I sit barefoot in a bamboo hut in rural Thailand. My sandals lay at the foot of the six-rung wooden ladder at the home’s entrance. It’s the close of another Thai day.
Smoke wafts into this center space of the home as the family prepares dinner. The open fire pit glows off to the right in the kitchen area. Pots and pans clang. Pigs and piglets grunt and root under me below the hut. Chicks scurry to keep up with the mama hen… cheep, cheep, cheeping. Dogs bark and scrap with each other. It’s a cacophony of sound.
Three families opened their homes to our team. We are here to serve the village for three days. Our team is partnering with local translators to host trainings and children’s ministry.
Women, Men, and Children
I will lead two sessions of the women’s trainings. Today I taught about three women in the Bible and how God worked through them for His Kingdom’s purposes. Sinte and Paw Lah interpreted and helped clarify my teachings into Burmese and then into the Karen (pronounced “ka-rin“) language. We then divided into three groups to encourage the ladies to discuss the lesson.
The small group discussions proved to be a new experience for the women in our training. We laughed together and enjoyed each other’s stories. These ladies have had varied and difficult lives. They work hard every day in their rural, isolated lives. Most in this village are from Burma or have immediate family in Burma. Some are refugees, some economically displaced, and some are here by marriage. Some of their husbands struggle with alcohol or with beetle nut chew addictions (which stains their teeth red then black). All of them live off the land.
Two of our team members (Pastor Rob and Austin) led training today for the local pastors and evangelists. They came from eleven different villages. One man walked six hours to participate in the training. It’s amazing to see their hunger for the Bible and their desire to share the gospel.
Four of our team members (Dave, Dick, Jeff, and Mark) along with several translators went to the school today to work with the children. They helped the children with English, played fun games, and taught Bible stories. Many children came to hear about Jesus for the first time!
It’s Dinner Time in the Thai Hut
A gentle breeze blows smoke out of the kitchen area again. The hot afternoon temperatures are gradually cooling down. The open-wall buildings allowed the air to move through and make for comfortable teaching places during the day. But at night, they offer no protection from the 40 degree temperatures. Brrrr…. I will wear my fuzzy socks and use at least three blankets tonight!
The oldest daughter begins to prepare the room for dinner. She clears and sweeps the floor. I glance away just a moment and she and Sinte have already brought out several bowls of rice. More follow until bowls for each of us frame out our eating space. In between, they place bowls of a chicken soup with scallions, pork in a spicy broth, cooked fern fronds, boiled curried eggs, small bowls of light-up-your-mouth red pepper sauce, and more rice. Through a gracious bow and warm smile, we understand that all is ready. We stumble through our “dablues” (“thank you” in Karen) and make our way to a bowl of rice. One of our team members prays a blessing of thanksgiving to the Lord for the bounteous meal.
I sit (on the floor) and start reaching for the chicken and veggies to add to my rice. But I am not flexible enough to reach. I roll up onto my knees. Success. Chicken in hand. Pass the chicken. Rest back on my knees. Add boiled egg. Yum! Cut up egg and mix my bowl with the cool spoon. Argh…my feet are going to sleep. Bowl down. Re-fold legs into criss-cross apple sauce. Add some fern and pork. The flavors blend and create a delicious meal. Owwww…my ankles hurt. So distracting! I re-fold my legs to the side. Our team talks through the day and the ways that we experienced God’s presence throughout the hours of ministry. Ugh…my bum is numb. Time to shift (again). I lean back on the massive pole in the center of the hut and extend my legs. I do NOT know how our Thai friends sit for hours with folded legs. My bones and muscles are far from flexible!!
Our gracious hosts do not eat with us. Yet they are most attentive to us. When any bowl approaches empty they refill it so our options overflow throughout the meal. We recline a bit more to consider plans for tomorrow. Another new village and new ministry opportunities await. It’s about 7:30 pm. The sun has gone down and village life has slowed down. Time for bed (yes, really!).
Preparing for Bed
I spread my mat and blankets. String up my mosquito net and pull out tomorrow’s clothes. With toilet paper in hand and head lamp on my forehead, I descend the hut’s ladder to make a final visit to the squat toilet. I pause to one-handedly put on my shoes, then cautiously walk around back. No snakes or bugs around. Thank you, Lord!
Ooh, dear, I forgot to bring my toothbrush and toothpaste. Hmmm…one moment to ponder this dilemma. The decision: no tooth brushing tonight.
Back under my mosquito net, I prop my Bible and journal on my knees (still no chairs). Reflections and prayer for the day pour onto my journal pages: rejoice in the unity and partnership with our translators, prayer for a blind woman, two new people in God’s Kingdom, many gospel seeds planted, lengthy conversations budding new relationships, children’s laughter and joy, our hurting hearts for the darkness of animist worship, deep concern for young girls’ futures, the daily hardships in the isolated villages, and more…
A tender song gently steps into my prayer. Our interpreter for the women’s training, Paw Lah, is closing her day, too. Her mosquito net tent is next to mine. I recognize the ever so softly sung tune of the Doxology. The words are in the Karen language. She continues into another song of praise and prayer. Although it’s a language I do not understand, I can still recognize the name of Jesus and Amen.
Knowing that the roosters start crowing by 4am, I close my eyes. A peace that passes all understanding swells within my heart and soul and mind. Thank you, Lord Jesus. All is well.