This Christmas has not been as filled with as much joy as Christmases in former years. Just the week before Christmas, we learned that my older brother, Ken (who serves as pastor of a Presbyterian Church in Greenville, Illinois) has a mass in his brain and that he will have to undergo surgery before the New Year. He has lost some motor function, but doctors assure us that it is not a stroke. It may be malignant, but an MRI has shown us that it has not metastasized to other areas of his body. With a wife, two children, three grandchildren and an entire congregation in Greenville waiting for news, I ask for your prayers for him and the doctors as they proceed with surgery. He has always been a role model and great older brother and I am selfish enough to want to keep him here on this earth awhile longer.
And I almost lost Nellie, my miniature pinscher, a second time after Thanksgiving this year. She was bitten by a tick and infected with a blood disorder that took her platelets down dangerously low before I realized that she was so ill. When she lost all interest in food, playing, or even getting out of her bed, I knew she was seriously ill. Her liver function was very bad, but the doctors responded very quickly and, with antibiotics and some liver support medication, she has turned around rather quickly. I have been warned that, since she has already been infected once, it will be much more severe if she is ever infected again. So, we are to avoid grassy areas that have not been treated. (Fortunately, Bangkok does not have many grassy areas.) The doctors have said that she should be her “normal self” in about six weeks.
Finally, I made the move to Bangkok from Chiang Mai, in order to begin working at the headquarters of our partner church, assisting with ecumenical relations. My new responsibilities dovetail quite well with my role as Coordinator of Christian Volunteers. In this new role, I am responsible for all Christian missionaries working in Thailand who have visas issued under the auspices of our partner church. That is a total of 117 people (together with their families). Many of the things I already do for our 14 volunteers, I will also be doing for these 117 others (visiting them, counseling them, providing opportunities for them to gather together to learn about each other and work together, and offering opportunities for rest, retreat, and spiritual growth). What was difficult was moving at Christmastime and not really experiencing the joy of Christmas with special friends and family at this wonderful, miraculous time of year.
But there was one thing that happened to show me with crystal clarity that my God loves me and, in all this, cares for me – even in the little things. I moved into my Bangkok house with just the things in my one suitcase on the Saturday before Christmas. I had arrived in Bangkok from Chiang Mai on Friday afternoon, in time to join the Christmas party at the CCT office and join them caroling on Friday night. The caroling group left the office at 6 PM Friday night and returned at 10:30 AM Saturday morning, having driven all the way to Nakhon Pathom and then Ratchburi to sing at someone’s home. Exhausted, but afraid I would not sleep that night if I went to bed at 10:30 AM, I got on the BTS Skytrain and went to the grocery store, picking up things I needed for the house. Still, I was in bed by 5 PM, totally worn out. I am not as young as I used to be!
Sunday morning, I got up and took a shower and washed my hair. I always travel with a bar of soap and washcloth, so that was not a problem. The problem arose when I was done and looked around for a towel to dry off. Ha! Ha! That was NOT in my suitcase. However, two blankets of Nellie’s were and they were clean, so I used them. Dog blankets are not known for their absorbency, but it was better than dripping dry. I made it to church at Suebsampanthawong Church (4th Thai Church close to Bangkok Christian College) where my landlord and Mr. Kusak, a Thai friend of my parents, both worship. After the early service, I sat in the fellowship hall and drank some tea. Several people came and introduced themselves. Mr. Kusak came by, handing out some red and green bags to various people, saying “Merry Christmas”. He greeted me and handed me a red bag and said “Merry Christmas”. I took the bag home after church and, when I got home, I opened up the bag. There was only one thing inside: a bath towel. God is taking care of me. God will take care of you, too. Merry Christmas!