Once a month, I have been trying to get to different Akha villages over the course of a weekend to visit and encourage the women.There is a team of three of us that go—Judy Cook, an English Baptist nurse; Som, an Akha Bible school intern; and myself.At each place that we have visited, I have been touched by the evidence of ministries that have preceded us.
A couple of months ago we made our way down to Mesuay (about an hour south), and then cut up into the mountains for another hour and a half.The road was rutted, rocky, narrow, and SCARY sometimes.Our 4-wheel drive truck (provided by IM) was much appreciated!I didn't know enough to be worried about the rainy season before I went, but understood much better after the trip there and back!We literally prayed that it would not rain for those two days, and were thankful that, indeed, it did not.
We were visiting the village of Ban Hok with Miju, a young woman from the New Life Center.When we arrived, we discovered that there were no bathrooms, running water or electricity.It was quite a humbling experience to sit down on the floor for dinner by candlelight and be joined around the tables by members of the four Christian families in the village.They have built a small church at the top of the mountain, so we walked up there early on Sunday morning.As I began to make my way, two young women ran up to me, and I recognized them as two of the girls I had taught at the New Life Center.They took my hands to help me make the climb!It was so wonderful to see them and to be reminded again of the wonderful work that has been done by the New Life Center and people like Lauren Bethel and Karen Smith.(The New Life Center has provided care and education for hill tribe girls at risk for about 20 years now.)As we worshipped together, we sang from the hymnbooks and read from the Bible, as translated by Paul Lewis, one of our early American Baptist missionaries.He took an oral language and put it into a written form, making the gospel much more accessible to many more people, and making the discipleship of new Christians much easier.
Miju, with whom we were visiting, first came to the New Life Center against the wishes of her family because she wanted an education so badly.Her older sister wanted her to join her in Pattaya, basically in the sex trade, to help make money to send home to her parents; they have 9 children in all.Miju is a strong Christian and, although she was only 16 at the time, she helped teach Sunday School and even preached when the pastor couldn't come.She felt strongly that she did not want that way of life, although she felt that she also needed to help support her family, and certainly, did not want to drain them of more expenses.The New Life Center staff was impressed by her and admitted her to the NLC in 2001 so that she could complete her education.Now, in October of 2004, she is a first year student at Payao Bible School through a scholarship for continuing education from the NLC, and is also receiving support for her additional expenses from a couple and church in Ohio.
The next morning, on our way down from Ban Hok Village, we stopped at Pangluang Village for lunch.The families gathered around and talked about their problems and concerns, primarily issues of citizenship and economics.From that discussion, they now have some coffee trees growing, which hopefully will produce coffee within three years to help with their inability to access other income, due to their distance from any major center of industry and because the village is so inaccessible for much of the year due to the rains.The coffee trees were paid for by monies sent to us by a church in the US as a specific gift for our work.This will help the long-term viability of this village.
They also talked about the neighboring village of BaBo where an evangelist friend of ours, Sala Amaw, is currently serving.There have been a good number of people come to Christ, and there is now the need for a church.We were able to match this need up with the desire of a group of students from one of our Baptist universities in Japan (Kanto Gakuin) to come and do a work project here in February.Early next year, they will come and spend 4 days in the village, working alongside the villagers to build a simple church and a bathroom.How amazing that the American Baptist missionary efforts in Japan to provide Christian education back in the 1800's have borne fruit and have extended to the mountains of Thailand!
It is through the support of so many American Baptist churches and individuals over the course of the last 180 years that we see so many evidences of God's Spirit at work in these various areas.Through your prayer support and your financial gifts given through the World Mission Offering, you make it possible for us to be God's hands and feet in this needy place…you make it possible for people to have a church in which to worship…you make it possible for young women to have an education in a safe environment…you make it possible for people to have a written language in which to read the Bible and sing hymns of praise to God…you make it possible for young men and women to study the Bible and prepare for a life of Christian service…and so much more.At this time when giving is generally down, we encourage you to give generously to the World Mission Offering in order that these and many other ministries can continue in His name.
If you have been prayer partners with us or financially supporting the work of American Baptist Churches International Ministries, we thank you and ask you to continue doing so.If you have not, we can't say enough about how much we see the impact those things have had on the people and ministries around us.May God bless you and the ministries you represent!
In Christ's Love,