Alaska Team 2006 travel blog

My name is Melanie, and I had the privilege of traveling to Thailand with my 17 year old daughter, Carly.

I want to share about an event that took place in a refugee camp, which is where my teammate Bethany reconnected with her old friends. We all stayed in a two story bamboo structure with a Jak leaf roof. We slept on the second floor on our Therma-rest pads and sleeping bags under mosquito nets. We climbed rough wooden stairs that felt more like a ladder to get up there. We fondly dubbed it "The Malaria Ward" because with all the mosquito netting that's what it looked like. Even though I didn't see a single mosquito while we were there, it was nice to have the security of the nets. Here is where we slept, ate rice and goat meat for 3 meals a day, bathed using the dip and pour method, and tried to adjust to Asian style toilets, for 4 days and 5 nights.

Once a year, many of the Karen pastors from Burma meet together here. They hike anywhere from one to nine days through the jungle and then cross the Moei River by long boat into Thailand to meet with each other, worship and be encouraged. These are I.D.P. pastors, meaning that they pastor Internally Displaced People; those whose villages have been destroyed and are hiding in the jungle. These men and women daily risk land mines, being shot, or being captured and tortured, for their people. We were humbled and privileged to meet them.

To quote from my journal: Tonight was very special, emotionally-charged and memorable. Partners had purchased some high quality, waterproof backpacks that we brought into the camp with us. This afternoon we filled them with 8 essential items: a camouflaged hammock, a dark green plastic tarp for shelter from the rain, a water bottle or plastic canteen, a heavy duty flashlight, a Bible in Karen, a "Good Life Comes From God" T-shirt, a stocking cap and a pair of warm gloves. Then we invited all of the IDP pastors to join us, and presented each one with a pack. There must've been about 40 of them. They are an army of Christian soldier pastors and to us they are heroes. Most of them truly are risking their lives for the gospel and it was a high honor to be in their presence. Each of us on the Alaska team stood and introduced ourselves. When it was Carly's turn, she broke down and cried and told them that their people had captured her heart. I told them that many, many people at my church in Alaska had helped Carly and me to come to them and wanted them to know that they care about the Karen people and are praying for them. Then they all sang us a song: they are so joyful and free when they sing, always in perfect harmony. It is one of their gifts from God to us. We prayed for them and shook all their hands and they were all very grateful and humble and sweet. Their spokesperson, who spoke English, told us that they all just want peace and safety in Karen State in Burma.

I do not understand the history or politics of Burma and why their plight is so little known and why things cannot be black and white and wrong made right. But I promised them I would pray for them and not forget them and I want to do all I can for them and for their people.

This was a life-changing trip for me. When I went to Thailand I had just come through a difficult time and my focus was very much on myself and my problems and struggles. But when I fell in love with these people who have so little by our standards but who have such joy, such courage and such faith, and who have suffered so much, my whole perspective changed. I realized that I am wealthy, safe, and free, and that I am blessed to be a blessing. I want to be a blessing to the Karen. They gave me so much.

Thank you to everyone who prayed, gave, loaned, encouraged or in any way helped Carly and me to go to Thailand. Thank you for getting us there and sustaining us. Your support made a difference in the lives of the Karen people that will continue to be a blessing.

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