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Friday, March 16, 2012

Building Up the Church

 Huay Mai Dua is a small Karen village nestled in the mountains about 2 hours south of Chiang Rai.  Most of the people live in simple wood and bamboo houses, many without electricity or conventional bathrooms.  There is no school in the village, so during school terms, all the children live in boarding dormitories about 35 minutes away.  To visit their neighbors, they walk up and down narrow pathways cut into the red mud mountains, which tint everything including feet soles and skirt hems.

Traditionally the Karen people are animist, believing in spirits that can do them good or harm.  Nowadays, many villages are Christian, though syncretism is still present.  Which makes Huay Mai Dua's integration of traditional Karen culture with mainstream Thai culture all the more interesting: 1/3 is Christian, 1/3 is Muslim, and 1/3 is Buddhist.

This past weekend was the grand opening of the church that the community built.  The whole village was in attendance, dressed in their beautiful traditional woven shirts and skirts.  The microphone and electric guitar were powered with borrowed electricity from a bamboo hut down the hill via a single strung up line.  A choir from a visiting Karen village sung a couple of special numbers, there was a ribbon cutting and ceremony where all the guests bestowed a small gift to the church, including a bible and a large framed poster of Jesus. And of course afterwards, everyone was invited to stand around the long, bamboo tables and partake in a traditional Karen meal with curries, rice and roast pork from communal bowls.  What a fun day to celebrate that the Lord is building the true church made of His followers in Huay Mai Dua.

La and I in our traditional Karen outfits, with the new church in the background.  (My Karen top was gifted to me by a sweet friend for my birthday last year.)

Unless the Lord builds the house, the laborers build in vain.  Psalm 127:1