Due to the floods of rainy season, there is currently a rice crisis throughout Karen State.
In a particular division of Karen State, this crisis is emphasized by rat over-population. Every forty-eight years the bamboo trees blossom and regenerate, providing excess food for the rats. Studies show that the seeds increase the fertility of the rats and increase litter size. Before long, the rat population is overbearing, and they have run out of the blossom seeds. They begin to eat through fields and homes, causing starvation in the area.
This phenomenon is called mautam, and usually happens in eastern India and the western parts of Burma. However, it has spread farther east this year, into Karen regions that have never experienced this before. And they are slowly starving.
Meanwhile, Burma continues to be the highest producer of amphetamines and second (to Afghanistan) for opium. Many of our Shan State projects are facing entire communities addicted to drugs–entire families, entire populations; boys as young as ten addicted to using amphetamines regularly.
The Burmese military, while signing ceasefires with different ethnic groups, has continued to confiscate land. Thousands of families have lost their land without compensation; often for international companies who are destroying natural resources and abusing power. This has promoted the sex trade, pushing parents to sell their young girls into slavery and prostitution.
Many of these girls end up coming through our little border town of Mae Sot, and sent to cities around the world. Around the whole world, where there is a disturbing demand for humans to be sold at a price.
Meanwhile, our neighbors across the street are in front of us, and we are praying. When do we take them to the hospital? When do we give them food? And when is it not sustainable?
And more importantly, how do we show them Jesus?
I am trying to learn Karen for our work with Partners, while I have children on my doorstep speaking to me in Burmese and mothers across the street that I ache to connect with. And even on the best days of good conversation–the days I feel I might be getting somewhere and someday I might be able to communicate in this language–I know that it will be years more before I know Karen. And then I listen to Burmese chatter outside my window and ache to be able to share with them and to know them.
And somedays, I’m tempted to lose hope. I’m tempted to say that this is too much to carry.
But if I lose hope, I deny Christ.
I deny that he has been faithful; that He is strong, and He is loving. I deny that he has fulfilled hopes in all of history.
And this is all true.
To the benefit and necessity of my job, I love reading. Currently I am reading these things: Guns, Germs, & Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond; Elements of Democracy: The Fundamental Principles, Concepts, Social Foundations, and Processes of Democracy by the Center for Civic Education; and the Constitutions of Burma, Thailand, Spain, Indonesia, and the United States.
And here is what I love: the faithfulness of Christ and the promotion of the Kingdom is written all of over history, politics, and humanity. I can read a host of political books and see eternity in each one of them. Because God is here, he is faithful, and his Kingdom is coming; and this cannot be denied.
Throughout Guns, Germs, & Steel, Diamond is analyzing human history and why certain societies developed over others. He analyzes this from a million different angles and asks questions upon questions. Concluding isn’t his specialty, so I think we would be friends. I love his discourse on the Fertile Crescent. The Fertile Crescent advanced more than any other society; the figures, statistics, and history is truly astounding to read. He asks so many questions, and discusses so many theories of why the Fertile Crescent area and people groups were successful.
For me, it all points astoundingly to one answer: the Fertile Crescent was abundant because Christ was there. His people were there, they were chosen, and he walked with them. And they found themselves abundantly blessed.
The Elements of Democracy book credits Martin Luther for the democratic idea of questioning authority and human error. Each and every Constitution I read points me wholeheartedly to the fall, and the groan in each of us for Christ’s return.
Because Christ is in each of these things–history, politics, humanity–whether we admit to it or not.
And if I begin to lose hope, I deny this presence.
There is a temptation to turn away from horrific things. If we don’t see them everyday, if we can put them out of our minds, we aren’t required to address them or to change our ways.
I am tempted to do this quite often, in different forms. Sometimes it is a temptation to move back to America; sometimes to close my front door and listen to mindless music while I knead bread. Sometimes I just want to go to sleep at 7 o’clock and pretend I don’t have to wake up to the same problems tomorrow. Sometimes I want to watch a television show that makes me laugh and implies that all problems can be solved within 22 minutes.
Note that none of these are bad: America is not bad, nor bread, music, sleep, or television shows. But when used as numbing agents, they deny truth. They deny the fact that these same problems may exist tomorrow, but God is in them today as he will be tomorrow.
And if I succumb to lost hope, I reject the truth I know in my own life, in every account of history, and in every situation of suffering around the world.