So we decided to go to Chiang Rai and take a medical team to work with the AKHA tribal people. We met the host and he took us up the mountain to set up a camp to provide medical, dental, eye and pharmaceutical help to the thousands of hill people in the vicinity. In fact, the villagers were already there waiting for us.
Our host was a local pastor, leader and director of an AKHA ministry and school and his name was Luka Chermui. I had never met him before but that name kept bothering me. Where had I heard of him before? Plus many of the older villagers treated me like they knew me which was of course impossible.
At one point Luka and I had the opportunity to sit and talk about his goals, his ministry and some of his life. Likewise he asked about me and what I was doing in Northern Thailand. I talked of my history in resettlement, in working with tribal peoples both in Southeast Asia and within the United States.
I told him how as an American Baptist missionary, resettlement agent, and pastor I had worked to bring Hmong, Lao, Mien, Karen, Lahu and even some Akha out of war torn situations into some kind of safety within Thailand and of course the states. Which then had its own challenges of finding resources, education, jobs, safety and the gospel.
He asked me quietly, “You are American Baptist?” My reply was “yes” and I had even worked with some of the early missionaries that had been located in this very same area. How one couple in particular had worked with me to help understand some of the context and language issues. Dr. Paul and Elaine Lewis a couple that had served in Myanmar then moved to northern Thailand. They had been involved with health care, and education especially with the Hmong, Lahu, Mien and Akha.
I had bent over to tie my boot, to also take a breath, and as I did so glanced up to see why Luka was so very quiet. I asked if he was okay? Apologizing that sometimes I get going and don’t know when to shut up. That was when I noticed tears in his eyes.
Dear God grant me, as I travel this earthly pilgrimage the blessing of a believing and serving community. May I always know that I am surrounded by a cloud of witnesses urging and praying for me as I travel this Your path for me. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.