The end of the year is coming to a close, and our family will be celebrating Christmas in our new house. At the end of August our family made what has become our annual move here in the city of Chiang Mai, Thailand (our fourth home in 4 years). A few promising leads ran dry and we were approaching the end of the month with no house in sight. Finally, we came across a house being rented out by a member of our Burmese Church that was owned by her sister. The house is a nice one, with only one shocking twist, every room in the house was painted pink.
Now if you had suggested to me 10 years ago that I would move into a house painted all in pink, I might have either rolled over in laughter or more realistically curled up in a ball of disgust knowing my tragic ‘fait accompli’ was etched in stone. Now I have a three-year old daughter who unofficially is the ‘princess ball of terror’. Somehow having Eliana makes living in a pink house this Christmas somewhat more endurable. As the year comes to an end, changes are happening for our family in big and small ways. Ewing is half way through first grade, Eliana is in pre-school and had a blast in her Christmas concert and Sinte continues to prepare for her MA TESOL Thesis proposal as well as getting ready for our new baby in April. We’re excited by all of these great blessings.
As for Austin, his doctoral work appears to be coming to a close, with hopes to defend his dissertation work in a couple of months. As he puts the finishing touches on his dissertation, he’s already contemplating some missiology and church history projects for the benefit of churches in Thailand and SE Asia. As a family, we also gave thanks this Christmas season by cooking lunch for the staff at the Archives office at Payap University. They have given Austin so much help over the past four years and have been a great blessing in helping him finish his work. They continue to jokingly call him a staff member as well.
Farthest Corners’ ministry work continues as well. Rakchat was at Happy Home in November where he assisted with the rice harvest at the farm. Our recent 4th Quarter Newsletter gave a good update on these ministries.
In early December, Rakchat and Austin went to visit Hskay village. As always, we’d drop by friends’ homes along the way and see if they’d like to come along. Fortunately, we were able to pick up Tipo in Bung Klung and Somsak in Ley Tah Kuh. I’ve known these young men since they were in high school and now Somsak is the pastor in Ley Tah Kuh after he graduated from McGilvary Seminary a few years ago. The trail to Hskay was a lot more difficult this year than in previous years and was really overgrown, but we found our way and back with a few misadventures along the way including drunk rangers, a motorcycle tour group, a midnight tractor ride and getting separated for a few hours. In truthfulness, a relatively normal trip. Hskay village remains a very strong Buddhist village and all of the Christians there are new believers. When we got there we found a Christian community caring for a blind widow who has been deserted by her family. With the little the Christian community has, they’ve helped build her a small home next to one of their own houses. Two of the elders of the church were also not there as they went on an evangelism trip to another village which has no Christians, but has showed interest in the gospel the last couple of years.
With all the men either gone in their fields or doing evangelism work I was able to spend more time with the women Christians there than I have ever previously. One of the wives of the first Christians in the village shared her own testimony with me. When her husband became a believer she and her children remained adamant in their remaining Buddhists. Often when her husband shared from the Bible about Jesus Christ and the hope he brings, she would only respond by yelling at her husband. One time, when her husband was away from home she took his prized new Bible and burned it. Yet, over time she slowly and surely was won over by her husband’s faithfulness.
Now there are four families in the village who have chosen to become Christian from the witness of this family and they as faithful believers in Jesus Christ are going out and proclaiming the gospel to other villagers. Even with this success there was a tinge of sadness as they shared with me how they desired to see more fruit. They pointed out that in nearby Ley Tah Kuh village, that during the past seven years about 70 villagers have been baptized. Seeing this harvest the Christians in Hskay are somewhat disheartened with their little fruit. Then I shared with them that for over 50 years, evangelism work had been done in Ley Tah Kuh village with no fruit at all. Yet, God was always faithful and called for Christians in the region to continue to visit and bear a faithful witness. We do not know how God will call others to his grace, but we do know we are called to be faithful witnesses. This seemed to encourage them a great deal, but it was their faithfulness and works for God’s glory which truly invigorated me as well.
I hope this story of faithfulness during this Christmas brings encouragement to you as well. I also hope and pray that you too will have the same heart as these Christians in Hskay village who with what little they have, give their very best efforts to show the Kingdom of God has arrived. Merry Christmas to you all!