As I write this letter, I’m sitting at a Bible school in Western Thailand, just a few miles from the border of Burma. Rhiannon and I have just finished assisting a five-day workshop designed to teach tribal Christian leaders how to communicate the gospel to illiterate people using the stories of the Bible. A handful of students are watching the film “God’s Story” and sitting next to me is the director of the Bible School explaining the plight of the Karen people.
For those of you who haven’t seen the latest Rambo movie, let me first say that I absolutely do not recommend watching this film, especially if you have a hard time looking at blood, because it’s probably the most violent movie you’ll ever see. The film portrays in graphic detail the suffering of the Karen people and how the Junta troops in Burma are systematically attacking villages, killing people indiscriminately, and then planting land-mines so the people can’t return to their homes. Those who escape alive usually spend years hiding from the troops scraping out a meager existence from the land. The fortunate ones end up in IDP camps (camps for Internally Displaced People) near the Thai border and the even more fortunate ones escape to Thailand and end up in one of three camps for Karen refugees—which is where we are at right now.
Some of the students that we’ve taught this week have seen their parents killed. Others are separated from family members still living inside Burma. All of them are living in dire poverty, spending their lives in a refugee camp with little contact with the outside world (including Thailand), having little opportunity to determine their future.
And yet they continue to sing! The thing that touches me the most about the Karen Christians is they are probably some of the most beautiful singers in the world. The other day we visited a home for injured veterans of the Karen National Liberation Army. The room was filled with men whose arms and legs had been blown off, and yet their existence (24 hours a day, 7 days a week) is devoted to singing and praising God. Though they live off of handouts from the outside world, these men are in no way spiritually poor. I think that we in the West have a lot to learn from these Karen brothers in the Lord.
Yesterday we actually crossed the river into Burma and visited an IDP camp that’s hidden from the rest of the world. The people live on donated rice and yellow beans (and the occasional fish or vegetable). Every family gets one cup of yellow beans a month, which is about a half a teaspoon a day for a family of four. Imagine that! Thanks to your giving, Rhiannon and I were able to contribute significantly towards purchasing 17 large bags of rice and one large bag of yellow beans, plus a bag of chili peppers. (A side note, for $60 a month, we could double the amount of beans the camp receives) The team asked me to give a gospel presentation using a multi-colored soccer ball, something I was glad to do. Five people raised their hands to accept Jesus as Savior.
All in all it was a very fruitful week. The students displayed keen insight into the Scriptures and even though Rhiannon and I were here as teachers this week, I think I learned just as much from the students as they learned from us. That again, is the beauty of the Simply the Story program. With Simply the Story, the teacher tells the Bible story and then explores the story together with the listeners, inviting participation. That way everyone learns together. Isn’t that what the Kingdom of God is all about? People from different races and walks of life loving each other and mutually encouraging each other in their faith?
You may be reading this and think, “But Aaron, I’ll never be able to go across the world and experience another culture like you do.” That may be true, but what about the town or city that you live in? Is it possible that God may want to break down racial walls in our own backyards?
Something to think about.
While there is still time,
P.S. Please pray for us as we travel to Senegal and Guinea Bissau next week. We’ll be leaving for this trip about 6 days after we get back from Thailand. Only this time, we’ll be teaching the STS method solo, just enough to wet the pastors’ appetite so that we can come back and do something more official next year.
P.P.S. If you’d like to make an online donation to help cover the costs of our trip to Africa, please go to http://www.greatcommissionsociety.com