Should Christians Celebrate Christmas?
December 25, the day Christmas is traditionally celebrated in the US, was originally a pagan holiday. We don’t know the actual date of the birth of Jesus. Some Christians think believers shouldn’t celebrate Christmas, the Bible doesn’t tell us to, and if we do celebrate we shouldn’t have a Christmas tree, because the Bible tells us not to make idols of trees, wood, and worship them. We shouldn’t lie to our children about Santa Claus. I don’t know about you, but I tell little children that Santa Claus is pretend. Jesus is real.
I don’t know about you, but as a believer in Jesus I celebrate the birth, death, and resurrection of my Lord Jesus Christ every day—so why not celebrate on December 25? As for having a Christmas tree—I don’t know about you, but as a believer in Jesus my tree symbolizes the Tree of Life. My Savior gave his life for me on a tree so that I could have eternal life. Wow, do I have cause to celebrate!
So—Joy to the world, the Lord has come, let earth receive her king!
Candi Kane’s Christmas
Candi lowered to the floor and picked up the errant toy. Now if she could just get back up. With one arm braced on the couch she managed to push her cumbersome body off the floor and struggle to her feet. She shouldn’t be this big at seven months pregnant. But she still had baby fat from kid number two before number three was on the way.
With a groan, Candi eased onto the couch. The kids were at Mom’s because Ken was bringing his boss and wife home for dinner. Part of his campaign to secure a promotion.
Ken Kane was a good man. “Will you be my Candi Kane,” He’d teased and opened the ring box at dinner at the Supper Club six years ago. A 5-year-old, a 2-year-old, and an unplanned pregnancy later, his tease had turned into a disapproving frown.
“I work hard so you can stay home and raise our kids,” Ken said before he left for work that morning. “Is it too much to expect to come home to a clean house?”
She’d just take a little nap and then she’d put her simple but delicious chicken casserole in the oven to bake along with potatoes. Pick up the toys in the living room and vacuum up the cat hair.
Lying on the couch she gazed at the tree. Garland askew, Pooh bear ornaments on the floor where 2year-old Megan had played and left them. Five year-old Kenny’s handmade paper ornaments hung where his sister couldn’t reach them. Daisy, the fluffy white cat curled under the tree next to a few wrapped presents.
The TV local news blabbed on. “The Christmas thief strikes again. Someone has broken into at least four houses when no one was at home …”
Candi’s eyes drifted closed. So nice to have the kids gone and be able to take a nap. They never napped at the same time.
Door opening, voices, Candi struggled to consciousness. Ken was home. Mr. and Mrs. Bingham. Dinner. Candi managed to sit. She finger-combed her straggling hair. They were early, had to be. She couldn’t have slept three hours!
But she had. Ken kicked the playschool cars aside. He glared at his wife. No smells of baking chicken casserole pervaded the house.
“I’m so sorry,” Candi whispered. “I wasn’t feeling well—I laid down for a few minutes…”
Ken opened the closet beside the front door and pulled out a coat. “I guess we’re going out to dinner.”
“I–I need to use the bathroom first.” Candi dodged her son’s strings he’d tied between toys. Strings to represent power lines that monsters would destroy.
Thankful to God Ken thought of dinner out, she used the toilet and freshened up. She’d still wear the tent-like dress, not change clothes like she’d planned.
Candi slipped into the coat Ken held for her. Smiling mechanically at her introduction to stoic Robert Bingham and stylish Diane, she followed them out to their separate cars. Candi rode with Ken in silence to the Italian Restaurant.
Ken berated her. “The house was a mess. No excuse, Candi. Don’t blame it on the kids. They weren’t even there.”
Her eyes filled with tears. At dinner Candi barely ate her soup and salad. Cheapest things she could buy. They couldn’t afford the meal. Ken had to put it on a credit card. She thanked the Lord the Binghams and Ken managed to carry the conversation. No way to tell if Ken’s boss approved of her or if her negligence had cost him a promotion and badly needed raise.
Candi and Ken rode home in cold silence. Hopelessness filled her aching heart. Ken opened the door and flipped on the living room light.
“Oh!” Candi screamed. A man lay flat on his back on the floor, his feet entangled in string. Blood pooled beside his head, a large empty duffle bag next to a hand.
The Christmas thief. Unconscious. A monster caught in Kenny’s power lines. Ken called 911. He led Candi into the bedroom, drew out the pistol hidden under the mattress, loaded it and returned to the living room. Candi peeked out from the hall while Ken stood guard until two police officers and the ambulance arrived.
The thief roused and Candi breathed a sigh of relief. Little Kenny wouldn’t be responsible for someone’s demise. The ambulance hauled the thief to the hospital. A reporter and a cameraman showed up.
One of the officers chuckled. “Good thing your wife lets the kids play in the living room. Thanks to her and your boy, a lot of people will have a happier Christmas.”
Ken stared. He put his arm around Candi and side-squeezed her. She hugged him back. Her heart lifted with joy.
The reporter asked for her story and Candi found herself the center of attention. The camera man filmed their messy living room, the awkward Christmas tree, and even the cat hiding behind a chair.
Finally everyone had gone and Ken and Candi were alone. “I’m sorry,” Ken said, his voice soft. “I lost track of what is important. I love you, Candi. You and our children and our crazy busy life.”
He kissed her and she clung to him, a tear slid down her cheek. “I love you too, Ken. Together our family will have the best Christmas ever.”
Find all my books at Amazon books.com search Lorna Woods
My new book on Amazon, the Be Team, is the sequel to Who Am I Now. Both are available on Amazon.com kindle, for 99 cents each. While these books are about teens, I have fifty-year-old readers who love them! Here is the first chapter of the Be Team
Monday morning, a week after spring break ended, I stepped into Northwood, my high school in Bend Oregon, and slipped off my shoes. I couldn’t believe I did that. I’m not in Thailand anymore. To cover I picked up one shoe and shook out an imaginary pebble. I stepped back into my loafers and marched down the hall. Should have worn my sneakers.
Not that anyone paid any attention to me. I was invisible again. Like I’d been since Mom married Kent in November, and I had to leave my school in Salem. I became the unknown high school sophomore that nobody cared about. But I didn’t mind. I was a girl on a mission. Lisa Larson, returned from a mission trip to Thailand, determined to start a teen divine healing team.
First step, contact my English teacher Mrs. Birdwell. Birdy had assigned me to do a report on my trip. I no longer thought of her as the uncomplimentary Bird’s Nest because of her hairstyle, one of many changes in my attitude.
Hers wasn’t my first class of the day, but I wanted to touch base with her before class began. I found Birdy in the classroom working at her desk. She glanced up when I entered. A smile lighted her face.
“Lisa, you’re back. How was your trip?”
“Amazing. You assigned me to do a report when I returned. I have one ready, an oral report with a video and a power point presentation that I’d like to do before the entire class. I’d like to present my report today, while everything is still fresh in my mind.” Before you have time to check out the report and censure the content.
“Oh.” Birdy’s mouth drooped. She glanced down and swiped her hands over the papers on her desk. Then she regarded me, head cocked to one side, birdlike. “I suppose you could. The class could do the scheduled assignment as homework.”
I regaled Birdy with my best smile. “Thank you so much. I really appreciate you letting me do this.”
Birdy brightened. A pang of guilt nicked me. How unappreciative I’d been of my forced education and the teachers who labored to teach me. Until in Thailand I met Hassavah, the Karen tribe girl my age, who with all her heart wanted to attend school and had to marry instead. Thanks in part to our team’s efforts, she now had an opportunity to learn to read and write as an adult.
“May I come in and set up during lunch break, after I eat?” English class was first in the afternoon.
“Yes. The classroom will be open even if I’m not here.”
I left Birdy and headed for homeroom alone. While our relationship had definitely improved since we each had our own bedroom, my step-sister Kaylee wasn’t ready to welcome me into her clique at school. But today I had brought my clarinet and put it in my locker. I would no longer stay out of band in order to stay away from Kaylee.
My step-brother Konner was another matter entirely. At lunchtime he come up to me in line at the cafeteria and said: “Sit with me, Lisa.”
Shocked, I stared at him. As well as my step-brother, he was a senior, and seniors didn’t sit with sophomores. Not unless the sophomore was a guy’s girlfriend. But Konner had already surprised me when he’d asked to be part of my team—the first potential member, besides me.
“Okay.” I didn’t know what else to say, and I followed Konner to a table. I stopped. He wasn’t alone. He had two other guys with him. His best friends, Cliff and Judd. Neither of them had ever had anything to do with me. Aptly named, Cliff was the jock type, on the wrestling team, close clipped hair, lots of defined muscles, and a snarling wolf tattoo on his upper arm partly revealed beneath his t-shirt sleeve. Rumor had it he planned to join the marines after graduation.
My dad was really into country music, and the Judd’s were his favorites. To me, the name Judd meant country. This Judd was a long-haired, tall, skinny country boy, who lived on a ranch, rode horses, and I’d heard he raised prize pigs for the county fair.
Why the three of them were friends, I had no idea.
Cliff eyed me. “Konner’s told us some wild story about a mission trip you went on in Thailand and want to start a team here. One that does more than hand out tracts on street corners.”
Cliff and Judd were Christians?
How would I lead senior boys? My step-brother maybe, but these guys? I needed my team leader Tom Massin’s help—and fast. “I’m just gathering names of potential members right now,” I said, not setting my tray down at their table. “The guy in charge lives in Salem, and he’ll either come here to train everyone or have us come to Salem for training.”
“Sit.” Cliff ordered.
I sat. Next to Konner and across from his two buddies. I laid my tray on the table. Calm as possible, I drew out a pen and small notebook from my Karen tribe bag I’d brought back from Thailand. I handed the notebook and pen to Cliff. “If you each would please fill out your name and contact information, I’ll send it on to Tom Massin, and he’ll put you on the list as interested along with Konner.”
Cliff accepted the pen and paper, and I ate while the two guys wrote. Judd handed the notebook and pen back to me. I stuffed the items in my bag and stood. “I don’t have time to answer questions now. I need to prepare for a presentation to my English class.”
“Hey, don’t we get a presentation?” Cliff favored me with a belligerent glare.
“Konner, maybe you could arrange something at the house in an evening or on the weekend for your interested friends?” I tossed the ball to him.
Konner raised his eyebrows. “Okay. Sure.”
I escaped, emptied my mostly eaten lunch and stacked the tray. I had the power point ready to go on the screen when Birdy began the class.
“Today, we have a special presentation by Lisa Larson.” Birdy patted her coiled hair back into place on top of her head. By afternoon, fine hairs spiked out, escaped from their confinement. “This is her first day back to class after having made a two-week trip to Thailand, one week of the trip over spring break. I assigned a written report which she will turn in after this presentation she shares with the class.”
A stir among the students, murmurs and glances of approval were sent my way. Everyone liked the idea of skipping classwork. For the next forty minutes, I immersed my classmates in the world of the Karen tribe in Northern Thailand. Joy-in-the-Morning children’s home, and the on-going work there; the healing miracles, the danger and intrigue; I left nothing out. My audience, including Mrs. Birdwell, sat rapt through the entire presentation, still pictures and video.
I ended with a call to action. “If anyone is interested in more information on becoming part of a teen healing team here in Bend, please see me after school.”
A girl’s hand shot up. I nodded toward her.
“Will we go to Thailand too?” Her eyes glowed with enthusiasm.
“Possibly,” I replied cautiously. But her words sparked an idea in my soul. Why not another trip to Thailand next year? And take some or all of the local team, if one formed.
Birdy intervened. “Thank you for your excellent presentation, Lisa. Well done. Don’t you think so, class?”
Enthusiastic applause warmed my heart.
“The work scheduled for today is now assigned as homework. Any further comments or discussion about Lisa’s presentation you will need to take up with her on your own time, not the schools.”
And that was all Birdy had to say about the spiritual side of my report.
Two girls, Becky, the girl who had asked about a trip to Thailand, and Rhonda, didn’t wait until the end of the school day to accost me in the hall and sign up as potential team members. Thankfully, I wouldn’t end up the only girl on the team.
After school, while I retrieved my clarinet ready to join band rehearsal, two boys and another girl from our English class stopped to talk to me about signing up for the team. I had them write down their contact information. No guarantee any of the kids would follow through, but at least some showed interest.
I noticed Tiffany, a girl from my class, hung back. She approached me as soon as I was alone. She seemed shy so I smiled at her. “Hi, Tiff, are you interested in joining the team?”
Her eyes widened. “Oh, no. That’s what I wanted to warn you about. I’m a Christian, and my pastor says all that stuff passed away when the Bible was written. Now, the devil uses signs and wonders to deceive people and take them to hell.”
Oh, oh. Somehow, in my enthusiasm, I’d forgotten that some sincere Christians didn’t believe God used his people anymore the way he did in the early church. My stomach churned. Not only could I face opposition from the school authorities, but from some of the church people in town.
I clutched my clarinet case to my chest like it was a piece of armor. “I’m a Christian, too, Tiffany. Thank you for your concern. I’m sure your pastor means well, but he’s wrong.” My heart hammered, and my mouth went dry. “Satan does have counterfeit signs and wonders. That’s called magic and witchcraft. But God didn’t stop working miracles when the apostles died. He’s the same yesterday, today and forever.” There. I’d done it, stood up for my new beliefs.
Confusion crossed her face then Tiffany looked down. “Whatever. I just wanted to warn you.” She whirled away and scurried off as if the devil was on her tail.
I whispered a prayer for her, that God would reveal himself to Tiff and her pastor in a mighty way, like he had to me. Before anything else could happen and make me late for band practice, I scurried toward the music room.
Mr. Clemens, the band teacher, stood in front of the students assembled in their appointed seats. He glanced up when I entered. “Hello. I haven’t seen you before.”
“I haven’t been here before. I moved here in November this year and didn’t join the band right away. I’m ready now. May I please try out?”
Mr. Clemens studied me. I didn’t look away. He gave a brief nod, shuffled his music on the stand and handed me a page. “Play this.”
I accepted the music and laid the sheet on an empty chair. I opened the case and removed my clarinet. Mr. Clemens didn’t know I’d played the song last year in band at my Salem school. I knew the music by heart, but I kept my eyes on the page as I played every note perfect, without a squeak or honk from my instrument.
“Good enough.” Clemens gestured toward the clarinet section. “Take a seat. We could use another clarinet.”
I glanced at Kaylee, seated with her flute. She grinned at me.
Alright. We’re still good.
I sat between two other clarinetists, a boy and a girl, my heart light. I loved music, and being part of a group playing together. I didn’t realize how much I’d missed it until I returned. How foolish I’d been to let my resentment of Kaylee and having to adjust to a new family and new school, keep me from something I loved.
That Our Joy May Be Full
Yuwadee, Natapong, Tom, fire burns her idol and spirit sticks while Nasaw (with long ponytail) watches. Alicia.
Craig made arrangements with the hotel to leave our luggage in a locked room for the five days we would be in the field. I appreciated his tenacity in insisting we have a locked room and not leave our luggage in the lobby with a net thrown over it as the hotel personnel at first proposed. On Saturday we would return to the Royal Lanna to stay another four nights. Craig also asked for rooms on a floor higher than the 8th floor so we would have a better view of the city, and at Ed’s request, changed our room to one with two beds, so Ed and I could both get a decent night’s sleep.
John Scarth and I were a team on Monday and I was team leader. John and I worked well together. Few people were home in the villages and we’d lost our Akha interpreter, Japay. He and his wife had to go home because of a domestic dispute between his daughter and son-in-law whom the older couple lived with. We didn’t ask, but I suspected alcohol was involved. Drunkenness was a big problem among the tribal people, especially men who were not Christians.
I ministered to two ladies, one with pain in her shoulder another with pain in her back. Both were healed. John ministered to an older man who was healthy and wanted to stay healthy in his old age. Preventative prayer is a good thing!
Two sisters, one a Christian wanted prayer for her family to come to Christ and for the Lahu church to be bold and on fire for God. I had Yuwadee, Jan and Tom join John and I in prayer for the Lahu church.
The other sister was not a Christian and said “later,” when asked if she was ready to receive Christ. The difference in their countenance was striking. The Christian sister’s eyes were filled with light and she smiled easily. The sister who refused Jesus had dull eyes and did not smile at all.
Monday night we stayed in a home for children from remote villages to live in and go to school. A few orphans were there during school vacation but most children had gone to visit relatives in their home villages. Alicia had a talent for relating to children, and she taught several boys and a girl how to play Old Maid. She also used an instant camera to take the children’s pictures and give the pictures to them. Then she entertained the kids showing them pictures of her grandbaby on her phone.
Tuesday March 22 was my 74th birthday. I woke up with a case of instant clean out. I’d eaten too much papaya the day before. Alicia and I were a team that day. Weak and a bit dizzy, although I was team leader, I begged off. “You lead, Alicia. I’ll record. I’m not up to leading today.”
“Okay. If you’re team leader, I suppose you can tell me to lead.”
She and I followed Yuwadee, Tom and Jan to a house next door to the children’s home.
“Nasaw says she used to be a Christian, but didn’t learn the Christian way and went back to the old ways.” Yuwadee interpreted for us. “She wants to stay healthy and be free of the evil spirits.”
“We need to cut off the bands on her wrists,” Alicia said.
No one had scissors or a knife. My scissors were back in my suitcase, perhaps at the house or maybe left in my luggage at the hotel. I raced as fast as I could next door. I couldn’t find the scissors, and when I returned, Jan held up a pair of scissors, and the strings she had cut. Jan handed the strings to me.
“Nasaw asked us to take the idols from her house,” Alicia said. She held up an odd-looking stick with a glob of some sort of vegetation stuck on the top that she had taken from the bedroom while Nasaw’s husband was asleep on the floor. “We’ve got to burn them. We can’t just throw them in the yard. Someone else might pick them up.”
Yuwadee pointed out spirit sticks tucked into various places in the main room of the two room house. I snatched every one she showed me and added them to the pile outdoors, along with the cut string bands.
Tom had a lighter and tried to light the pile of broken sticks. Without paper to start the fire, it wouldn’t burn. I videotaped and took snapshots.
Finally, Tom’s dad, Natapong, arrived on the scene. He tore a piece of cardboard, lit it and soon had a good blaze going. We cheered as the idol and the other symbols of Nasaw’s bondage burned.
“To learn how to live as a Christian, you go to the church and listen to the pastor. You fellowship with other Christians,” Alicia said to Nasaw, and Yuwadee interpreted. Many of the tribal people have never been to school so they don’t read. Their only way to learn God’s word is through oral teaching.
“In all our 8 trips to Thailand,” I told Alicia, “this is the first time anyone has said, ‘Come and take my idols from my house’.”
Happy birthday to me, from God. I couldn’t have received a better gift. Evil spirits had kept me in bondage for 24 years. I lost my husband, my children, my home, my health. Going to Thailand and setting other people free is my revenge. “Vengeance is mine,” the Lord says, “I will repay.” And this is how God repays, by setting the captives free.
I also received a lovely and delicious birthday cake and gifts and cards from the team that night at dinner. What a blessing—truly a birthday to remember. (And my one day cleanout was over!)
Ed had diarrhea all the next day. His, he said, came from drinking a few sips of hot tea given to him in a village. The water apparently hadn’t been boiled enough to kill all the organisms our bodies aren’t used to. Wednesday night we stayed in Huay Ma Son, the Khamcharoen family’s home village, where brothers Natapong and Yawla grew up. Natapong had Ed and I stay in his parents’ house. There is no glass in the windows of the village houses, and the room we stayed in had several large windows. The air cooled that night and Ed and I slept well. I simply pumped my air mattress up again in the middle of the night using the battery operated pump, and went back to sleep.
Thursday morning, I hiked up to the next house where other team members stayed. Craig had called us together to worship before breakfast. Brian had music on speaker. The American team plus some Lahu interpreters worshipped, and after two songs, village people who heard the music entered the house one at a time for prayer. Craig and a few others on the team ministered healing while I videoed the spontaneous event. “Oh, how he loves me,” the song played as people were healed.
Suddenly, no more people entered the house. And the music, which had been slow and worshipful, changed to a fast song of celebration, as if the impromptu event had been planned. Which it had been—orchestrated by God.
“Now, that’s how to have church!” I said on camera.
Terie and I, who rode together every day with Natapong and Yuwadee in their truck, ministered together as a team with Yuwadee and Jan. We ministered in three villages to a total of eleven people. One woman was a Lisu tribe silversmith where I bought a small flower cross and Terie purchased several items from her.
Thursday night we stayed at Grace Home in Chiang Rai, the largest city north of Chiangmai, near the “golden triangle” where Thailand, Miramar (Burma) and Laos intersect. Much drug traffic has happened here.
Ed and I visited Grace Home on our first trip to Thailand in 2004, before Craig came there on the 2006 trip. We’d seen the place grow from a thatched roof house and one dormitory for sixteen girls to a 2-story building plus dormitories for over sixty children both boys and girls. Our team brought the first boy to Grace Home in 2006, Charlie, and he now has graduated from the University and is employed in another city. Adunsin and Anna still operate the home, and a day nursery/preschool which brings in income for Grace Home.
“Tomorrow we go to a Lahu conference,” Yawla informed our team.
I remembered the Christian conference in Chiangmai Ed and I had gone to on our first trip to Thailand. “What a waste of time that will be,” I groused. “A bunch of people worshipping and speaking in a language we can’t understand, and no ministering healing to anyone.”
Friday morning in the upper story of the building, our team both Lahu and American gathered together for worship. Pastor Chris spoke for a few minutes first.
“Sing in our own language if we know the words, or sing in tongues, but let’s all worship together,” he admonished.
“Yes,” one of the Lahu guys said. “Sing in tongues!”
What followed was another first for a team. We worshipped to the songs Brian played, singing words in both English and Lahu. Suddenly the Lahu guys began to sing in tongues, in spontaneous multilayered harmonies, both beautiful to hear and filled with power. We all joined in, men and women Americans and Lahu. I’d heard and participated in singing in the Spirit before, but nothing so glorious and powerful. I didn’t film it. The full experiencing of it was too important. I filmed a short bit as we ended our worship time.
I believe the unity and release of power in the spirit-realm was part of what happened that day. We rode miles on a dirt road into the hills and in a remote village, hundreds of Lahu had gathered, set up tents and after morning worship and listening to speakers, were buying and selling.
Our teams walked among them and prayed for people. Rod and Ed and I were a team, Yuwadee our interpreter. Gradually we worked our way up a hill, and found ourselves all teams together near a house. People just kept coming to be prayed for. A man who couldn’t walk could walk and climbed a mango tree. People who couldn’t see could see. People who couldn’t hear could hear.
“I’ve been on lots of mission trips,” Pastor Chris said, “but I’ve never seen anything like this. This is amazing! All these people healed and they keep bringing their friends and relatives. It has to be real or they wouldn’t keep coming like this!”
We were supposed to eat lunch here at the conference, but there was no time for lunch. Finally, Craig declared we would all go back down the hill to where tables were set up and eat our lunch. We’d brought roast chicken with us, and all our team had meat to eat.
So much for my idea we wouldn’t be able to minister at the conference. This was nothing like the indoor one at the Chiangmai University held in 2004.
Most of the team left to go to a soccer match and pray for people there. Ed and I rode with Natapong and Yuwadee and Tom to a couple’s house who were their relatives. The village close by the conference, on the road back to Grace Home. After ministering to the couple, Yuwadee and Tom took me to another house where a young wife battled depression because her husband had left her and her 2 children for another woman. After we ministered to Nasuda, she led us to 6 other houses to minister to people. By the time we left, the wife who had been depressed was filled with joy after she had led us to minister to others.
Saturday, Ed and I said good-bye to Grace Home. On the way back to Chiangmai, we ministered in a village that was half Lahu and half Akha. The Lahu side was Christian, but the Akha side had succumbed to the deceptions of Jehovah Witnesses, and would no longer fellowship with the Christians.
Yawla led us all to the PAOT (Pentecostal Assembly of Tribes) compound where most of our Lahu crew lived. He planned a tour of the church and Palansak’s small orphanage, but Ed and I insisted Natapong take us to his house. I wanted to see their new home for their ministry, Great New Life, where they rescue girls off the streets of Chiangmai, and have Terie see their place too. Their house is on other property nearby. The house is concrete, painted pink. The outside walls, inside walls and tile floors are also pink. The rescued girls have their own room and no longer have to sleep on the porch of Natapong’s old house in the PAOT compound.
“We need a concrete wall on the property to protect the girls, so the Thai men cannot sneak through the woods and steal them,” Yuwadee said. “We need one thousand dollars US to build the wall.”
After showing us their two bathrooms, one with an American toilet, the main area and four bedrooms, Yuwadee opened the door to her kitchen. The vaulted roof was open to the outside, no ceiling. “Rats get in and they poop all over the floor. It is a terrible mess to clean. I need a ceiling,” she said.
“Get cats,” Terie said. “Don’t feed them and they will kill all the rats, plus rabbits and whatever other small animals are in the woods.”
Yuwadee was silent. Perhaps she contemplated the idea. The village cats are so small, I’m not sure they’d be much use. Maybe a rat terrier dog would be better.
I think I’d want a ceiling even before a wall. But finances are always a logistical problem.
“Could you help me sell in the US the bags I make?” Yuwadee asked me.
I don’t like trying to sell stuff, but I agreed. I love this brave little woman with all my heart and I vowed to do what I could to help her earn money to get her ceiling and whatever else she needed.
Sunday, Ed had stomach pain, so I spoke in the church service we attended with Yuwadee and Natapong. I shared my story of the woman who had us remove her idols, and then I shared Terie’s testimony about a 4-year-old boy who had never walked because his little feet were twisted. After hands on ministry, his feet straightened and he walked for the first time. His mother cried tears of joy—and the boy, not understanding why his mother cried, cried too.
After my testimonies, Ed ministered to eight men and I ministered to about twenty women.
Tuesday we drove to an area outside Chiangmai district where we hadn’t been before. High up into the mountains on a dirt road, where the jungle is undisturbed and the trees haven’t been harvested. They’d had rain there on Friday, and the air was clear and everything a canopy of green.
“This is so beautiful,” I said to Ed. “It reminds me of when we first came to Thailand and rode into remote places, especially with the Karen. I’m glad we got to do this on our last trip here.”
“There are still tigers in this jungle,” Natapong said.
We stopped to minister in one village, and all the people came to us for prayer, using the platform in the center of the village. After ministering there we drove on.
“We are close to my coffee field,” Natapong said. He motioned toward a hillside with his whole hand. “We grow good coffee. Our beans bigger and better. People like to buy our coffee beans when we sell in Chiangmai.”
We rode to another village on the way down the other side of the mountain. Here we had lunch in the church building. After lunch people arrived to be healed and in our individual teams we ministered to them all. A cacophony of sound filled the small church as the teams worked.
Wednesday, our last day in Thailand, the team was scheduled to go to Maesa Elephant Camp. We were supposed to check out of our rooms before 8 o’clock, when our trucks and drivers would be there to pick us up.
“I’m not going,” I said at breakfast as I shared a table with Rod and Cathy. “I didn’t sleep more than 2 hours last night. I had a bit of a runny nose and cough. I’ll ask Craig if I can stay in his room and get some more sleep. He’s having us leave our luggage in his room since he’s staying a couple more days here before he flies south to Phuket.”
After my second cup of tea, I felt better and realized even if I slept a couple more hours, I’d be bored the rest of the day.
“I’ve decided to go to the elephant camp after all,” I told Ed who had come down for breakfast after I had finished and Cathy and Rod had left. “It’s such fun to share with new team members the place where the Karen tribe people raise elephants and care for them.”
The daily shows and elephant rides support the camp. Elephants were lined up for visitors to take pictures with. Booths sold bananas and sugar cane to give to the elephants as treats. We watched elephant bathing in the river where their mahouts scrub the elephants with brushes. At the show in the arena, elephants strolled playing harmonicas and twirling hula-hoops on their trunks. They played soccer, kicking balls high into the air. Four of the beasts painted pictures. The pictures were then for sale priced up to hundreds of dollars according to degree of difficulty. At the gift shop, I bought a set of nine postcards of previous elephant paintings for 50 baht. (About $1.50)
Ed and Terie rode in the box seats on the 30-minute elephant ride. I skipped the ride this year. Their ride passed by the area where the mahouts and their families lived, and where the three-week old baby elephant with its mother was kept.
After the elephant camp, Yawla took us on a new adventure, to Tiger Kingdom, where for a fee, you can get into a cage with live tigers and pet them. “No-o-o-o thank you!” I said. “I’ve got a 15 pound domesticated cat that is lovey and sweet, and takes it in his head once in a while to be jungle cat and swat at me, aiming for my face.” Craig and Brian were the only takers.
They survived and I enjoyed their pictures taken as they stroked the big cats.
The last event of the trip, our Lahu team invited us all to a barbecue inside the Pentecostal Assembly of Tribes compound where most of them live. There we ate the meat and vegetables they cooked for us outdoors and fellowshipped for the last time. We would fly out at midnight.
Ed and I sat with Natapong, Yuwadee, Tom, and Don—their younger son, and Yuwadee’s mother around the cooking fire. Natapong gazed at Ed and I with such love in his eyes.
“You come to Thailand again. You no go back. This time you stay with us. I will take care of you.”
Tears filled my eyes. I felt so blessed at his request. Leave our American home and our family and friends? Probably not. But who knows? Perhaps one day we will.
At ten o’clock our Lahu team hauled us all and our luggage to the airport. We hugged our Lahu friends good-bye and settled in for the long trip home. Where we’d had a mere 30 minutes to change planes at Incheon airport we now had a 7 hour layover. At least both planes we flew back on were Airbus 300 with the smartly engineered seats with extra layback. I slept most of the way.
The Healing Ministry Adventure Begins
Wang Tarn Resort-the picture taken looking at the rooms we stayed in. A corner of the restaurant pavilion is on the right corner of the picture.
At customs in the airport the thirteen member team broke up and stood in various lines for non-Asian people entering Thailand. The process was simple. We showed our passport with our entry and exit paper we had filled out on the plane. This was our 30-day visa which the agent then attached to our passport, stamped the passport and took our picture.
Our luggage was scanned and no one paid any attention to it. We’ve never had any of our luggage searched coming into or leaving Thailand. Only leaving or re-entering the US has there ever been any hassle. We wheeled our overloaded free cart into the entry-exit part of the airport.
Eleven o’clock at night, yet our entire Lahu tribe Thailand team, (minus one, Japey, 78 years old) sixteen people, were there to meet us. Yawla Khamcharoen, head of the Pentecostal Assembly of Tribes, the PAOT, was our on-the-ground leader to the hill tribes in northern Thailand.
“Oh, it’s so good to see you!” I hugged Yuwadee’s small frame and she placed a pikake lei over my head. The tiny white flowers have the most exquisite scent. Every one of our team from America was presented with one of the fragrant flower leis.
Four years since Ed and I had been to Thailand and we had thought we would never be back there again. Natapong and Yuwadee were the couple whose ministry, Great New Life, we supported.
“This our son, Tom,” Yuwadee said, introducing the tall young man beside her. “He is 18 now and will go with us to the villages.” They also have a younger teenage son, Don.
“I will interpret for you,” Tom said. He spoke excellent English.
My brain barely functioned after our long trip in airplanes where the oxygen level in the recycled air was just enough to keep us alive. Not until the next day when Yuwadee and Tom rode with us out to the villages did I realize that they were two of the extra Lahu tribe that Yawla had insisted on bringing along at the last minute.
“Why do we need four more Lahu? We’ve already got 13.” I’d complained to Craig and Ed before we left Oregon. “That means more logistics and more cost from our already tight team money budget.”
And here God was giving me the gift of spending every day of our trip with Yuwadee, which had never happened before.
The night air in Chiangmai was wonderfully warm, 80 degrees. Outside the airport, the Lahu guys loaded our luggage in the back of Natapong’s truck. His clean truck sparkled in the lights. For a millisecond I thought he had a new one. But when I climbed in the back, the well-worn interior told me different.
This truck is how we first met Natapong and why he became our driver on every trip. In 2004, when we made our first trip to Thailand as part of a divine healing team with Craig DeMo of Ambassador Ministries, the team of 22 was split into 2 teams. Ed and I were on the team led by John Scarth, going the first week to the Karen tribe with Pastor Joseph. The truck we rode in for that first week was a two-door with a bench back seat. We were miserable bouncing over those pot-holed dirt roads.
“We are not doing this again,” Ed said, his back hurting from an old injury.
Monday morning of week two in 2004, the Lahu pulled their trucks up to our hotel. We would go with Pastor Yawla and the Lahu the second week. Ed and I rushed out and found us a four-door truck with a full, padded backseat. The truck had a rack on top, and the seat belts had Winnie the Pooh themed pads. We stood by that truck until the owner came and unlocked it for us.
“Hello. I am Natapong,” the genial, dark haired, stocky built young man said. “This my truck. I am your driver.”
Now, twelve years later, our lives are intertwined and forever joined through ministry. God takes the mundane and makes it divine.
Wang Tarn resort is in Doi Saket, a town outside of Chiangmai, about thirty minutes from the airport. We have stayed there the first night in Thailand in all our eight trips. Since Ed and I had last been at the resort in 2012, Wang Tarn (pronounced Wong Tarn) had changed hands.
“The new owners have closed the open air restaurant that used to be next to the huge raintree and above the swimming pool. I loved that location,” I said to Ed. With a pang, I let it go.
The party pavilion located at the bottom of the hill sat directly across the road from the concrete single-story buildings which house the rooms. Now the pavilion housed the restaurant where food was served.
All Ed and I cared about was our room with the traditionally hard Thai bed, the functioning air conditioner, and two bottles of water. Oh, yes, we had an American style toilet too.
Next morning after a good night’s sleep, we ate breakfast at the restaurant, where we picked out postcards to send to those who support us with finances and prayer. We received our team assignments for Friday, five teams of two people each and one team of three. Each team had a leader and a recorder. The recorder wrote in books made up for the trip to record the healings. Each team had at least two Lahu interpreters, one of which would be the actual leader going house to house in a village. We loaded up in our six trucks and headed out for ministry.
Ed and I were a team and ministered in several small villages on our way to Prao. There we ate a late lunch at Prao orphanage. All meals in the villages consisted of a bowl of rice, and bowls of broth with vegetables, sometimes chicken pieces, chopped bones and all. Occasionally there would be bowls of pieces of watermelon or papaya.
“Today we will baptize three boys who have given their lives to Christ,” Yawla informed the team. We climbed into the trucks and drove a short distance to a murky looking waterhole in a field of grass.
“Who would like to do the baptizing?” Craig asked. “I’d like some of the team to volunteer who hasn’t done this before.”
Beside me, Ed mumbled, “I’m not getting in that water.”
“I’m videoing,” I said, trying to balance on the steep, grassy bank without sliding in.
No one volunteered, so Craig waded to his waist and dunked the first teenage boy.
The Lahu sang a traditional song a cappella that I’d heard them sing when they had Craig baptize a young couple in 2006 in the clear blue swimming pool at Wang Tarn.
Again Craig appealed to the team.
“I’ll do it.” Steve waded into the water and baptized one of the boys.
That night we stayed at Santi village. Ed and I stayed in a room at the Santi Methodist Mission. The single men shared a room, and the Lahu team shared another room. Terie, who was the only single woman on the team, had a private room. This was her first mission trip. A friend of mine from our church at the coast, she rode with us in Natapong’s truck. Gifted with a great sense of humor, she bonded with both Natapong and Yuwadee, and we all had a marvelous time together.
Craig arranged with Pastor Yawla Khamcharion, our Lahu leader on-the-ground, to have private rooms for all the married couples, so two couples stayed in homes elsewhere in the village. I deeply appreciated Craig’s decision to see to it Ed and I had a private room.
Ed went to bed right after dinner. I stayed up for the service held in the mission. Only a few village women with their children attended. The toddlers seemed enamored with me, and kept coming toward me as I filmed some of the music. The team all fought sleep trying to stay awake.
Steve gave his testimony, and a couple of ladies were prayed for. At last in our private room, came sweet sleep as my air mattress on the floor slowly lost air partially due to the cooling temperature and partly a slow leak.
Next morning before breakfast George was called to minister to a deaf man, who instantly regained his hearing. After breakfast we loaded up the trucks and were off and running to four villages above Santi.
In Huay Mong village, Yuwadee led Steve and I along the left side of the street. No one wanted prayer. People refused or didn’t answer Yuwadee’s call. The anti-Christian feeling seemed strong. Spirit sticks were hung all over the village. The traditional tribal religion was being in bondage to evil spirits, called nats. Sometimes the village “spirit man” conducted animal sacrifices to appease the spirits.
The Lahu word for God the Creator is G’ui sha. Their tradition says that they once had the words of how G’ui sha wanted to be worshipped, the sacred words written on rice cakes. But a famine came and the people ate the rice cakes. So the Lahu lost their connection to G’ui sha and came under the control of evil spirits instead. Lahu Christians believe the Bible is the Word of G’ui sha and has been restored to them. Jesus, God’s Son, has delivered them from bondage to the evil spirits and reunited them with the One True God of all people.
A woman came up to me with handmade bamboo bracelets she had for sale. “I don’t want to buy a bracelet,” I said. I’d never wear one, who knew what kind of spirit-thing it was.
Then I felt a prompting from the Lord. Your gift will make room for you. I bought a bracelet for ten baht. (About thirty cents) The one on the first end of her string of bracelets was the prettiest, and I took it.
We walked on up the street, found no one to minister to, and headed back down the hill. Suddenly, next to a small store at the bottom, Pastor Chris grabbed me. “We need a woman to pray for these women.”
There, sitting on a low bench was the woman who sold bracelets. “She has pain in her shoulder and knee,” Yuwadee said.
I ministered healing to her in the Name of Jesus, and she could move her shoulder and leg without pain. Napa was a Christian. I could wear the bracelet and remember how God had prompted me to buy it. Now where no one wanted prayer on the other side of the village, here were three women who wanted ministry.
Another woman sitting near Napa had tooth pain and diabetes. After ministry, she felt better and the pain in her teeth was gone. “I will be able to eat without pain,” she said.
A third woman talked with me in English that she’d learned at the university.
In Soeng Charong village, Nabu had neck and shoulder pain for two months. After ministry her arm now moved freely without pain. Nato had arm and shoulder pain for five months and she was also healed.
These were healings with results easily seen. Naka had heart problems.
“She say she have peace,” Yuwadee interpreted after I ministered healing to her. We had no other way to “see” results.
“Naka wants us to follow her,” Yuwadee said. The woman led Yuwadee, Jan, Steve and me to another house where a woman lived who had a broken hip. She sat on her floor.
“Her name is Napo,” Yuwadee interpreted. “She says she has no one to take care of her and cannot walk because of her broken hip,”
We couldn’t get clear information from Napo to learn if she had had surgery, or had been seen or treated by a doctor. The tribal people get medical care in larger towns and villages. I’ve been in one of the hospitals, and it was like the pictures from the 1940’s. After laying hands on her for healing, Napo did say the pain was less, but was still unable to get up and walk in the short time we were there. We prayed for her healing to continue to manifest.
These are the cases I don’t like—where we have to leave after seeing only partial results. But I know from having been on eight divine healing trips to Northern Thailand that many times we hear later how the healing manifested completely after we left. The insane woman our team prayed for in 2011. In 2012 back in the same village, she was completely sane and had been since the day we ministered to her, and was now reunited with her family. In 2009 the team prayed for a pastor who had a stroke and hadn’t walked in over a year. After ministry, we left him still sitting. A few weeks later he was seen running through a village testifying to his healing and preaching the gospel.
Late Saturday afternoon, we checked in to our hotel, the Royal Lanna, conveniently located across the street from a 7-Eleven store. (7-Eleven stores are very common in Northern Thailand—almost as common as ABC stores in Honolulu!) Also in the same complex was Duke’s Restaurant (excellent mostly non-Asian food: ribs, steaks, pizza, chicken, lasagna, hamburgers, etc.) and a Subway store. One block the other direction was Chiangmai’s famous Night Bazaar.
The rooms were spacious, the beds traditionally hard. The price of the room included a breakfast buffet. The selection, both Asian and American, was limited, but there was lots of hot water and warm milk for tea. I brought my own tea bags.
Craig led our team debriefing Saturday evening in the empty breakfast room. In a debriefing, we each spoke into a recorder, and shared something that impressed us from our time in the field.
Sunday morning, Ed and I rode with Natapong, Yuwadee and Tom to the little church in a village outside of Chiangmai where we were scheduled to speak. The church was a new one recently built. The pastor and his wife were gracious hosts.
During the song service, the Lahu choir sang a traditional hymn a cappella. In 2004 in the first Lahu church service where I heard a Lahu choir sing, I was transported in the spirit to heaven and felt such unity with my Lahu family in Christ.
I’ve always been sensitive to music.
This time, I was in the spirit again, and the Lord spoke to me. “Your beloved Lahu people are your reward laid up for you in Heaven.” Tears ran down my cheeks as the revelation opened up to me.
Words cannot express the feelings of the spirit. So I won’t even try.
Our Thailand 2016 American divine healing team. John Scarth, Cathy and Rod Smith (pastors), Brian Hoffart. Steve Noble, Sam Hess, George Clark, Chris Schauermann (Ed, Lorna, Sam, Alicia and Terie’s pastor) Ed Woods. Terie Peters and me, Lorna Woods; Alicia Hess (Sam’s wife) seated.
The Mad Dash
“Looks like we have 50 minutes, less than an hour, to change planes in Seoul,” I said to my husband Ed as we studied the brief statement of our flight schedule to and from Chiangmai, Thailand on Korean Airlines. “I’m not sure that’s enough time where we have to transfer at Incheon Airport and go through security again in order to get on our next plane.”
If one were an individual, maybe, but to put an entire team of thirteen people in that position? Of course, none of the team knew the flight schedule until after the tickets were purchased. This was our 8th and final short-term divine healing mission trip to the hill tribes of Northern Thailand with Ambassador Ministries of Beaverton, Oregon.
Now well into our seventies, we had thought we’d made our last trip in 2012. In 2013, Ed spent nine days in the hospital being stabilized with congestive heart failure. Now, three years later, he felt recovered enough to go one more time. This time not as team leaders, as we’d been on three trips, in 2009, 2011 and 2012.
“Well, Craig DeMo is team leader, not us. Making all of our connections is on the official prayer list,” Ed said.
So we focused a lot of prayer on that squeaky time to change planes on an international flight.
Good thing we did, too. Enough time? Ha! Our Boeing 777 was fifteen minutes late leaving Seattle for Seoul. Had to wait for air traffic to clear before we could take our turn off the runway. We didn’t make up a minute of our lost time as we flew the long leg of our flight, thirteen plus hours, across the Pacific from Sea Tac to Incheon.
As we approached landing at Incheon Airport, I overhead an attendant tell another passenger that her time was so short between planes that her luggage might not make the transfer. A transfer employee would lead her quickly to her next flight (not the same plane we were taking to Chiangmai.)
I added prayer that our luggage would make the transfer as well. Having our luggage miss our flight would not be good.
By the time we locked onto our gate, we had less than thirty minutes to transfer and get to our next gate—from gate 10 to gate 30.
Off the plane, through the tunnel and into the main area, and overhead was the sign Transfer, green, in English, with an arrow for direction. A Korean woman held a printed sign high above her head. Chiangmai Thailand.
Our team gathered behind her and off she went, leading the way, the sign held over her head. Ed had elected not to have a wheel chair waiting for him when he arrived, and with his shortness of breath due to congestive heart failure, there was no way he could keep up the pace.
I kept the lady with the sign in sight ahead, or other team members following her, while waiting for Ed to catch up enough where he could see me, then dashing on. Several others in the team slowed down, not wanting to leave us behind. We were doing okay, when we arrived to a quarantine booth blocking the center of the passage, and those just ahead of Ed and I, stopped. Had the rest of the team stopped here? I hesitated, and then confusion cleared. No, the rest of the team had gone on, and those just ahead of Ed and I had not followed them.
“This has nothing to do with us,” I said, and passed the booth. We were at an intersection. Craig and the team members who had stayed with the lady were nowhere in sight. I had no idea where the group was, but the green transfer signs overhead would lead us in the right direction.
We hit the end of transfer, which were three lines of people going through security. The rest of our team was not there. Pastor Chris, Rod and Cathy, Steve, Ed and I, Sam and Alicia, were all left behind. And there was no way we would get through the long security lines before our flight left. Other people waiting were missing their flights too. Gradually, as we talked among ourselves, our situation dawned on all the team members. Right now was the time for our plane’s scheduled takeoff, and we’d definitely missed it.
There was a line for flight personnel and handicapped people that let people go quickly through. But we had no authority to use that line. If Ed had been in a wheel chair—but he wasn’t. Anger flooded me. Craig had left some of us behind instead of insisting the woman wait for the whole team. Although Craig is an excellent team leader, this is something I felt Ed and I would never have done as team leaders. On our early trips Craig led, we backed him by working with team members. Now Ed had to transition to being one who needed help instead of one who gave it.
Stuck here overnight and then try to get on the next day’s flight which was probably full too? God, how are you going to get us out of this one?
Chris, pastor of the church Ed and I attend where we live on the Oregon Coast, stepped out to try to see beyond the barrier and about that time, the woman with the placard showed up and motioned us all to follow her through the fast lane. The TSA personnel gave us all the quickest check of carryons and bodies I’d ever had, and we were on our way.
And what a long way it was! Must have been at least a mile from the security checkpoint to gate 30. The lady leader kept calling on her phone—making sure they held the plane for us. Ed couldn’t keep up the fast pace, and Chris spotted a wheel chair folded against a wall—placed there by God, no doubt! Pastor Chris pushed Ed full speed down the lines of shops and gates. The lady grabbed a small luggage push-cart for me to set my carryon on so I could move even faster. She stayed with me as we rushed full speed down to gate 30.
Aboard the plane thirty minutes past its scheduled departure, I sank into my seat and thanked God for the dedicated Korean airlines personnel, the transfer lady and an airline that would actually hold the plane thirty minutes until all thirteen of its missing passengers were aboard. I doubt that any US airline would have done so.
I soon thanked God for another unexpected blessing. We were in a new Airbus 300 and the seats slid forward, then leaned back, so we actually got more of a lean-back than on the Boeing 777 we had ridden across the ocean from Seattle. I’d been unable to sleep more than a few fitful minutes on the long flight. The extra lean-back was just enough so I could easily go to sleep. Except for the meal they fed us, I slept the entire five-and-a-half hour flight from Seoul to Chiangmai.
We landed after ten pm Thailand time.
Craig made a point to talk to me about his decision to go on with the transfer lady and leave the rest of the team behind.
“I was torn,” Craig said. “I didn’t know what to do. Go on with the team members who were with me, or wait for the others. I didn’t want us all to miss the flight. I kept telling the transfer lady we were a team of thirteen. The number seemed to impress her, because she kept calling the plane and reporting to them where we were and making sure they held the plane until all thirteen were aboard.”
Since we’d all made the flight and it was a moot point, I was very forgiving. And who knows for sure what Ed and I would have done in a similar situation. “It wasn’t even Ed who held us up so we lost sight of the transfer lady,” I said. “We got confused at the quarantine booth and when we passed it, the rest of the team was nowhere in sight. We were at an intersection and we didn’t know which way to go. By the time we got on track with the transfer route again, your part of our group was already through security and on their way to the plane.”
By the way, our luggage made the flight too. Possibly because of the thirty minute delay! While the plane waited for us, the ground crew had plenty of time to transfer our luggage.