I’d have to say this last trip could definitely be titled an adventure. And I think it’s very good we’re here for another reason. The highlights were by far the encouraging stories and seeing what God is doing; and there were definitely times I was wishing for a magic escape button that read, “Welp, I tried!”
As I look through the photos that attempt to capture this and think through the stories in my head, I can tell you right now this will be a scattered blog–hopefully some will make you laugh, parts will inevitably make you cringe, and you’ll likely be saddened. Consider yourself warned.
First, we headed out about 7 hours to Beung Klung village, right on the border. We stayed with a Karen family there where the husband oversees the clinic we were continuing onto (about one hour with four-wheel drive or three-ish hours hiking). He’s a make-do doctor, and we happened to witness about three minor surgeries performed on his porch with semi-sterilized tools and cats meandering through.
We also visited Burma because it’s quite easy to walk across right there. Our group includes Marci (a nurse from America heading up Partners’ medical team; married to a Karen man, Be So Toe, who is taking the photo); Nenana, their daughter; and friends from the family we stayed with. We may or may not have come back from the border with an amazing two-person chair…
We also did medical checks while we were in Beung Klung, just checking a group of kids that come for a program each Saturday (with Compassion International) for basic health problems.
I helped with cleaning minor cuts with alcohol and bandaging them (some US-level minor and others that would have been of higher concern and made me cringe a little) and giving out de-worming medicine (which Stephen & I also now take every six months). The kids were so sweet and overwhelmingly brave as I used the alcohol on their open cuts and they swallowed the pills spectacularly–much better than me, really. I must say, though, it’s a mental adjustment to switch to medicine in the remote villages, and American medical staff would have been horrified with our use of the same water cup for all the kids to take medicine.
We also gave out some medical supplies to a man in Beung Klung that was actually over from Burma. He organized a clinic there and was absolutely thrilled to have all the supplies we gave him. It was so wonderful to hear him say “a million thanks, a million thanks” over and over to us. He was beautifully determined to give his life for the sake of his people.
Oh, and at one point while we were in town, a woman touched my leg and told me I had “the whitest legs she had ever seen”. Awesome.
The next day saw our drive to Laytonku. We took the 4-wheel drive the whole way, but it is quite a drive. Extremely steep hills and curves of mud that I really couldn’t describe to you, but these pictures will at least suggest it:
This is the clinic in Laytonku that Partners supports. We delivered supplies, Marci did some training with the four staff doctors, and we stayed in the dormitory rooms here. The clinic sees about 300 patients per month, treating for basic needs of malaria, anemia, worms, colds, and infections.
Within fifteen minutes of our arrival in Laytonku, a dog was killed on our behalf, just about twenty feet behind us. (They truly know how to welcome me!) I’ll leave out too many details of the dripping blood and cooking it whole over the fire and just say I never expected a charred dog to look like that…and it really didn’t taste too bad!
The evening we arrived, we had dinner and then sat around on the porch as one of doctors played the Karen harp for us. As I sat in our room doorway listening, I kept hearing a rustling to my right. I’d look back to see nothing, until the third time when I saw a large rodent curry past about a foot behind me. I jumped up pretty quickly and they asked what it was. I calmed relayed it was either a mouse or a rat, to which a Karen man looked in our room and said, “Yes, maybe. It’s possible.” To this I wanted to reply, “Possible? We’ve moved beyond possible. It’s definitely there. Now what are we going to do about it?” But they didn’t seem to interested in doing much about it at all, so I sat back down and wondered how I was going to sleep on the floor with this fellow.
Turns out, he was quite busy, so we got to listen to him for most of the night. He would rummage around loudly in a rice sack, shimmy up the door frame, and cross over the ceiling beam. He’d deliver something and hurry back for more. I got a good look at him each time he’d cross the ceiling beam that was lit from the main light. It was either an abnormally large mouse or a normal size rat. I decided I would rather it be a mouse and convinced myself of such.
I read a quote while we were there from Allan Eubank, a missionary in Thailand since the 1960s, with his son having started Free Burma Rangers. He noted during one of his times in a remote village, “We try to keep our minds on high spiritual things yet little distractions occupy so much of our attention. It seems that much of my notes are on trivial difficulties that are strange to my former life.” My thoughts exactly.
The grounds of the clinic were absolutely lovely. This is from the clinic porch looking into Burma.
And to give you a picture of what the clinic operates like…
On the way, we stopped by the home of this family. (Actually, Eliya on the far right was the head doctor from Beung Klung.) The village was fairly quiet while we were there because there had been an incident just a couple days before. Because Laytonku is so close to the border and quite difficult to get to from Thailand, they do a lot of trade with Burma. The headmaster and vice headmaster of the village (brothers) and their father had been asked to come to a meeting with the local Burmese leaders to discuss trade in the area. They agreed to all the terms of trade, but then as they were leaving, the Burmese Army shot at them, killing the vice headmaster. In the photo above, the widowed wife is to the right, and the older woman is the mother. Two of his children are in the photo, but one was away with the father & headmaster, reporting the story.
And so we visited this family in mourning, with very little to offer. We took time to pray for them and allowed our hearts to break for them.
I’m still processing this.
We also visited another family with two girls who had been helped by the local clinic.
Aren’t they lovely? They are cousins, but they live in the same home. Two of the kids were orphaned and are now living with their aunt. The girl on the right had a cleft-lip surgery done that has healed up very well. The girl on the left had a bad case of TB and was malnourished. They are both in great health now.
We were scheduled to leave Monday to go back to Beung Klung for a night, but it rained for a lot of the morning. We decided to try heading back through the mud, but a little while in decided it was quite a risk with the truck loaded down with people. After about 15 minutes of driving, we hopped out to walk while Eliya drove it back the rest of the way. Stephen and I, Marci, Be Soe Toe, and Nenana hiked back. This was about half an hour in, before it started to pour. Really, really pour.
What you can’t tell in this photo, too, is that I’m barefoot–the mud is really hard to grip in with flipflops. And when you’re walking up extremely steep hills, you have to grip by walking on the rocks and patches of grass/thorns. Thus, you have about two hours of what most would call “adventure”: walking in the rain barefoot, walking on little pieces of shale, wringing out my skirt every little while, picking out a few thorns, and learning to control your slides in the mud. It was fun in some ways; the hike was absolutely gorgeous. But I am still suffering from sliced up, sore feet three days later!
And so were home and really thankful we went. It was really encouraging to see what God is doing through Partners and be a part of bringing a few small glimmers of hope.