They say a picture is worth a thousand words and the photos I took at Jon and I’s recent excursion to a Lahu village in Northern Thailand prove it to be true. There are pictures of buildings and animals, dirt roads and dirty shoes which tell us bits and pieces of village life, but the faces that were captured speak volumes. Each face tells a story. So many faces, some smiling, some curious, some dirty, some tired, some bitter, and everyone of them loved by God.
It was my best day in Thailand. I could not help but smile as all the children excitedly ran to our van as we pulled up. They knew we had to come to put on a show and to ultimately give them treats. At the entrance to the small outdoor pavilion mounds of discarded shoes piled high as the children found their places on the floor. The adults came too and mostly stood around the perimeter.
To the audience we were not all strangers. Sure the farangs (foreigners) were unknown but six of the children that came with us had once lived in this very village. For them it was a homecoming. They were excited and a bit scared to be back where life had been so hard. These six children had been destitute. Some living without parental care, and some living in homes where they were in danger. Now these children live at Hope House where they are cared for, educated, and shown the love of Jesus in word and deed.
Our program was all about the love of Jesus. The children from Hope House sang and danced with hearts full of joy which was evident in the smiles that stretched across their faces. In contrast, The audience sat and watched, their faces showing little emotion. As the story of the shepherd and the lost sheep was told I wondered if these children could ever accept that a heavenly father loved them much more than the shepherd loves his sheep. As I looked into their faces I saw that poverty, and hardship are reality and a loving God is fantasy. My heart aches for them to know who my God is. For them to come face to face with Him.
After our program we all helped the children with a quick craft and then passed out treats. We had to keep close track of who had received a treat to prevent them from getting back in line for seconds. Before we could even finish with the children the women of the community pressed in to be the first in line to take from the bags of clothes we had brought. It would be my guess that this is the only way some of these people clothe themselves and their families.
I watched the children leave down the red dirt streets that stretched out in each direction. Both sides were lined with simple bamboo homes. Chickens were free to roam the streets and the few pigs were held in crude pens. I was told that a few of the villagers made a living picking crops for the King’s agricultural project located nearby but the majority were involved in illegal activities. This village is very close to the Burmese boarder which makes it the perfect location for drug trafficking.
When Jon and I got home early that evening, Kevin asked me, “So how was it?” I replied, “My best day in Thailand!” How could it be that my best day in Thailand came being surrounded by such poverty and hardship? It was the faces. Those faces captured my heart. Being with them made my spirit soar. As a watched them I ask the Lord, “How can I be apart of showing them who You are?”
I don’t have the answer to my question yet, but some things are beginning to change. After this school year I will no longer be teaching at Grace International School. I will be joining the Family Connection Foundation (FCF). FCF in an umbrella foundation for multiple ministries all over Thailand. As part of their team I will be able to help their ministries develop discipleship materials. Exactly who these materials will be for remains to be seen, but maybe, just maybe I will get the chance to go back to that village one day. Next year begins a new adventure. I’m not really sure what it will look like but I am excited. My passion is to show the world who God is and who it is He wants them to become. My prayer is one day I will be able to see the joy of knowing God on the faces of those village children.