill your mind with the single thought!"

"What is 'personal love of Christ?' "

This is the question I want us to ponder this next week, what is personal love of Christ?  What does it look like?  What does it mean?  How does it change us?

No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life's first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
Till He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand

Saturday, January 21, 2017

"All My Resolutions Fail" - Chapter I

"How dreadfully old I'm getting!  Sixteen!"

Thus begins a young woman's journal.  With all the optimism and despair of youth, Katie sits down to take stock of where she is at and where she would like to be.  I find it ever so interesting that this fictitious journal begins in January with resolutions galore.  I don't know if New Year's resolutions were the fashion in 1869, when this volume was first published, but they certainly are today.  Human nature, ever the same, is always uncomfortably aware that it has been weighed in the balances and found wanting.  Katie too is laboring under a heavy load of guilt.  She has started journals before, only to give them up because she could not bear the person that they revealed.  She has the undeveloped elements of a fine character, but lacks self control and discretion.  She longs to be praised and admired.  Her list of lofty resolutions are driven by the desire to surprise her acquaintances by how noble and self sacrificing she has become.

I see myself reflected here.

If only I can come up with the perfect set of resolutions.  Change my behavior.  Exercise more willpower.  All my problems stem from my circumstances.  It's other people, getting in my way.  If my kids would just obey.  If my husband would just understand.  If the house would just stay clean.  If my coffee cup would just stay full.  Then things would be different.  Then I could be happy.

"We are all very happy together when nothing goes wrong."

Unfortunately, even when things go perfectly right, (which is rare!)  we can never be perfectly happy so long as we are living for ourselves and in our own power.

"But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth." 1 Timothy 5:6

Katie wants to be good, but is afraid of the cost.  She hopes that the course of forty or fifty years will fit her for Heaven, but she wants to have a jolly good time meanwhile.  I underlined these words in my copy:

"I wish I loved Him better.  but, oh, I am not sure I do love Him!  I hate to own it to myself and to write it down here, but I will.  I do not love to pray.  I am always eager to get it over with and out of the way so as to have leisure to enjoy myself . . .  I wish I knew whether anybody exactly as bad as I am ever got to heaven at last?"

This was exactly the fears that plagued me as a young teenager.  I knew I ought to love God and enjoy prayer and worship.  Especially since I had made a profession of faith and been baptized!  But when I was honest with myself, I knew this was not the case.  So, like Katie, I tried desperately hard to reform myself.

Today I am secure in my standing with God.  I know that I am my Beloved's and He is mine.  I thank God for His gracious work of salvation and sanctification in my heart.  It is my hope and prayer as we take this journey together that everyone of us will finish this book with the same hope and confidence.  My second aim, and this speaks more to where I am at today, is that I will learn to let God work in my daily sanctification.  He is so kind and so wise.  I can trust Him to bring me along to where He wants me to be.

"He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? 
 Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth." Romans 8:32-33

"According as His divine power has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue." 2 Peter 1:3

Rejoice!  We are not in this alone.  It does not depend on our noblest resolutions or our best frame of mind.  We have been called to glory and virtue.

"Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it." 1 Thessalonians 5:24

As Katie's wise mother admonishes her,

" I wish I could make you see that God is just as willing and just as able to sanctify as He is to redeem us  It would save you so much weary, disappointing work.  But God has opened my eyes at last . . . If you only knew the strength, and the light, and the joy you might have for the simple asking.  God attaches no conditions to His gifts.  He only says, 'Ask!' "

Thank God for failed resolutions!   It is only an acute sense of our failures that drives us to the only Solution, to our great Promise Kept.

So, what are you laboring under?  What do you have need to ask for? 

 I'm asking for peace and joy in the center of God's obvious will for me.  I'm asking for wisdom to be faithful with the resources that God has given me.  I'm asking for strength to make a happy home for my family, and to be okay when my dreams of perfection meet up with reality.

What are your thoughts from this chapter?  Where do you identify with Katie?  Have you ever been in her shoes?  What about the mother?  Have you any thoughts or stories about your own experiences as a mother or with your mother? 

What about the resolutions?  I found four official resolutions with at least two more "determinations".  Can you list them?  Are there any I missed? 

Resolutions are not at all bad, they can be very useful.  Have you made any this year?  How are they going so far?

I'm new to this book club thing, but hopefully we are off to a good start.  I'm excited to interview a few guests for next weeks post!  

To join in the conversation, just leave your thoughts in the comments section below.  I'll be checking in throughout the day to facilitate a mostly-in-real-time-discussion :-D

If for some reason you cannot post here, you can let me know over at my Facebook page, Chores of Opportunity

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Announcing: Grace and Glory Book Club!

I've hit the January doldrums. 

The Christmas sugar high has worn off.

My New Year's resolutions are already tarnished.

The kids have been sick, off and on ever since Christmas.  I, myself have been feeling under the weather for just about as long.  As I sipped ginger tea this morning and stared into the grey, drizzly abyss, I wondered what I could do to pull myself out of this funk?  My old standbys are not reliable or trustworthy anymore.  

Take one part Schedule Overhaul, mix with equal parts Fresh Diet and More Exercise.  Stir together with Brisk Determination, pop into the oven of Real Life and Pray Desperately while it stews, uh, bakes.  Eat at your own risk.

But this year, I don't have any Brisk Determination.  My "get up and go" got up and jumped in a lake.  Diet is an extremely iffy proposition, just thinking about food makes me sick.  If I don't eat enough, I get sick.  If I eat too much, I get sick.  What sounds good today is repulsive tomorrow.  Yes, bread is more of a broken reed than the staff of life.

Because of the nausea, everything else is more difficult, hence Schedule Overhaul is well nigh impossible.  I just can't predict what's going to work from day to day.  And that leaves me feeling anxious and unmotivated.

Pray Desperately is about the only thing left.  And that's what I was doing this morning.  My thoughts turned to uplifting books.  Which book should I read next?  I need something that will encourage, challenge, entertain and inspire.  Stepping Heavenward immediately came to mind.  I love that book!  I have read it more times than I can count.  And yet, I get something new out of it every time.  The only thing that would make reading this book for the umpteenth time even better would be if I could share the experience with all my friends!

So, this is what I propose: A Book Club!  We could all read Stepping Heavenward together and share our thoughts and insights in the comments section.  I could interview some of you ladies that are in various stages of their Christian walk and different seasons of life.  I have several guest bloggers picked out that could bring a fresh voice.  I'm really getting excited!

Here is the basic plot: Katie is given a journal for her 16th birthday.  She opens her journal on January 15, 1831 with ever so many good resolutions (made while snug and warm in bed).  Of course, she spends so much time with her noble and exalted plans, she utterly loses track of time, is late for breakfast, misses morning prayers and rushes off to school without wearing her warm boots in direct defiance of her mother.  You are just going to have to get your own book to find out what happens next!  

The cover pronounces it, "One Woman's Journey to Godliness".  But it is in no way stuffy or preachy.  I find it completely relatable.  Whether you are a teenager, single woman serving God, engaged, newlywed, mother or beloved mentor, there is something in here for you.  Along the way you will laugh, shake your head and wipe away a few tears.  You will recognize yourself, both the person you once were and the one you long to be.  And let me speak a few words to the guys, or rather, I'll let Elisabeth Elliot do it:

"This book is a treasure of both godly and womanly wisdom told with disarming candor and humility, yet revealing a deep heart's desire to know God.  We need such intimate accounts, need them desperately when the word commitment is so little understood and so seldom practiced.  I do not hesitate to recommend it to men, who need to better understand the wives they live with, and to any woman who wants to walk with God."

   So there you have it, something for every one!

If you are in, let me know by leaving a comment here or on my Facebook page.  It will be helpful for me to know I'm not in this on my own.  If I have participators that will hold me accountable, then I will be more likely to see this project through.

We will read one chapter a week, beginning today.  On Saturdays I will post my thoughts and open discussion.  If you haven't already, follow me on Facebook under Chores of Opportunity for further discussion.  You can purchase the book online at any discount book site or as a Kindle download.
You can get it here.

Chapter 1

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Why I Went and What I Learned

This is the post I have been avoiding writing.  It remains as one of the last things standing between Life in Thailand and returning fully to Life in Tulsa.  It's like finding sand from your last vacation in the bottom of your beach bag.  It's like looking down at your pitifully chipped toe nails and refusing to remove the remnants of your wedding pedicure.

I still have the toe nail polish that was applied in Thailand.  It's a faded purple.  I'm not taking it off, not just yet.

Another reason that I have been putting off writing is that words fail me.  I want to be able to convey adequately all that the Hill Tribes Mission encompasses.  It's a multifaceted ministry that reaches an untold number of tribal people in at least three different countries.  Children are being given hope.  Pastors are receiving training and education with no strings attached.  Mothers have a place to turn for desperately needed medication for their toddlers.  Everyone in the Brown's path is given the gift of love.

It was with trepidation that I first broke the news to my circle of friends and family that Robert and I would be spending three weeks in northern Thailand with Paul and Susan Brown.  Everyone had the same question, "What are you going to be doing there?"

Well, that's a mighty fine question.  I didn't want to go as a tourist, sapping our hosts of time and resources.  Some of my friends had gone over there to teach Vacation Bible School.  Others to provide crucial dental and pharmaceutical services.  Robert was going to preach in the villages and attend preacher training.  But what could I do?

I can check "trekking through a rice paddy" off my Bucket List!

 As I packed and prayed, the idea took shape and form.  I was going to observe.  To take it all in.  To get to know the mission.  To look for ways that the churches back home can serve.  To be an ambassador, perhaps?  And last, but in no ways least, to reconnect with some very dear friends.  The Brown's are very much a part of my family's heritage.  Bro. Paul knew my great grandparents, Sis. Susan taught my mother in Sunday School.  My parents met in that church and so did Robert and I.  We have over forty years of shared history, all wrapped up in the people and doings of Sherwood Baptist Church.

I didn't realize how much I missed everyone.

 But, things change.  People change.  Life trajectories change.  God never changes.  And that really is the story of Paul and Susan Brown.

  My teenage years at Sherwood were exciting times.  As a church we were experiencing growth, new directions with ministries, taking on new missionaries and meeting new pastors.  One of our most exciting new mission fields was in Northern Thailand.  There was a native missionary there who ran a children's home and ministered to the hill tribes.  Bro. Paul and Sis. Susan began making regular visits to this ministry.  They would come back with strange tales of tribes I had never heard of before with exotic names such as Lahu, Lisu and Akha.  These people lived in bamboo huts and worshiped spirits.  When villagers would come to Christ, they would burn their spirit houses and cut off the symbolic string bracelets that bound them to the spirits.  It sounded like one of those illustrated missionary stories that Sis. Susan used to read in Sunday School.

The mayor of Pasak 2

Over a period of ten years, God put it in both the Brown's hearts that He was calling them to Thailand to live.  Forever.  No turning back.  And so they went. They were excited about the opportunities, but there was a little niggling concern in the back of their minds.  Something wasn't quite right.

It didn't take long before it became obvious that there were problems.  Dreadful problems.  The man that was their only interpreter, the man who had put on such a good show of love and concern for orphaned children was actually a low life con man.

The tribal people of Thailand are for all practical purposes undocumented immigrants.  Traditionally semi nomadic, these tribes are relatively new arrivals to the jungles and mountains in and around northern Thailand, Burma, and Laos.  Most of these tribes originated in China and slowly immigrated into the region during the 1800's.  They wandered back and forth, viewing the Mekong River as a highway, not a boundary.  Since the borders were fluid and national identity was based on common language and culture, this wasn't too much of a problem.  But in today's modern world, it just doesn't work.  What has happened is that these indigenous people are living without the benefits or protections of national citizenship.  They can become Thai citizens, but it requires a lot of paperwork.  Paperwork that isn't always available in these remote areas.  Many people don't have a birth certificate and don't even know their birthday.  New Year's Day has become the favorite adopted birthday to those who are unsure.

If you are not a Thai citizen, you cannot own land.  But, you have to be connected to a legally owned piece of property to become a citizen.  Holding a job is difficult.  We saw many motorcycles with no tail lights.  Our interpreter, Lek, said it is to keep from drawing attention from the police because they have no license.  So, they just zoom around the mountains in the dark with no tail lights. When you have no official status, when you cannot speak the language of your home country, when there is corruption in the local governments, you are easy prey.

There are many unscrupulous people who take advantage of the villagers however they can.  There are organized crime rings and Godfather type kingpins.  One of these men was to become a particular thorn in the side to the Browns.  He put on a good show, but that's all that it was.

When the Browns moved to Thailand, trouble began almost immediately. They were quickly forced to leave their erstwhile partner and sole translator along with all their contacts, not to mention their home.  They were starting from scratch. 

But, God!

Praise the Lord for those two little words, for they change everything.  God was in control all along.  His plans are always perfect and right on time.  Mr. Con thought that he had gotten rid of two meddling Americans, but he didn't realize that God was the One writing this story.

One day, Bro. Paul went to seek the aid of a lawyer in town.  As he sat in the waiting room, he struck up a conversation with a man named Moses.  Moses was a Sovereign Grace Baptist Lahu!  Even better, he had a son that was fluent in Thai and English and worked as a translator.  And just like that, things started to turn around for the Browns and their ministry.

Faithful Lek

Now that they had a trusted translator, they were able to start the painstaking work of starting from scratch.  The ministry they thought they were building on had a rotten foundation.  Now they could start over, building on the good news of Christ, not a man's perverted quest for power.

They moved out of the hotel and into a rented home.  Bro. Paul and Lek spent months combing the mountains, searching for the children that Mr. Con had scattered about.  This task was doubly hard because of the lies that were spread about.  Many people distrusted Bro. Paul and were afraid to incur the wrath of the Kingpin, particularly since he legally controlled much of their land.  It has taken several years to overcome this, but gradually people are beginning to see the truth.  Bro. Paul and Sis. Susan truly love them.  They want nothing more than serve.  They ask for nothing, they take nothing.  And it's bearing fruit!

Moses' rents his land near the northern border to Bro Paul as a training camp for village pastors.  Every other week one of two classes assembles for a week of instruction.  The groups are divided by language.  The Lahu speaking group hails from Burma, Laos and certain Thai villages.  The Lisu group is mainly from Thailand.  Sometimes the Laotian and Burmese men have trouble at the border.  The officials are suspicious as to why they are traveling back and forth so much.  Every now and then, they will be denied access.  The men would much rather slip across the border unofficially, like they used to.  But Bro. Paul insists on doing things legally.  Crazy American!      

The pastors are also farmers, with leg muscles that any American gym rat would envy.  Farming slopes greater than 40 degrees will do that to you.  Any slope greater than 30 degrees is "owned" by the government, which means the indigenous people can unofficially work it.  The land is cleared and furrowed by hand.  There are scarcely any terraces.  I imagine they work clinging to the hillside to keep from rolling off.

The set up of Preachers Camp is simple.  It is mostly contained in what we might call a garage.  There is a large covered area in the center that corresponds to a carport.  It is open on both ends.  This is the dining hall.  There are several folding tables, a water dispenser with cold and hot water and an outdoor sink where all the dishes are washed.

 On one side of the mess hall is an enclosed classroom/dormitory.   Each man rolls up his bed mat and brings it with him.  During the day the mats are stacked in a corner while class is held.  Bro. Paul teaches at a white board while Lek translates.  A single fan stirs the air.  Coffee cups, notebooks and pens mark the spot where each scholar sits at the white folding tables.  This is also where Sis. Brown hold English class in the afternoons.  There are scarcely any books written in the Lahu language.  It would take decades to translate the Christian Classics that we all take for granted.  It is much simpler to teach the men English.  In this way, a whole world will open for them.  A world of study, but also a gateway into the modern world of business.  No longer will they be at the mercy of mercenaries, simply because they cannot speak a common language of commerce.

On the other side of the mess hall is the chapel, kitchen and living quarters for Moses and his wife.  Each room is separate from the others with a door that opens to the covered area.  The ladies, Moses' wife, daughter and daughter in law, cook three meals a day for up to thirty men in a simple kitchen.  It is truly astounding all that they turn out.  They must be exhausted by the end of the day.

At the other end of the property is a Children's Home.  The children live in a block building with small rooms, again each room opens to the outside, somewhat like a small motel.  Their caretakers live in a bamboo hut next door.  At the back of the property is a modern, Western style home, built by Nazarene missionaries.  Since they cannot buy land, they rented the space from Moses.  As they have moved, the house was open for the Browns and us to stay in during our visit.  One of my most poignant memories is sitting just behind that house on a misty morning, coffee in hand, overlooking a pond.  The men back in their dorm were singing, "He Leadeth Me" in Lahu.  The sound floated through the mist with a thrilling clarity.  It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever heard.  Truly, our Shepherd is faithful to lead His sheep, all over the world.  That afternoon, the pastors rolled up their bed mats and headed home to their own congregations.  I have heard that one of the Burmese pastors has a flock of hundreds.  What an opportunity for just a handful of laborers to train pastors that will reach potentially thousands of souls in South East Asia!

Training is just one facet of this ministry.  Another huge component is visiting each church and it's village.  Nearly every weekend of the month, the Brown's are bumping and jostling their way to another church.  You can see the urgency Bro. Paul's eyes, hear it in his voice.

"I haven't been able to get to Hoe Dua for some time because the roads have been impassable.  I really need to go see them.  They need encouragement."

The fabled road to Canaan. Someday I want to go down this road!

As always, Bro. Paul brings an encouraging message for the congregation, Sis. Susan brings medicine for the entire village.  These villages are remote, getting to a doctor is the first difficulty.  Communicating with the doctor is the second.  Paying for the doctor is the third.  The medicines are simple, over the counter remedies, often homeopathic.  Susan fusses over the children with the concern of a grandmother.

"I can see he has an ear infection, so I'm going to give you antibiotics for him.  I can't give it to the girl, she's not sick with a fever.  Antibiotics are only for those with infections  Here are some vitamins.  These are not candy.  You will get sick if you eat them all at once."

She has stopped giving out multivitamins, precisely because she was concerned that they were being consumed like candy.  As I helped her pass out the vitamin C drops, I could see why that was a concern.  Little boys appeared out of the woodwork, grimy hands outstretched, hoping for a bag of yellow lozenges.

"My throat hurts!"

Uh-huh.  Soap and soothing lozenges follow the vitamins.  They pause to fold their hands and dip their heads in thanks before skipping off to munch the C drops.

"Only eat one a day!" I call after them.

 The older people suffer from aching joints, fungal skin infections, high blood pressure.  Susan does what she can and advises the rest to visit a doctor.  It's unlikely that any of them will actually do that, though.  The real healing power at work here is the love of God.

The final major component to the Brown's work here is the raising of the children they have rescued from their abusive "Children's Home".  They managed to recover seven young people, mostly preteens and early teenagers.  Two young men are old enough to attend technical school.  Recently they were able to add another girl, the same age as Molly.  That brings the total to 2 helpers, 4 boys and 2 girls.  The Browns have been blessed with a home in a nice neighborhood that suits their current needs perfectly.  To satisfy the legal demands of fostering children, boys need to sleep in a separate house from the girls.  This rental property comes with one large, Western style house and a smaller house next door!  All Susan has to do to summon the boys for their meals is ring a bell out the kitchen window.  Of course, more often than not the smaller boys are already over at the big house, watching TV, playing soccer with Grandpa, doing homework.

Grandma and Grandpa, as the children call them, are truly raising their second family.  They love these children as their own and treat them as their own.  Susan expressed to me her determination that no one would ever look at her children and say, "Oh, those poor orphan children."   She related how that the principal at their school was reluctant to enroll them.

"Village children don't do well here," he said.  "They don't fit in, they steal because they don't have spending money."

As you can imagine, Susan was not about to let a little thing like that deter her.  She stands by the door every morning as the kids rush to the pick-up van and hands them each their spending  money for the day.  The children are always well dressed.  She and Bro Paul takes them on outings and gives them birthday parties.  She teaches English in the evenings, after dinner.  Bro. Paul conducts family worship before bedtime.  One of my favorite memories with the kids was in the family room, during devotions.  As Bro. Paul was earnestly urging the children to guard their eyes and ears from evil, a pair of plastic handcuffs dangled from one wrist, snapped on surreptitiously by a mischievous imp named Danny.

Most of these children are not true orphans.  Some of them have parents in jail or who are otherwise incapacitated.  Many were being raised by family members.  Jan is the only child who was not from the dysfunctional Children's Home.  Her tale is heartbreakingly common and one that is of special concern to Sis. Susan.  A bright girl of 13 who loved school, her family could no longer afford to send her to school.  She was pulled out and was to join her family working the fields until she could be married off.  Of course, this situation was not ideal and would have been the end of any opportunity for her to get an education.  Her family contacted the Browns, to see if they had room for her.  In God's gracious providence, they had one last spot open and Jan was just the sort of girl they were looking for.

This is the vision Susan has for the future of their children's home.  As they fulfill the legal obligations (something their former partner studiously avoided) they hope to be cleared to have up to twenty children to raise and educate.  There are so many needs, so many orphaned and abandoned children.  They can't reach them all.  They can't rescue them all.  But what can be done is to take steps to clear a path for a brighter future for all of them.  Young people who speak Lahu (and other tribal languages) and understand the unique culture, raised in a loving home with the opportunity to learn Thai and English, get Thai citizenship, be educated and (Lord willing) be saved and instilled with a strong sense of mission; what a force for good these young people can be for the future of their people!

As I look back on the weeks I spent, getting to know the ministry and mission of the Browns, I am so thankful for this opportunity.  Beside the adventurous thrill of hiking beside jungle waterfalls, riding elephants bareback and speeding down the river in a longtailed boat (we did do some touristy things after all!) the true excitement and joy came from hearing beloved hymns sung in a strange tongue, prayers offered from the heart, unintelligible to me, but precious before the throne of Grace, looking into a brown and wrinkled face and recognizing a kinswoman of the soul.

These impressions will stay with me always.  I will forever have an interest in South East Asia and the tribal villages in general.

 I will remember and pray for Preston, William, Andy, Jay, Bang, Danny, Molly and Jan in particular.

To know and tell the stories of . . .
The Lahu cook with her Lisu husband who deliver hot meals on the back of a motorcycle, 
The firebrand native evangelist who is making inroads into the unreached villages, 
The Grandpa who is up at 3 a.m. praying for those under his care, 
The Grandma who crochets year round in order to have Thanksgiving presents for over two hundred village children,

This is why I went to Thailand.