the Vernon Journal

Serving the Kingdom in Southeast Asia

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A Team Like Christmas

This article was written for the Foursquare Missions connect site, but I wanted to repost it here as well. Any of our readers who are interested in FMI, Foursquare or missions in general feel free to join the FMI connect site for news from the global FMI work.

At the end of December, Christian churches around the globe celebrate the incarnation of the Eternal God, the dwelling of Emmanuel, Christmas: the birth of Jesus Christ in a humble manger. The songs, the scriptures, the stories awake something eternal in us. We began Christmas early this year, and in an unexpected way. At the beginning of December we, along with fellow FMI missionaries in SE Asia, hosted a team of 8 pastors and leaders from the Gateway district, led by George Cline as they came on a short trip to two SE Asia nations to see what was happening out here and how the US church could partner with the work in Asia. This team was an encouragement to us in a way that few, if any, prior teams had been, and we would like to highlight four reasons why:

They Came, They Engaged, They Imparted, They Testified (and will continue to do so!)

click the images below to view the full-size image: [gallery]

Just Like Pulling Teeth

Dr. Luce working on a Bible Student at House of Joy For the past 6 years, Dr. Luce and his staff have been giving of their time and skills to come to Chiang Rai and care for the dental needs of Akha children and Bible Students at Akha Outreach Foundation, as well as the occasional village dental clinic.

Last year Dr. Newman and his family joined the dental team, and the village aspect of the dental ministry began to really take off.

Dr. Newman teaching proper injection techniques.

Both dentists have been encouraging us to learn how to anesthetize a patient and perform simple extraction techniques, but we've been slow to respond to their urgings (Lori once had a mild fainting spell when watching an oral surgery). Earlier this year, however, Dr. Luce was at a meeting for the Christian Dental Society and saw a presentation training nationals to do rural, village or jungle dentistry and his heart was really stirred to see the young Akha leaders trained in dentistry as well. Dr. Newman, who has also used his skills to minister in Africa, was equally excited by the vision and the two of them prepared a 3-hour training to supplement multiple days of observation, along-side training and hands-on extractions.

Joe was very sympathetic as he watched the teeth being pulled.The training was a wonderful experience. These young Akha leaders jumped right in to the action, and Lori and I got up the courage to join them. After learning about the root structures of different teeth, safety and cleanliness precautions, and what types of teeth are within our skill set to extract we all practiced administering anesthetic to each other. You know you have a good trusting relationship as husband and wife if you can let each other practice sticking needles into your gums. After the training day, we had a village dental clinic in Doi Chang and we 6 trainees (and our pastor Joe, who couldn't stomach the shots, but trained as an assistant) treated a majority of the 40 patients we saw that day.

The trainers and the trainees.In total, the Dental Team (Bill, Rick, Jana, Lisa and Pam) put up some very impressive numbers in the short week they were here.  In the villages, over 200 teeth were pulled. At House of Joy, 40 wisdom teeth were pulled, 40 fillings were given, 2 tooth repairs were made, 13 additional extractions and 137 cleanings filled their week. In addition, they trained a team of 7 locals to continue dental care for remote villages as we are traveling in and out of them. Pray for M, Nuey, Anm, Adeu, Lori, Paul & Joe Akha as an assistant, that we might have opportunities to continue to minister to the needs of the Akha wherever we might go.

..and the deaf will hear...

Many of you are familiar with the story of the two deaf children who live in our village. Those of you who have not heard this story, read a post here or here to fill yourself in. Anyone who has visited our village knows A-Paw, 8, is the younger of the two siblings. She is a beautiful and truly remarkable child. She is so smart and has a personality that just lights up a room. Her older brother, A-Wa, 15, is a handsome young man with a lot of confidence and potential, as well as a certain knack for getting into mischief.

Unlike many deaf children in America, these two have very little opportunity for "success". Without any method of communication (they have had very little exposure to sign language) they have no opportunity to succeed in school (the Thai / modern definition of success) and very little opportunity to find someone to marry (the Akha / premodern definition of success).

The, in June 2009, we were honored and blessed to host Kristin & Dave - who came halfway around the world just to be a blessing to this family. Kristin is an audiologist and is currently working for the Denver Public School system. They not only brought the expertise to diagnose these kids, but they also brought first class equipment and top of the line hearing aids which had been donated to give to this family!

It was an extraordinary experience to see these two children hear for the first time ever. Both children have very minimal hearing, so much so that if you were standing right next to them, yelling their names... they wouldn't hear you. But with the hearing aids they could hear even quietly spoken words!

After being fitted with her aids, we "spied" on A-paw as she was tried them out on the real world. She went outside, and was standing 50 meters from some of her friends who were playing with a bamboo stick by hitting it on the ground. As she heard the hollow, echoing sound of bamboo floating across the distance, her eyes grew wide and she looked back at us in amazement as if to say "Hey... that makes an incredible sound!"

We are so grateful for the opportunity that has been given to these kids. We know that the path will not be an easy one, as special needs education cases are largely ignored in rural Thailand. Also adding to the difficulty is the significant cultural and emotional adjustment as a child goes from a silent world to an audible one. We are hoping to get them some speech therapy (we might even do it ourselves if need be!) and help them to catch up in school, but these things will take time and patience.

Through this experience, however, we are again reminded and awestruck by the way our God lavishes his love upon the poor and the needy.

A-paw's hearing test,'Raise your hand when you hear the sound.'A-wa's new hearing aidsFitting A-wa's hearing aidsA-paw trying out the otoscope on her big brotherFitting A-paw's hearing aidsKristen & A-paw just hanging outDinner at A-wa & A-paw's family's house to honor Kristen & DaveGroup Photo: Kristin & Dave, Lori, A-wa & A-paw's Family

Akha Dental Clinic (Video)

At the end of this month (August 2009) our annual dental team will be arriving in Chiang Rai. Dr. Luce and Dr. Newman will be with the team to provide free dental care for the children's home, Bible students, and various Akha villages. Dr. Luce has been coming out for years, and Dr. Newman joined him last year - spending some extra time with us in our village running a village clinic. This year will be a whirlwind trip, just one week, but we are all looking forward to their visit. It's incredibly late, but I've gotten a video up from last year's village clinic.

The video is of a removal of an oral cyst (at least I think it was an oral cyst, Dr. Newman you can correct me in the comments if I'm wrong) from the lip of an Akha teenage girl. It's a graphic, bloody video, so if you are one of our weak-stomached viewers, here's a happier video for you.

New Zealand Medical Team

We always welcome guests with medical expertise who can assist us with our Mobile Clinic and help us broaden our medical knowledge in the process! Our recent medical team from New Zealand was no exception; the team consisted of 8 medical students and 1 medical doctor. They were scheduled to be with us for 6 nights and we had planned to do 4 clinic days in 4 different villages. Unfortunately, due to Abi's hospitalization we had to cut our time short a bit, which left us with only 2 full days available for clinics. However, through the teams hard work, we managed to squeeze in clinics at all four villages and we ended up treating over 150 patients!

Three of the four clinics we did were especially exciting for Paul & I because they were in villages not associated with our organization. As is the case in much of the world, sometimes, here in Thailand, church groups have trouble getting along.Unity among Christians and Christian organizations is one of the areas that Paul and I really have a heart to see improve among the Akha. So, in providing a "no strings attached" clinic, we hope to not only bless the individual receiving the medical care, but to build relationship with village and church leadership which might remind them that the body of Christ can still function even outside of denominational affiliation!

Yep, We're Fine

those of you who have heard about the unrest / state of emergency in Thailand, please know that it is neither affecting us or our work here in Northern Thailand. We have no desire to comment on all the goings on - you are welcome to get all the information about what is going on through your various news sources. We have been enjoying our time with a dental team from Colorado, having treated nearly 100 patients over the last two days (55 oral surgeries/extractions and 40 cleanings)

We will get some more pictures and details us from this team as we get the time, but just wanted you all to know that we are all doing well in Northern Thailand

CMCC 2008 Missions Team

We have had (and will have) visitors and teams from all over the world in these months from July to September.We've had doctors from Singapore and Germany who offered their expertise in free Akha village clinics. We've had an old Colorado friend who now lives in Scotland come through for a few days. We are about to have a number of dentists from America come out to do volunteer dental care for the Akha. And we had a missions team of international students living in Chiang Mai, Thailand who attend the CMCC youth group come spend a week with us in Mae Salong on a work project building stairs in the common path areas of the village.

Although all of these visitors deserve their own posts, notes, pictures and videos - the group that spent the most time in our village was the CMCC team - so we put together a video of their project to share with them and with the village. Take a look here...

(there's also a short moment of Abi in all her village glory ...dirty, dirty, dirty! and loving it)

Here's the clip:

In case you are wondering. All these videos are finally getting completed because I am in the city helping teach a young Akha man who is reaching out to his fellow Akha in Laos how to edit videos. He is editing videos of Laos trips on his desktop while I edit videos right next to him on our computer. It's a strange time for the Akha world... Grass roofs, dirt floors and nicely edited home videos on the television. Pray for he and his coworkers in their wonderful work.

Pray For Lori (and Abi, Esther & some Germans)

While I'm stuck in meetings discussing the new Akha orthography (actually, a really cool experience that I will fill you all in more on later) Lori is much more literally stuck in Mae Salong with a broken vehicle. You heard it right, our truck is broken again.

A very similar problem to all our other vehicle issues, actually, as there seems to be a crack in the feed from the radiator to the engine.

She has the baby, Esther and two German visitors - (one of whom is a doctor who just helped out with a free clinic in a local village, I'm sure that's another cool story that we will fill you all in more on later) - so her hands are full.

Please pray for peace for them, for safety and for a tow truck that actually can tow a vehicle (as opposed to the rope/bamboo contraption we dealt with before.)

Don't worry, we'll leave the vehicle in Mae Salong before we have Lori do anything dangerous.

Thanks for your prayers.

Akha Village :: Dentistry and Clinic Pictures

For the past week a dental team from America has been visiting Akha Outreach Foundation doing the annual check-ups and cleanings for all the orphans. While this is quite a large task in itself, they still made time to haul all thier equipment up to a village for a day to pull some teeth. Preventative dental care is a fairly new concept in Akha villages, so although most of the children and young adults brush thier teeth, many of the older adults have never brushed thier teeth and live in constant pain. It is very common for adults to chew betel nut which helps to numb the pain temporarily (and makes for the blackish-red teeth that are so often seen among the Akha), but in the long run it causes much damage to the mouth & gums. You can imagine that Dr. Luce and his two dental assistants had their hands full that day! They saw over 40 patients and pulled over 100 teeth in just 6 hours! Good work, guys! The village they visited was about 20 miles east of the village we live in, so we drove over to help out if we could. We certainly weren't much help in pulling teeth, but we were able to set up a mobile clinic and treat some minor non-dental ailments. The open-air school room we were in felt like a three-ring circus at times, with everyone in the village either straining to watch in sympathetic agony as the dentist pulled teeth, or curiously crowding around to see the two white people "who speak Akha" give out medicine.

Here are a few pictures of the day, courtesy of Joe Rutledge.

Dr. Luce pulling an Akha woman's toothTwo Akha women watching with sympathyDr.Luce, two assistants and the Akha woman after pulling the toothPaul and Lori with their mobile clinicPaul dispensing medicineLori reading 'Where there is no Doctor'

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