Hello, everyone. It seems like forever since I last wrote to you or talked to you. And so much has happened. So this will be a long letter.
First of all, an apology to Banyat’s brother. I spelled his name Bardit in my last letter, but it is Bradit. He was so gracious to us during our visit to Chiang Mai. And I’m still learning how to pronounce and to “spell” Thai names. Not all of them translate easily to English.
The arrival of our team from Central Christian started out with a bang. Canaan arrived Friday night. We saw him briefly Saturday morning before he, Banyat, and an engineering friend of Banyat’s went shopping in Bangkok for the solar panel, battery, and pumps which will be put to use in our Laytongku project. They stayed in Bangkok to pick up Margie at the airport. The whole group arrived at our house around 1:30 am to drop off Margie and then to home for some sleep. But little sleep was destined to be had! We did not think to warn Margie about our step-down-into bathroom (Tom was her greeter and I was sound asleep!) She missed the step and started to fall. She reached out to brace herself on the sink and was surprised when the sink fell to the ground (we also didn’t think to tell her that it was loose!). The net result was that the water line was pulled loose from the wall and a major jet of water was spraying into our bathroom. Fortunately the drain was able to handle the water, but we had to get the water stopped. We searched for a water cut-off valve but could not find one. So I called Banyat. He tried to get hold of his sister, but he couldn’t raise her. So Banyat got dressed and headed back to our house. After much unsuccessful searching for the cut-off, we finally knocked on neighbors’ doors. We were able to waken the janitor who lives two doors away, and he went to the main road in front of the church where he shut off all the water to the buildings in the area of the church. Then back to bed for a couple hours of sleep.
Sunday morning came too early for us. And the neighbors were surprised that they had NO WATER. Pastor Zaccheus and the janitor started working on the problem, and they were able to reconnect our hose in the bathroom; to install a cut-off valve; and turn on the neighborhood water! The janitor installed a new sink for us on Monday while we were away (next story). Thank you to these wonderful men!
Sunday afternoon we headed to Ban Khae with the regional moderator, Ott, and other SamYek church members, to attend worship and baptism at the church to whom Central had donated the funds to build restrooms. The folks belonging to this church are from the Karen tribe, one of the main tribes from Myanmar. Ban Khae is quite close to the Burmese border. The worship service and the baptism of seven young people was a wonderful event. There have been posts on Facebook telling all about it. Sunday night we stayed at a beautiful resort nearby and got a good night’s sleep. Monday we headed back to the church and “helped” with the construction. Canaan learned how to plaster a wall with cement (no sand in it) while Margie and I mixed the cement. We couldn’t keep up with the job, so we eventually stopped hindering the process and let the real crew take over. Tom gave some advice on the plumbing layout and the decision was made to alter it somewhat for greater efficiency.
After another delicious Thai meal prepared by Maesert (Ott’s mother), we headed home. Stops were made along the way at the Monkey Cave and for shopping at Tesco-Lotus, Thailand’s all-in-one large department store. The trip ended with another delicious meal in Nakorn Pathom at a Japanese restaurant similar to the one we enjoyed while in Chiang Mai.
Tuesday morning we left for Laytongku. We had two vehicles to take the five of us and three Thai drivers. We took a road north and went to visit the old capital of Thailand. The city is Ayutthaya, and it was chosen as Thailand’s first capital. The original area was surrounded by rivers and moats, and what remains today are ruins of temples, buildings and the royal palace still surrounded by rivers and moats. We had time to visit a large area of temple ruins that included a huge reclining Buddha. We rode from the parking lot to the site in a Tuk-tuk (a Cushman motor scooter with bus seats in the back and a very low roof). There were elephants available to ride alongside the parking lot. Canaan was the only one of our group who opted to take a ride.
The remainder of Tuesday was spent driving northwest to Mae Sot and then south to Umphang. There was a lot of road construction, so some of the travel was on bumpy, dusty roads. We arrived at Mae Sot as the sun was setting. But we kept driving. From Mae Sot to Umphang there are continuous S-curves turning left and right, so we were THRILLED to finally arrive at our destination. Two of us almost didn’t make it due to queasy stomachs. Like riding a roller coaster in the dark (Disney’s Thunder Mountain).
We were to have accommodations ready for us, but we actually had made the trip one day earlier than we had originally planned, so things were a bit uncertain for a while. However, as we have found to be true in Thailand, we were well taken care of. The local innkeeper, whose wife was recovering from recent surgery, came to meet us at the Seven-Eleven and led us to his guest house. He was apologetic that the rooms were not all ready, but he provided us with everything we needed, including bedding and mats for some of our traveling group. The next morning we awoke to find ourselves staying in peaceful park-like grounds in a beautiful building surrounded by lush greenery. We went to the innkeepers home and held a prayer service for his wife, which was what he asked for letting us stay at their guest house.
Wednesday we set out to finish the remainder of the S-curves (we had only driven 1,090 out of 1,219 the night before). We arrived at lunch time at the village of Beung Kleung. We were served another incredible meal by the members of the local church. Then the pastor loaded onto a vehicle unique to Thailand, an E-Tuk, and drove us into the village. We shopped at a store belonging to a church member where we were able to purchase Karen shirts and skirt fabric. We learned later that both men and women wear the skirts.
Next we transferred us, all our belongings and the solar panel, battery and pumps into two four-wheel drive vehicles to make the 20 kilometer drive to Laytongku. The trip took around two hours. I have NEVER had an experience anything like this drive---dirt road; STEEP hills; width of one vehicle (sometimes a bit more narrow); giant potholes, rocks and washouts from the recent rainy season; streams to cross; deep ruts; stretches of wet, gooey mud; bridges a bit on the wobbly side; rough way beyond bumpy; and surrounded on all sides by thick green tropical forests with no signs of habitation and no pit stops! I don’t think I will ever be able to adequately describe this ride! We had two of the most wonderful drivers who made the ride as safe and non-threatening as was possible given the circumstances.
When we arrived at the Village of Laykongtu, we began to see houses along the road. We finally spotted the church to which we gave wall and floor funding. It stands high on a hill. Guess what the road to the church is like. We thought the clinic where we were headed was near the church. But it is actually further out from the village. We drove for a while longer; went over three bridges (one concrete almost demolished by the rainy season; two wooden); passed the school; passed government buildings; passed more houses; finally drove down a VERY steep drive, rocky and rutted, to the clinic grounds. It was now late afternoon. The two amazing drivers hurriedly unloaded our baggage and equipment and turned around to drive back to Beung Kleung that evening. They didn’t stay long enough to even say good-bye.
We have published a lot of pictures on Facebook of the nurses’ quarters where we stayed. All our meals were prepared by the Karen family living at the quarters. The meals were incredibly delicious---mostly rice, fish, vegetables, chicken, eggs, bananas fresh from the tree. They even made us sticky rice which is packed into bamboo sections and roasted over a fire.
Thursday was construction day for the water project, and with a lot of hard work and on-the-fly engineering, it was completed. Of course, Friday morning before we left, after a night of thinking about what was done, there were a few changes made to the pipe and pump layout. The elderly gentleman, who donated the land for the clinic, who lives there, and who is the “guard” for the grounds, told Allan that he had dreamed of having running water at the house and clinic for twenty years, and we came and brought it into existence in one day. Not only is there running water for the clinic, we set it up to have a tap for water in the kitchen which is on the second floor at the back of the nurses’ quarters. The cooks are VERY grateful for that, as all water prior to the new system had to be hauled up the stairs.
Allan Eubank arrived at the clinic Thursday afternoon and went with us to a service at the Laytongku church. We heard incredible singing and met the very first Christian baptized by Allan at Laytongku. Tom posted my video of the little girl singing.
Friday morning our two drivers returned to pick us up. It was hard to say goodbye to everyone at the clinic, as we may never see any of these people again. I will always wonder how the little girl I befriended will do in her life. I will never forget the old gentleman coming to the window of the truck with a big smile on his face just to gesture his thanks to me. Our lives have been enriched meeting these Karen men, women and children. May God always bless them!
I will continue the story in my next update. Take care of yourselves. God’s blessings to all of you.
Posted on Sun, November 12, 2017
by Margie Jones