In late October, Restoration members Liz Gray and Christine Jones, along with The Falls Church member Suby Wildman, traveled to the Thai-Burma border to teach and build relationships with a group of young Karen teachers-in-training. (The Karen are a people group that has been persecuted by the Burmese government.) The following report from Liz gives a taste of the amazing work that God is doing among these young people, which the Restoration/TFC team got to witness and be a part of.
Wow! The Teacher Trainer College along the Thai-Burma border is remote! It took the three of us four days and six modes of transport to get there: car, airplane, bus, pick-up truck, boat and foot. Liz had told us that the college was located on two hills, but it is really two spines of the hills. One misstep and you could roll down into the jungle valleys. The college is a collection of bamboo huts, livestock, and people.
The 47 students training to be teachers back in their villages in Karen State – often under challenging circumstances – are so impressive. Christine was teaching English to the first year students, and was able to ask them interesting questions about their hopes, dreams, background and motivations. The 32 sitting in her bamboo (hut) classroom soon became 32 distinct individuals.
The first hints of a new day came at around 1.30am when the nearest rooster had an early run-through in preparation for the pre-dawn chorus, which started in earnest at around 4.15am. All the students gathered to sing in the central area of the college at 5am. For us, coffee and devotional time was out on our veranda as we watched the students attend their morning chores such as sweeping, feeding the chickens, or cooking. We were constantly amazed how our daily scriptures reflected the reality of the day:
- Ps 59: 16 – “Each morning I will sing with joy about your unfailing love.”
- Ps 119: 147-148 – “I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word. My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises.”
- Even the picture of the ideal wife from Proverbs 31:15 – “She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens.”
Breakfast was at 6am. Class time went from 8 – 3, with several short breaks. At 3, we rushed back to our hut to prepare for the next day before dinner at 5pm. At 6pm the generator came on and soon after students would come by to visit. These visits often involved rowdy games of Uno or less rowdy bananagrams! Students stopped by constantly whenever we were at the hut, but this evening time was when we consistently hosted the largest groups. We were given the opportunity to pray with and for several students and staff and to learn a lot about their lives, dreams, concerns, etc. At around 8pm we generally gently sent the students on their way and had a bit of time before lights out at 9pm reviewing the day as team, sharing answers and requests for prayer – before finishing with a daily compline. These were lovely times and for all of us were a definite highlight of the trip.
While our team had many take-aways, one initial lesson was that God ordains us to be in community. Christine was surprised that the 32 students all staring up at her the first day – with their similar names and similar smiles – all became distinct individuals grafted into our hearts. Living in community with the students and college staff certainly helped. Yet we were impressed that while here in the US we so often focus on differences and individual choices, half way around the world, God revealed the many constants in the human condition as we grew in community with our students. Despite the short time we were there, God knitted us together with these dear people. We couldn’t have remained detached from them if we’d tried! This seemed especially relevant to Restoration, as we all create a community here.
David asked us to share one lesson, but we cannot NOT mention that we were also impressed by God’s economy. How amazing it is that He can use us to help the Karen while working to meet our own needs as well? God is the ultimate multi-tasker and we saw just how big our God is when we empty ourselves to him and allowed him to show us multiple consequences of his goodness at once.
Yes, finally, we were incredibly blessed in both concrete and less concrete ways. We felt sent out by the Restoration congregation and your prayers were answered in (somewhat) smooth travel, good health, team unity, etc. The verses from Psalm 91:11-12 – “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone” – provided a constant reminder to us that the roads we follow in life may well have rocks on them, but that as we were upheld by our praying friends, God, our father, was protecting us from harm.
God was good to us beyond measure. Christine and Liz had fun as we raced along incredibly dangerous hairpin turning roads. And He gave us the Viscounts in Chiang Mai, who greeted us before and after with incredible hospitality, challenging and insightful conversation, and prayer. All in all, it was an amazing trip and we thank you everyone for all your support. Please do not hesitate to contact any one of us if you’d like to hear more stories! We have plenty.
Liz, Christine, and Suby will be sharing stories and pictures from their trip this Saturday, December 5, from 3 – 4 pm at the Wildmans’, 3120 Knoll Dr. in Falls Church. They’d love to see you there!