Saturday, June 23, 2007

Greetings!


(On the way to the village)
Hello everyone! Praying all is well back home. I just got back into Chiang Mai and wanted to write this blog while everything is still fresh...there is much to write about so I apologize upfront for such a lengthy review.





(The first rice-shoots are starting to emerge this month)

Titus and I headed out Friday morning anticipating a seven hour drive to the village in light of the clear skies. However, while we were driving a small motorbike got into an accident right in front of our jeep: A group of wild dogs ran across the road giving the man little time to react. He soon hit one head-on...the dog wrapped completely around his front tire and was tossed about twenty feet into a ditch, while the man was ejected from his bike and rolled/skidded over 30 yards. Thankfully, we were the only ones on the road so he was not hit by oncoming traffic. When we got to his side he was bleeding from his chin, stomach, and legs, however, he was conscious and was able to stand up not more than 10 minutes later. When he took his helmet off we discovered that he was one of the Hill tribes missionaries and was a close friend of ITDP. Since there are no tow truck or ambulances out that way, we paid a passing truck driver to take him to the nearest hospital. I am happy to report that he is doing well and only needed stitches!

(One of three Sunday services in Ma Oh Jo Village)

(Village food..pig and snake!)

Needless to say the whole event changed our schedule, so we slept at a local Pastor's house and finally arrived in Ma Oh Jo Village the next morning. Our time was mainly consumed with working on the school building. Every morning we woke up early and drove two trucks to a local river where the Karen have been gathering sand and rock for us to transport back to the construction site. The roads to this area were particularly difficult...especially with a full load of rock in the truck-bed! At one point we discovered that some of the piles of rock had been gathered about 100 yards from the road, next to the river...this meant we had to drive the trucks through the river to gather the materials...thankfully the river was only a couple feet deep in that area! At this same location I was shoveling rock and unknowingly stepped on a poisonous snake...luckily it was small and was just as surprised as I was! Not five minutes later my good friend Titus saw another small snake and curiously picked it up...when the villagers saw this they quickly shook it out of his hands...apparently it was one of the more deadly in Thailand...needless to say we will be more aware of the wildlife out here:) During the nights we went to each of the five villages and continued a survey for the Child Sponsorship Program (ages 9-12) which added another 40 children to our list. Praise God for continuing to provide students for the new school!



(View of the new school)

As you know, one of the key elements to the school's success are the financial contributions from donors in America. I have been praying that God would bring these people forward in large numbers for some time now, so that each child might be sponsored to attend school. Originally, I thought that these people would come from the small network of churches in Southern California that are currently involved with ITDP and the Karen people. However, this week a man named Mark Lambert (a pastor/leader of Transformation Ministries in California currently on sabbatical until September) traveled to the villages to see what God is doing among the Karen. He soon came to appreciate all that was being done and felt that "something big was going to happen" among these people in the coming years...and he wanted to be apart of it. So his way of contributing will be by promoting the Child Sponsorship Program through Transformation Ministries where he serves as one of the Directors to over 100 churches! What a confirmation that God is listening to our prayers and has His sovereign hand upon these people.


(Bringing coffee to the villages!)

I have three main topics which could use your prayers: First, there are many sick people in the villages right now. Two of them were serious enough that we took them to the hospital in our truck. There names are Luku and Jae Da. Luku is about 40 years old and has been helping on the school project these past two months in addition to his daily work in the rice fields. He is extremely strong, yet, the pain in his stomach and kidneys was so bad that he has not worked for four days (very uncommon...usually the villagers work no matter how they feel). We think he may have kidney stones or that it is related to opium/alcohol usage. Jae Da is about 9 years old and has had all the symptoms of malaria for over a week (high fever, severe headache, etc.). Both villagers come from extremely low income families and are Animists.


(Transporting supplies to the school)

The second stems from a conversation Mark and I had with the village leader of Whualo. During our time together we asked him about his beliefs and what he thought about God...if you want a summary of what I heard read Romans chapters 1-2...never have I seen a passage of Scripture so clearly illustrated. During our time together he told me that he believed that there was one God that created the world, and ultimately has dominion (however, he also believes there are lower gods that govern each region). He explained to us that as village leader it is his duty to offer animal sacrifices once a year on behalf of the village to please the gods and atone for their sins. We asked him if he had ever heard about the God of the Bible and he said "yes, but very little." Somsak (Thai Evangelist) then briefly explained the Gospel to him, and at the end we all prayed for the leader and his family. He thanked us for coming and invited us to come and talk more about our faith! I'm planning on going next week with Titus so please be in prayer that God would do a work in his soul.



I'm not quite sure how to write about the third because it is indeed new to my life's experiences. This past week Titus and I encountered a very dark side to this culture as we traveled to completely Animistic villages. I won't go into too much detail but I strongly believe we have been both spiritually and physically encountering demonic influences. We are not fearful in any way and trust the Lord's protection. However, the villagers are clearly distraught by these events which occur to them on a daily basis...they tell us that this is the very reason they worship these spirits....because they are afraid of continued harm. As the Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10:19-20: "What do I mean then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God. And I do not want you to become sharers in demons."




Thank you for your prayers and know that God is answering them daily. I look forward to fellowshiping with you all in the coming months!

Your Brother,
Daniel Lamm


Prayer Requests:

1) For the souls of the villagers

2) For Jet's wife (Jet is one of the missionaries) who has been in the hospital for four days with respiratory problems. For years she has worked in a small shop on the side of the road where the smog is extremely bad.

3) For the villagers who are sick (Luku, Jae Da)

4) Safety as we drive

5) Mark Lambert as he travels to China after Thailand

6) That Titus and I would continue to grow closer to God and in our friendship.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Back in Chiang Mai!


(Trying on a few necklaces that some women in my church put together...I think she liked them!)

Greetings! Please forgive me for the delay in getting my post up...the day after I returned from the village I became very sick. I had a fever/flu/headache/stomach pain for about three days...I think it might have been food poisoning, but I am not sure. Thankfully I am feeling much better now and have met up with Titus to partner on the Child Sponsorship Program. The work is moving along rapidly and we are headed back to Ma Oh Jo village tomorrow to finalize the records for the region.



My time in the village was great. The villagers were excited to hear that Titus and I would be staying for the summer...they missed the American team from the water/school project! Every morning Somsak and I woke up around 6 am to go to one of the five villages which would be sending children to the new school. We had to leave early because the families have been working the rice patties from about 7am-5pm to get them ready for the harvest in a couple months. Hut by hut we interviewed families to see if they would commit to sending their 3-8 year old children to the new school, and we recorded their basic information to see if it matched the data taken last year. As you can imagine this was a great challenge because most of the the parents did not know their children's birthdays, current age, or education level. Also, all of the parents were illiterate, and many of them weren't Thai citizens, which meant that there were no records from which to take information. Despite all of this, the info was gathered and by the end of the week we had about 100 children planning to attend the first day of school on November 1st. We also had requests to receive an education from numbers of people over the age of eight...including parents! We are currently working on a plan with Mike to make that possible...please keep this in your prayers.




My time in the villages continues to bless me. As soon as I arrived the Christian villagers offered to let me sleep in their huts, and there was never a meal which I need prepare on my own. One day an elderly couple invited me to their home for lunch...they had just shot a deer! More than ten of us ate together around a mound of rice and a bowl of stew containing the fresh kill...meat here is a luxury and yet they gave so freely.





(Cooking and eating in the village)





The Lord answered so many of my prayers in obvious ways this week. The first one I want to mention was the restored health of Pae Ja. If you don't remember Pae Ja is the name of the little girl who had the serious infection in her leg, but whose mother refused to let her go to the hospital with ITDP because the family was performing Animistic rituals which they believed would "please the spirits," and thus heal her. However, one day after our team left, Pae Ja was finally taken to the hospital and had surgery which saved both her leg, and her life. The total cost came out to $38 which was covered by ITDP.


(A healthy and happy Pae Ja: Back Left)

A second answer to prayer came on a Wednesday afternoon: Around 4 PM Somsok and I met together to pray for Jet and Por who were yet to return from an 8am trip to Hoy Num Kow (generally they would do at least three runs a day). It had been raining extremely hard all day and we were worried for their safety. On our knees we prayed for three things: 1) That God would stop the rain (which was pouring down that very moment) 2) That Por and Jet were safe 3) That God would give us wisdom on what action we should take. Not a moment after we said "amen" the rain completely stopped and a woman ran up to us to report that the truck had been spotted at the bottom of the hill. Somsak and I ran down to the truck which was able to make it up the steep incline not five minutes later because of the rain's subsiding. What praises we all sang to God for His loving faithfulness! I find myself anticipating more and more difficult circumstances that God may continue to be glorified and my faith increased.



(What the roads look like when they are good :)

The third and final instance (I will write about in this blog) in which prayer was clearly answered came on my last night in the village. For the past year and a half, I (along with others), have been praying that the Lord would send someone trained in the Word to shepherd the Christians in this region, and serve as their pastor/teacher...well, it seems that this man has come! He is a Karen villager that was trained in a four year Seminary on the Thai/Burmese border. He just moved to Ma Oh Jo village and is hoping to stay there for years to come. I had the pleasure of meeting him, as well as one of his teachers and classmates during a nightly Bible study the villagers hold. There I heard them preach the Word (his teacher translated into English for me), and had a wonderful time fellowshiping with them afterwards. It turns out that this man's teacher sent him to this region because he felt (after much prayer) that the area needed a strong leader to help nurture the Christians, that they might be able to share their faith with non-believers in the surrounding area. His teacher and classmates had simply come to encourage him in this new endeavour for the Kingdom...needless to say we can all praise God for leading this man to us.

(Gathered together in a small hut to study God's Word and worship The Christ)
There are many more things I want to write about, but I'm afraid I've gone on too long already. Thank you for your faithful prayers and know that the Lord is graciously answering them for His glory. I go to the village for eight days starting tomorrow so it will be awhile before I can write again. God bless!
Your Brother,
Daniel Lamm


Prayer Requests:
1) For the souls of the villagers
2) For safety as we travel to the village on the 15Th
3) For Titus and I as we tie together the Child Sponsorship Program
4) That I along with ITDP would continue to grow in God's Word and fight the most threatening enemy...sin from within.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Back to the Villages!

Greetings! Praying all is well back home. It's Sunday night and I am getting ready to leave tomorrow morning for the villages, this will be a great relief as I miss the people very much. This past week consisted of paper work and planning in the ITDP offices. Everything went well and we are ready for the task that lies in front of us. It has been raining extremely hard every day and shows no signs of letting up. This has produced some minor flooding causing my wildlife encounters to increase...I was driving a scooter to work on Wednesday and almost ran over a huuuuge python. Fortunately, it slithered out of the way...those things are fast...too fast! I've also killed more lizards than I can count who seem to enjoy my air conditioned room...it keeps life interesting.

Today I had the privilege of attending my friend Por's church. It is a Karen church located in Chiang Mai with about 150 members. A Pastor from Myanmar spoke to the congregation on the importance of spending time in God's Word throughout the day. He lives in a average sized village; yet, his church membership is somewhere around 6,000! This was encouraging to hear considering the location of his ministry and the daily conditions they must face. During the service a Karen woman translated for me and afterwards she asked me why I came to help the Karen people, along with the school team. I told her we came because we simply saw a need (physical and spiritual), and had the means to help. The conversation went on for about an hour and in it I discovered that she grew up in a village on the Burmese border, right next to a refugee camp. She recounted times when troops would rush into the villages killing people, simply because they were Karen. Her father died last year and passed onto her family a heart for helping these people...she does this by working for a government organization that builds schools for the Karen...and then she helps select Christian men and women to fill the available teaching roles, and quietly preach the Gospel. She asked if I would go with her in a couple of weeks to see the refugee conditions with my own eyes...and then tell the people back in the States of their need, I agreed.

There is a definite sense of urgency among the Karen Christians I have met. People literally line up to tell me their life stories and the struggles their relatives and friends still face today. I've been offered jobs and teaching positions, but never once have I been asked for money, I believe this demonstrates the sincerity of their heart...they simply want helpers who are educated, and can teach the Word offering spiritual relief in a pagan culture. As you can imagine this is quite frustrating for me, knowing I can never help them all.

My days here continue to be a blessing. Being alone in the rainy weather has increased my time spent in prayer and God's Word. I've also had the opportunity to finish two great books; one by JI Packer called "Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God," and the other was a biography on "George Muller" written by Basil Miller...the latter is my favorite book to date. Please be in special prayer for the little girl I previously wrote about, as well as the Child Sponsorship program which will start as soon as I get to the village with Somsok. God Bless and I will update in about a week!
Prayer Requests:
1) For the souls of the people in Dae Buh Sae La Koh
2) For Pae Ja and her parents...for physical and spiritual renewal
3) For a safe Journey to Mohojo (June 4th-9th)
4) Safety for Mike and his family as they travel around southern Thailand
5) For wisdom as I begin the Child Sponsorship process, that things will get accomplished in a timely manner