We left Bangkok on the night bus as scheduled, and since this time we travelled VIP arrived on time at 5am in the morning, got a Tuktuk to the Green Guest House hoping for a shower and a rest. It was understandably shut up for the night, so we sat down in the cool early morning to wait. After 15mins or so a guy arrived in a Ute, and was dropped off. He asked about the guesthouse and about others, we took him for a fellow future guest, though he looked very smart and had highly polished shoes. We should have booked ahead, about 5.30 someone woke and the guy asked and was told (in Thai) that the guest house was fully booked 😦 We settled down to wait for the day to start to get a Tuktuk to another place, our mysterious friend received a phone call, and a few minutes later another Ute arrived to pick him up. He offered us a lift and we were taken to the DKK Hotel, one expected to be fairly basic and fairly cheap, but comfortable.
After a shower and a doze we TXTed Shirley to say we’d arrived, hoping to go to Rev Newton’s village the next day after a nice quiet day relaxing in Mae Sot. After buying flip flops/jandels and tooth paste for me we stopped at the Canadian Cafe for Coffee (real beans and hot water coffee, well made) and breakfast with bacon 🙂
Shirley phoned to say she would be in to pick us up soon, so we scurried back to DKK and checked out (our shortest ever residence in a hotel 😉 I just hope our friend with the shiny shoes was not a security man (Mae Sot as a border town neighbouring an active war zone is a hotbed of espionage and stuff like that) or that he did not check up on us at DKK later on…
Rev Newton is a 70ish man who trains fine choirs and has an infectious smile and a nice sense of humour (can I say a “wicked” one of a thoroughly pastoral pastor?), his wife Bu Po is the pastor of the village church as Rev Newton is something like a district superintendent, she is a charming and lively lady who also enjoys life to the full. Together they must be quite a handful for the KKBC (Kawthoulei Karen Baptist Convention) but a real tonic for the churches in the area. Their village, Klee Thoo Klo, is mixed Baptist, Animist and Buddhist and surrounded by active farmland, though many residents work in Mae Sot or elsewhere. It is also surrounded by the most lovely gentle hills, made more lovely because we are not far into the dry season, the plants are green but the ground is firm and dry.
Hospitality is a key virtue among Karen, so we really enjoyed the tasty food and meeting all the people who popped in or came to stay. It was Karen New Year, though on Karen New Year’s Day we went to Pho Pra (not far away) Pastor Peacefully’s village with the dormitories and schools for IDP children. They were hosting a big youth event, Border Connection 500, and there were more than 500 Karen young people there from up and down the border. Praise and worship, food, seeing the projects again (while the young people played sport with more enthusiasm than the heat might suggest), more food, and a final rally before we set off back to Klee Thoo Klo arriving around midnight.
Then the Christmas celebrations started over the next three days (in Thailand Karen celebrate Christmas on the weekend before 25th as children in Thai Schools or people with Thai employers will be working on the 25th itself). Choir practices and a concert for all the people (and especially children, young people and grannies of the village on Friday). A service and Christian concert on Saturday night, after sports all afternoon. We skived off the sports and visited Sonia, the Partners person in Mae Sot, as well as fascinating conversation I got to play with her baby for hours 🙂
Sunday, being Christmas day we were woken by carols, Newton had arranged On Sunday as well as several Christmas services at one of which I preached, was also a baptism shared with local Seventh Day Adventists in the new baptistry, and the installation of Newton and Bu Po’s eldest son as assistant pastor. I was invited to speak a short word of encouragement. At this service. Barbara had relayed the invitation as “short”, Shirley (whom all, except Bu Po obey) re-iterated both invitation and instruction, and then Rev Newton himself invited me and also said “short” – recounting this triple instruction to be “short” was much appreciated by the congregation, as were my illustrations for God sometimes saying “wait” (Pastor Peacefully has composed a well-known and somewhat tongue in cheek song in which he reminds Jesus that he promised to prepare us a place and asks him for a skyscraper in Kawthoulei (a free Karen State) or even saying “no” when Rev Newton or I ask for an eighth day in the week. The punch line of the talk was that there is one thing we can ask God for that he always supplies, his Holy Spirit for those times when we are at our wits end, and cannot cope.
[I’ll deal with Monday and today in another post.]