Yesterday, we found ourselves in a context that we never thought we would be in. We were participating in the dowry negotiating ceremony as the "adopted parents" of Allen Metcalf, a missionary teacher at Sammuk Christian Academy. Allen is a member of our home church, College Heights UMC in Elizabethtown, KY. Allen is engaged to marry Jahp, a Thai teacher at Sammuk who is a wonderful young Christian woman.
Two days ago, we made the 10 hour trip to Jahp's grandmother's house in Northeast Thailand. It was a very nerve-wracking day for Jahp and Allen, because they knew that Jahp's mother was insisting on a very large dowry that was totally unrealistic for a young missionary teacher to offer. We have been praying about this for a long time, because it could become a problem.
We arrived around 8pm and Jahp's mother made a wonderful supper for us. We now know where Jahp learned her chef skills at (Jahp is a home economics teacher and a master cook). The next morning, a Pastor Daeng of Pahk Esarn church arrived as the negotiator and master of the ceremony. Daeng did a great job of negotiating, because the negotiations were very difficult to navigate. All of Jahp's family and relatives was present for the negotiations.
One thing that made this difficult is that the people of Northeast Thailand speak the Esarn language. Thai language is their second language. So our understanding was limited and Allen's understanding of their language was much less. Jahp forgot to arrange for a translator, so she had to do the role of translator in the negotiations. This was a problem for two reasons. The lesser reason is that she was extremely nervous, so it was difficult for her to speak and understand English under such great stress. The main reason it was a problem was that it placed her in a difficult spot in the negotiations, which were very intense.
The negotiations were moving nowhere, so the negotiator (Daeng) called for a 5 minute break. We knew what was happening. Jahp's parents and Allen and us were able to go outside in private. There, the negotiator was able to talk privately with both parties and soon a more reasonable dowry was agreed upon.
After a dowry was agreed upon, the rest of the ceremony continued. One part of the ceremony is touching. Many strings were made to tie around Jahp and Allen's wrists. As people tied the strings onto their wrists, they gave words of blessing to them. At the end of the ceremony, they had dozens of strings tied to their wrists as a symbol of love and acceptance.
After the ceremony, we had a large dinner and then Sherri, Anthony, and I made the long drive back home. We had to get back home soon because we have a new pastor and his family, Pastor Ekerin, will be arriving in Chonburi on Saturday morning, and we needed to get back to receive them. Pastor Ekerin will be training with us at Pradumri through October and then will plant a new church at Bangsaray. We have been praying for 2 years for God to send the right leader for Bangsaray, and we praise God for providing the right pastor.
Tomorrow is Easter, so we will worship at Pradumri UMC in Chonburi in the morning. Then we must go quickly to Bowin UMC because Pastor Jerron has requested our presence at their Baptism Service. Last week we met with the baptismal candidates and had a chance to speak with them and pray for them. Baptism services are a great uplifting of our spirits, as we see evidence of the Lord changing the lives of Thai people.
Today is the beginning of the Songkran festival, which is the Thai New Year. Thai people take a week off to celebrate by going to the main roads and setting up 55 gallon tanks filled with ice water. Every throws ice water on each other and also spread a grayish powdery clay material on each other. The roads are bumper-to-bumper traffic everywhere all week long. So we will stay at home and spend time preparing for the courses in United Methodist History, Doctrine, and Polity that we will teach in the next several weeks before we return to the States for itineration.
Our son MP and I will be heading out now to go to Makro, a wholesale store much like Costco or Sam's Club. They open at 7 am, and we can stock up on food and get back before people hit the streets and create traffic jams. It is 6:45 am now, so I will have to close for now.
Oh, one more great thing! In two weeks, we will have 2 new missionaries join us in Thailand. Gary and Cindy Moon will be coming to Thailand to begin 6 months of language studies. They will be directors of Mercy ministries and economic development projects for the Thailand Mission Initiative. Praise God! We need more missionaries!