C W's Memoirs
page last revised: April 10, 2023
The Mien called her Mother Teacher the two highest positions of respect that can be given a woman in Mien society. We knew her as Lois Callaway - loving mother and veteran missionary to the Mien tribe of Northern Thailand. She with her husband C.W. Callaway left America in 1946 and set out on a journey to take the gospel of Jesus Christ to a people group who had never heard the name of Christ. That journey ended when they arrived in a mountain village in Northern Thailand where she set out to raise her five children (Lelan, Mark, Joyce, Jeni, and David), learn the Mien language and learn to adapt to the hardship of isolation in a jungle village.
As a servant of Christ she saw the needs of the Mien were more than just conversion to Christianity but a transformation of a way of life. To lift the burden of hardship from poverty and addiction to opium and give the Mien a way of supporting themselves would help insure their adjustment to a quickly changing world.
The upheaval following the Vietnam War and the Communist take over of Laos accelerated the need for helping the Mien adjust to a new way of life. Fleeing into Thailand from the Communists many of the Mien and other tribal groups ended up in the United Nations refugee camps in Thailand. From there many were sent to resettle as immigrants in the USA and other countries.
There Lois and C.W. set out to share the gospel of Christ’s love and forgiveness with the Mien. Many came to Christ as never before and the foundation of the present day Mien Church worldwide was born.
In the refugee camp there was no way for the Mien to earn a living. So Lois decided to use the Mien women’s skill in embroidery to produce products that could be sold to tourists and the foreign community. These hand crafted products were sold in foreign women’s clubs, churches and at missionary meetings. But the real impact was the start of a new handicraft business which has grown to include all the tribal groups as well as Thai nationals. Now tourists from all over the world who travel to Thailand enjoy shopping at the large night bazaars in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. Not realizing that the idea for such a business came in part from the heart of this servant of Christ.
Mother Teacher Book … by way of introduction …
Most every American has heard of the Vietnam War. What many Americans do not know is that this war had messily spilled over into the neighboring countries of Vietnam. Quiet mountain villages of Laos were bombed. Young Laotian boys barely taller than the firearms they carried were enlisted by the C.I.A. to fight the communists. This was the Silent War; the war in Laos that by official U.S. declaration, did not exist. Refugees fleeing the communists were crammed into filthy barbed-wire camps in Thailand.
The camps were bursting with the sick, the hungry, the dying, and the hopeless. Lois Callaway was an American missionary in Thailand at that time. Yoon Choy Saechao was a young village boy in Laos whose life was forever changed by the Silent War. It was in the stench of the camp that their lives intersected, and Yoon Choy found salvation.
I was privileged to sit and listen to both their stories. History is best heard from those who were there. These two stories have become a singular story of crossing cultures and survival. It is as much a tribute to Lois Callaway as to the Mien people like Yoon Choy, whom she loved and served. One person with a heart inclined toward the will of God, can effect change. Lois Callaway showed me that this can be true.
LOIS NADINE ELKERTON arrived in this world in a simple sod home in Adena, Morgan County, Colorado on November 24, 1921. She distinguished herself in Fort Morgan, Colorado High School and in that city in journalism and anticipated a career in that field. She was active in her church youth group and there felt the call of the Lord on her life for foreign mission service. She thus entered Phillips University in Enid, Oklahoma. There she met C.W. Callaway. After a 2-year courtship they married in Enid on May 28, 1942. They ministered in Glencoe, Oklahoma. While continuing studies at Cincinnati, Ohio Bible Seminary they ministered to Syria and Bethel Christian Churches near Orleans, Indiana.
They first went abroad in December 1946 for a year's study in missionary medicine and Burmese in London, England. After a frustrating 6 months of trying in vain to extend their visas in Burma they served a year in Kunming, Yunnan, Western China. Forced from China by the communist takeover they went on to Thailand where they arrived on October 18, 1949. Most events in this book occurred in Thailand. Throughout their ministry they have been supported by several local congregations of Christian Churches and Churches of Christ.
C.W. & Lois have 2 sons born in America, one daughter born in China, and a son and daughter born in Thailand. Lois died in an automobile accident near Napa, California on September 5, 1996.
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