Friday, July 31, 2009

Mae La Refugee Camp

We arrived at the refugee camp a little after 9 a.m. Thursday morning without incident. We went directly to the Bible School Chapel where we were escorted to the stage. As I was walking up there, it occurred to me that this building with the chapel in it was a lot like my dad's haybarn. The frame building is somewhat the same, it's fairly open, with at tin roof and part cement/part dirt floor. The roof has leaves over the tin to dampen the sound that the rain made. It even smelled a lot like a barn minus the cow smells. We sang for the students during chapel, and then were immediately humbled when they sang a song. These people love to sing, and they are incredibly good at projecting their voices. It made me think of Ni Doh Paw.
On our drive over from Chiang Mai on Wed I told Roger Butz that I'd be interested in working on conversational English if some students wanted to practice in a small group setting, like 10 or 12. Well, after chapel they said there were 85 students who would like to practice English. Unfortunately, I couldn't do it then because we had to do the Bible story that I helped tell and work with the kids. So another woman from the team went with Jean Murrow to do that. I was bummed but we had a good time working with the kids anyway. After lunch the other woman and I switched places and I got to work with Jean teaching English. It was very fun interacting with these students in their early 20's. Later Roger asked if we'd put together some ideas for future trips to do more English teaching. He said he gets requests from people wherever they go to do that but have never known how or what to do.
After class I was able to find one student who knew Ni Doh Paw's father. This young man had been a part of Pastor Eh Day Htoo's church. That was helpful because I needed to deliver some things to his daughter. His daughter lived by Eh Day Htoo's old home, and the young man said it would take an hour to walk there. The house was in zone A, and we were in zone C. I was advised not to go there; they said that often if you cross into another zone they won't let you back. So this young guy called her, and she and her family soon came on a motor cycle--actually they went to the road, hired a cycle, and drove to zone C and then walked in to the Bible School. It was nice to connect with them, and they would deliver the other 'mail' that I brought from other refugees.
We ate rice for lunch and dinner, and sometime during the afternoon it started pouring down rain. Jim M said it can rain at the rate of 10 inches/hour, but didn't think this was quite that hard. It kept raining all afternoon and evening. We watched dirt and water pour down the hills and the river that was at least 100 feet away from the Bible school began to rise. By evening it was waste deep near the school. You can't think of this place like an ordinary Bible college. The halls, or walking between buildings and even rooms or up to the bathroom, are all dirt. And when it started raining the dirt turned to mud and the river water was brown. But it never dampens the people's spirits.
Sleeping was interesting. The girls slept in the loft above the chapel, all in a row on two sides of it, each with our own mosquito net. About the time it got dark we began to hear the most interesting noises, extremely loud frogs and other night creatures. It was sweet music to fall asleep to and I did sleep quite well. I forgot to mention that Dr. Simon, the director of the school, shared his story before we went to bed. It was quite interesting and I'll share it when I can.
In the morning most of the group went to see a place right along the Burma border where some new arrivals are being placed in temporary shelters. They probably won't be allowed to stay where they are, but they've crossed over to be safe and so they've put up temporary bamboo huts and covered them with big plastic tarps. Roger said that the strategy of the Burmese army is to threaten a village, demanding that they provide porters or else pay money. If they can do neither they set land mines around the village, rape the women, and whatever else goes with it. These people don't want to stay in Thailand, but can't go back across the border, and can't go into the camps because there is no room.
Jean and I, along with Katy, Sophie, and a girl named Shannon stayed behind and taught the English class again. It was fun to have them ask the girls questions about life in America. Then we turned the tables on them and asked them questions. We also taught them some common idioms. The girls all said it was fun.
Before we left we got a chance to walk through the camp a little bit, only in zone C. We walked over to an orphanage. It looked like these kids were camping out in a fort, that's what the 'house' they lived in looked like to me. They sang for us, and again, they sang to the Lord with great joy and enthusiasm. It messes with my head to think of how that compares with our singing.
more later...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Mae Sot

I wasn't supposed to be able to get on today because our plan was to spend tonight in the refugee camp. At the beginning of the trip we were supposed to split into 2 groups, 1 would go to the refugee camp and 1 would go to a Karen village. Because 2 people ended up not coming on the trip they decided to take us all to the camp. When we got to Mae Sot it seemed clear for all of us to enter. But by the time we got to the camp they refused entry to us. We came back to Mae Sot to spend the night, and have been assured by the people helping us that tomorrow they will let us in. Please pray that will be the case. Many of us would be very disappointed if we couldn't go to the camp. Thanks for your prayers.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Chiang Mai

We spent today in Chiang Mai, recuperating from India and doing touristy stuff. Everyone was breathing better today. Some of the differences we've noticed between the 2 countries: It's much quieter in Thailand. No horn honking. The Thais seem to follow the rules of the road, at least for the most part. They have lines on the road and honor them. It's not so hot hear, and the land is much more colorful. India is mostly brown except for the women's clothes. Chiang Mai is green and lush, a lot like Hawaii without the ocean. THere aren't people living on the streets, although I did see a couple of people sleeping outside when I was looking down from my hotel window. Finally, there are a lot more white people. In India the only place we saw white people was when we visited Mother THeresa's home for the destitute and dying (they were volunteering), or at the Baptist mission guest house we stayed at, or at the mall. Here there are white people everywhere.
This morning we headed out and went to the elephant farm first. We could feed the elephants, watch them bathe, (I thought of Tim and lifeguarding when the elephants walked down into the water and immediately had to poop. The elephant poop does get scooped up so they can turn it into compost, or paper, or other things), watch them perform, and even ride them.
After the elephant farm we went to an orchid place that serves a great buffet lunch. Pupu Jack lied when he said we'd lose weight on this trip. I think I'm gaining. We've been eating wonderful Indian and Thai food. Today I had chicken and vegetables in coconut milk soup. Earlier this year we wanted Ni Doh Paw to make us a dish with lemon grass; now I've eaten a lot of food with lemon grass in it, and I might be making trips to the Asian market myself.
WHen lunch was over we went to the tiger farm. Because the price of admission included a 15 minute visit in the tiger cage everyone ended up going in. I think that some of the kids, especially Sophie and Katy would have put their hands in the tiger's mouths if they'd been told to do something like that. The pictures will take years off Pam's (Sophie's mom) life, but at least she'll be forewarned.
We ended the day with a visit to an orphanage Roger wanted us to see. Most Thai orphanages (we'll see some next week) are mostly filled with ethnic minority or tribal kids, and often the kids are left there by parents who can't afford to care for them, but might come back for them when their lives are better. This orphanage is different....Here they have to relinquish parental rights, and the orphanage only takes Thai children. The reason: after 175 years of Christian presence and missionary work in Thailand, the gospel has still never taken hold. Less than 1 % of the population is Christian and those are mostly tribal people. So this orphanage is set up to take in Thai children, raise them with the gospel, and maybe that will be the seed of the church...
Tomorrow we're leaving for the refugee camps, on my birthday. We celebrated tonight with ice cream at Haggen Daas (sp?) . It wasn't as good as at home. Everyone in the group is holding up well, although it's been somewhat hard on Jean. She stubbed her foot on the tile floor in India, and has had a hard time walking. Her toes are all purple. If you've been praying for my back, thanks. I'm amazingly not in pain at all. Maybe I need to sleep on a straw mattress like we had in India.... Katy, Nathan, and Sophie have all said that they want to go back to India for 6 months to work with Subir and Eunok. I told them to remember that bugs, rice, heat, and poverty are part of that package but they seem undeterred. We're traveling up to Mae Sot in a van and 2 trucks. There is a possibility that some people will be sitting in the back of the trucks. Guess who is volunteering????
Pray that we'll be able to connect with all the people that I've been given stuff for from our Karen community at home. Continue to pray for health and endurance. And please pray that we'll be open to whatever God has for us.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


Calcutta is a place that defies explanation. We left their at 10 p.m. last night. It was an amazing time. Some things to remember about Calcutta: the sounds--honking horns. Traffic is a mystery. It seems like horn honking is a necessary part of getting anywhere. You honk the horn to warn people like pedestrians, to let other drivers that you're overtaking them, and to tell others to move over and make room. I don't think there are any lines on the road. You just squeeze as many cars, buses, rickshaws, bicycle rickshaws, tooktooks, and motorcycles together as possible.
the smells--undescribable. We smelled rotting flesh on our walk out to a new village school. We also smelled stephanotus from the leis that we got at every place we visited, and of course there was incense and sweat.
the sights--Wow!! The way people live is totally unbelievable to us. Little makeshift huts with 5 different pieces of ragged tarp to keep the rain out line the streets. Last night we had to walk a little ways from the mall where we ate to our bus. It was about 9 p.m. You wouldn't have known it. It seemed like people were just gearing up...There's so much that I saw there that I can't describe; you'll have to ask to see my pictures.
We went there to see and be part of the ministry of Subir and Eunok Roy. They have a ministry to people who live in the slums and even on the garbage dump in Calcutta. It's amazing what they do. They start by taking slum kids to mobile schools; they wash them, feed them, and teach them--first they teach them about Jesus; then they teach reading/writing skills. The kids who want to can move on to live in hostels and go to other schools. It's too much to explain all here.
My favorite part was when we went out to a village that had no Christian presence until Subir built a church/school there. We went there on Sat to help dedicate a new school that they were finishing. The parents gladly send their children to the school, and many of the mothers were at this celebration. I'm not sure how many of them are part of the church, but Rob shared the gospel with a wonderful story about how God loves us like muddy children who need to be washed off before they can come into his house. Then we did our doubting THomas bible story too. I was very aware that most of those people probably had never heard that story before... pray for Subir and Eunok, and I'd love to share more about their ministry when I get home.
Today and tomorrow we spend in Chiang Mai, and then on Wednesday we head to the refugee camp. Maybe I'll post tomorrow also.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

bangkok airport

Wwe're waiting for our flight to Calcutta. It's 10:30 p.m. I'm incredibly tiredbut there's a free internet kiosk here. As we were going towards our gate, I saw a family squatting on the ground holdingan IOM bag I'm sure they were refugees, and probably Karen, but didn't dare ask. They seemed lost in a sea of travelers.

We had a presentattion abouut Ethnos Asia that was very moving. One of the men who spoke to us wasKaren, andtalked abbout the peoplehe's trying to help who have fled their homes in Burma but are still living in Bburma in IDP camps.

It's hard to type on this computer,soI'll add more later when it's easier

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


It's Wednesday morning. We arrived at about 10:30 p.m. last night, and had no problem meeting up with the rest of our group. Even meeting up with the rest of the Kennewick people at Seatac went very smoothly. Without very much coordination they arrived at the airport about a minute after we did. I introduced Lois to Jim Mather, they emptied the luggage, and Lois took off in his van. We were very disappointed that Jeanne Beretta didn't make the trip with us. Saturday morning a family emergency came up in Oklahoma that she really felt she needed to attend to, so at this point she's not with us. We'll see if she's able to connect with us at some point. The trip was uneventful, but very long. We were on the airplane for about 16 hours total. And Thailand is hot and muggy.

Today we'll be going to Ethnos Asia. At this point I don't know anything about what they do there, but I know that we're going to leave the 'mule' bags that we brought over there. ..After breakfast we went up to Roger's room where he exchanged money for us. He was going through a lot of money very fast, and I was glad to leave some of the cash I'd taken along for the refugees with him...Basically a dollar is worth 34 baht, or something that costs 100 baht costs about $3.00 American money. I have to practice that exchange rate in my head or else everything seems incredibly expensive. On the plane on the way over the guy next to me said that you can get a really good massage in Bangkok for $5.00 or less. That might be nice after we've stayed at the refugee camp for a few nights.

This morning I turned over money to Roger from some of the Karen people in Kenn. And I spoke with him about trying to contact some of their friends when we're up north. I want to give you an introduction to some of them as I'm able to here in this blog. Today I'll tell you a little bit about Htoo Htoo. He's a young man of about 22 who came alone and lives with 3 other single guys in an apartment. I might not have all the facts exactly right, but he left his family when he was about 17 to live in the refugee camp and go to school there. Before that time he had been conscripted by the Burmese soldiers to carry their supplies--I think he was about 16 at that time. The Burmese army never fed him and when he finally collapsed they left him for dead. He made it back home, and finally back to the refugee camp. Htoo Htoo was the first Karen person I helped get a driver's license, and in April he quit his job at Tyson to take the NAC course at CBC. I'm telling you about him so you can pray for him. He didn't pass the state test the first time he took it, and only has 2 more chances. Htoo Htoo is a hard worker, and we're confident that he can pass it, but prayer would be a big help. He retests somewhere between July 29 and 31. When we go to the town near the refugee camp, I'm supposed to try and make contact with HtooHtoo's brothers, who are at a school in Mae Sot. I'm not sure how long it's been since he's had any contact with them.

Tonight at 11 p.m. we leave for Calcutta. I'll write about that eperience later. I can't think of anything else to write since my brain is still somewhat fuzzy from the trip.
Take care.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The day oubefore

Katy and I are in Seattle, at the in-laws, sleeping here over night. We'll meet up with the rest of the group at Seatac tomorrow around noon. The flight leaves as 2:40. Thank you to Andrew, my favorite 17-year-old nephew, for setting up this blog. Hopefully I'll be able to add to it regularly on the trip.

For all of you who know about my previous mis-adventures, I've already checked 3 times to be sure that I am carrying both my passport and my driver's license. In fact, my purse is so full I think I'm going to get a sore shoulder from carrying it.

As you pray for us, please pray for my back. It hasn't been cooperating very well today. I hate to think of what the next few weeks could do to it.

Happy Birthday to Harmen tomorrow!!