I write this story to you because it is fresh upon my mind. I must also say that it was a privilege for me to be able to witness God at work in the Akha village of Mehter. I have just returned from the far north about 2 hours drive from Chiang Rai.
Sometime ago I wrote to you about the village of Mehter. From this village, we took some 35 drug addicts to the program started by Richard Mann, in 1994, called the Thai Tribal Narcotics Detoxification and Rehabilitation Project. Today my good friend Jonas Thorangen works with this group he is a Swedish Baptist Missionary. The whole point of this program is that hill tribe people may have the opportunity to be free from drugs and also to hear about the good news of Jesus Christ. We know that real change can only occur if Christ enables the addicts to be free by his power.
Nonetheless, I received a phone call from one of our evangelists that the village of Mehter just decided to leave the old ways of worshipping evil spirits and turn to the Christian faith. Well, we decided to drive the two hours to this village and see if this report would be true. I gathered two evangelists, Pedro and Ajer and loaded the truck with sleeping bag, mosquito nets, guitar and off we went to the town of Doi Mae Salong. This town has some nice influence from China. You can see the influence with the beautiful roofs curved upward and the ubiquitous tea shops. Outside this city are many Akha villages. If you remember many of the Akha have come from China.
We stopped on the way and bought some pork and vegetables for the headman and proceeded outside the city higher up and probably now at 900 hundred meters and we arrived at the village as the sun was setting.
We had a wonderful dinner of Akha food. Served family style on a low bamboo table everyone takes from the common dishes, using chopsticks, and might dip their meat in a little bowl of chilies before eating just to get the taste just right. Now after being here in Thailand for over three years I am dealing with the food much better. At first, when I first started eating Akha food I knew I would be running for the bathroom or the woods but now it seems that I have adjusted. --- You have to watch the plants from the forest. ---
I wanted to continue to develop the relationship with the headman of this village. He has allowed us to come in even though he is not a Christian. This past Christmas he welcomed us to the village for a concert in which some 20 Akha youth from Chiang Rai sang Akha songs, played guitar and drums and allowed us to tell the Christmas story.
That night we slept in one of the homes of the freed drug addicts and the next day discovered that 12 homes had decided to become Christian. One big difference with western culture is that when the Akha decide to become Christian they decide as families and the decision of the man in the family leads the way. As we awoke, the sounds of a squealing pig penetrated my ears and went to see the process of the poor thing being killed. I think the Akha are pretty good of taking care of business. And, they eat just about everything the pig has to offer except for the feet and the head. The intestines are apparently a delicacy.
Then we traveled as a group going house to house singing and praying. In each home the evangelist drove out the evil spirits with prayer and singing and scripture reading and then cut down the bamboo container that had objects that were dedicated to the evil spirits, such as the jawbone of animals. Many of the people and children had a string tied around their wrists to protect them from evil spirits. An Akha evangelist would cut the string from the wrists of the children and pray for them. Later that day, the evangelist burned all of the material dedicated to evil spirits.
Then we had worship together as a group of new Christians --singing, clapping and hugging one another was the order of the day. Then we had a great meal of Akha food. Gradually, over time these folks have made a decision to trust Jesus Christ. It is amazing for me as a new missionary and very encouraging to see the Gospel changing people's lives.
This whole story began about 1 year ago at this time when I took a few sweaters to the headman from the First Baptist Church of Greensburg, PA and said I hoped that you might help some people in the village who didn't have enough clothing for a cold night. Then we went back to the headman and asked if there was anyway we could serve his village. At first, he didn't say anything but later he asked if we could help with the problem of the drug addicts. This opened the door to helping the drug addicts. I believe that they heard the Gospel for the first time at the drug program. Then as they went home and thought about it they decided to make the decision openly this past week. Praise the Lord. We have a great God! I hope this thrills your heart, as the whole event has been wonderful for me. Please pray that these new believers will continue in the faith as evangelists from the Akha Churches of Thailand keep visiting them.
Your friend in Christ,