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Happy Chinese New Year!
This month (like every month in my waning years) scooted by so fast I didn't realize we are looking at Valentine's Day right around the corner. This celebration is a big day for the runts. But, I digress!

I took the Great Unwashed camping in the mountains over New Year. The boys were excited about camping out in the cold, and the older girls were whining piteously, demanding to be left alone and left home! They all had unbelievable excuses not to go! But they enjoyed themselves, despite the fact that some older boys bought 5 bottles of White Lightning (rice whiskey) and a couple of the boys and girls got really hammered. The Righteous Wrath of the Lord in the guise of his servant the Rev descended heavily on their aching heads the next morning.

Last week, a truckload of family brought a 15 year old girl to me. "Joom" was unable to walk, eat, or sleep, and had skin problems and was crying bitterly that she wanted to die. She did not want to go to a doctor, so I got up in the back of the pick up, chased the relatives and listened to her story. Her parents had died of AIDS, a few years back, and she was barely acknowledged at school, and shunned in the village. This alone is bad enough for a 15 year old girl. Then, she wound up with AIDS herself, and just wanted to die (This part will be pursued later on). It was a good week of work, love, encouragement and understanding. The other day, she told me she wants to stay and live here at Nazareth House. Her grandma is with her temporarily and loves her. Grandma is amazed at the progress she made.

One of my girls is a lovely young 18 year old lady who, months ago, fed her Our Lady of Refuge friends a bottle of booze. (I found out when they were lined up on the pavilion, blowing their cookies after sucking down a bottle of Old Outhouse). She fled before I could kill her, and arrived on my porch on New Year's night, all tears, thin, and begging forgiveness and a new start. She was working as a waitress for 110 baht a day, and studying until midnight for school. So, she is back in the fold, forgiven, but in a boarding house in town. I have two more like her, but they are not as audacious. This girl comes from the slums of Bangkok. Three more months, and she graduates from high school. She wants to go to beautician school, if she doesn't wind up in jail first.

On December 27, we also had a Christmas party for our 55 OUTREACH kids, but over 100 tykes showed up, hopeful of gifts and a good meal. We were prepared for an overflow, and Santa gave them all heavy jackets and other gifts, plus a big bag of candy each. About a dozen of these children are infected, and the rest are orphaned but living with relatives. On January 2, we had a New Year party with heavy quilts, bags of food, etc., and a good meal for our AIDS infected adults. Abut 80 showed up. It is a big event for them, since no one invites them to their houses for parties or any socializing.

It is really cold here. Friday I went to Na Muang Thai in the Nam Som mountains. It was so cold that night that my ancient joints ached all night, despite a quilt. Saturday morning, I took 3 adults and 12 kids to the church celebration in a town called Thabom, which has a big Catholic population. The 12 girls were made up of 9 Buddhists and 3 Catholics, and were ages 12-15. We had to continue up in the cold and fog over the spine of the mountains and down into Thabom, one and one half hours. I really felt sorry for the kids sitting in the back of the truck. We had given them blankets, but they were frozen by the end of the trip. We attended the Mass with the bishop, and they had a big noon meal. On the way back, I gave them three plastic bags, just in case anyone got carsick. Well, they began throwing up at about the third switchback, and one girl said just watching 11 girls whooping up their curds and whey in three bags made her sick. Just before we got home, the girls jettisoned the three bags, and a black truck coming in the other direction ( loaded with mean looking people) caught the third blivot of vomit right on the windshield. The driver turned on the windshield wiper after he turned the truck to chase us, and thank God the wiper really smeared the windshield. I don't think he could see well. I was able to whip off the road and into the village through the Buddhist temple. I am getting too old for car chases!

Sunday morning, I gave the kids money to buy heavy coats, and Monday, I made a bank transfer for 24 heavy quilts for families around our church. Generous people who give me money to do this stuff unfortunately never see the results of their kindness and concern.

Again, we continue to pray for you and yours every evening at Holy Innocents chapel.

God bless!

Father Shea
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