Life just keeps running by us, and notes should be taken.
I am currently in the middle of three weeks of training here in Mae Sot. Despite some unexpected–and yet, so expected–hiccups at the beginning, it’s going quite well. The long days of teaching from 9am to 3 or 4 or 5pm are exhausting, but rewarding, too. I do love this part of my job.
I really do believe that it has the potential to make a difference. This is not because it is anything significant–what I teach is quite elementary level, and those truly in political science and development would probably find it base. But I really believe we have aimed to create a curriculum that helps the people of Burma right where they are: coming from a chaotic, torn history with development of some kind coming at them so quickly, and needing to jump in and feel like they can make a difference. They really can; I really do believe that. After all the researching and sometimes depressing statistics, it all starts with the people: it starts with education, with hope, with small choices. It starts in individuals and then communities, and that is how we change the world.
And if we equip people to love in the way they pursue education, healthcare, voting, saving money, starting businesses, and leading their community–then haven’t we put Jesus right in the middle of all the changes and development?
These are my big dreams, and I see them so clearly when I train. We have these unique, wonderful discussions, always unexpected and surprising, but rich with their perspectives and questions. I love that even since I began training a couple years ago, the change is coming: the change in thinking, changes in their stories; even the statistics are changing! I looked today for updates, and nearly every statistic we consider has improved, including lower infant mortality rates, higher literacy rates, more political freedoms, more civil liberties, more cars and internet and cell phones. It is incredible to see it unfold right in front of eyes.
I do love training.
I am hopeful that maybe, just maybe, it is making a difference in the lives of the people I am teaching, the country that I love, and ultimately the Kingdom that is coming.
And it always comes with laughter, too. There is the location: a beat-up house with cracks littering the walls. The bathroom is so dark I can’t even really see around to check for spiders and what nots. With all the rain, the ceiling is leaking in about twelve different areas, so the tables are strewn about the room oddly to avoid the cold drips of rain water falling all day. There is a large puddle–say two foot by three foot–that stretches about half of the right side of the room and requires careful maneuvering not to slip.
There are the varied opinions coming in: the one student who just keeps repeating he isn’t smart enough for this; the other student who is quite convinced China is the best country in the world and Cambodia is the worst, but has very little backing or opinions as to why. (And yet somehow both countries keep entering into every discussion?) There are the overloaded questions: “Tell us about healthcare in America.” Right, because that’s not a huge, overwhelming and controversial topic to someone who hasn’t heard about insurance. Or the random request for help selling a 1804 US coin on the internet that they believe to be worth $100.
Or today, just as we took a break for lunch, my translator came up to me and asked,”I heard this before I came to your class, and I want to know what you think. I hear that, ‘Democracy killed Jesus, and now following Jesus brings democracy.’ What do you think?”
We talked a little longer to clarify he is saying that the “democracy” of Pilate asking the crowds if he should release Barabbas or Jesus led the crowd “voting” for Barabbas and thus, “democracy killing Jesus.” He had also heard before and we discussed in class that democracy generally flourishes more in Christian countries. And then he continued to ask if democracy was leading to the end times & rapture.
Whoa. I believe my answer was along the lines of, I believe…this, this, and that. I see…. this and that. And really, I don’t know.
Stephen & I are laughing a lot these days. I come home with more stories every day, and we just have a growing repertoire of jokes that are keeping us afloat. We are also just more tired than we have ever been–our stress levels are high, and neither of us is sleeping well. Heck, I’m writing this blog at 3:30am, unable to sleep since 2am!
Amidst the training, there was a dinner for twenty-six staff at our house last night and an all-day emergency responder training. There are new children coming with fevers every day. The long days and nights of rain are putting the kids at risk for everything–colds, pneumonia, malaria, dengue. We had two neighbor women arrested for gambling (and being illegal) with their combined three children, requiring more prayer and wisdom and general neighborhood drama. The kids gave re-enactments of the event for hours.
After I told a story about something I had seen in town the other day, my coworker commented, “I don’t know if I don’t go out into town as much, or maybe not at the right times…or maybe you just notice more, but I don’t see any of these things around town. You have so many stories!” To which I replied, “Oh, that happened right in front of my house, in our neighborhood. I knew them! I don’t have to go very far; in fact, they often just come right into my house with the stories!”
We’re here. We are trying to take notes of the chaos and share what we can.
In some ways, we are still trying to stay afloat, which has been a theme for quite some time now. However, we are taking steps for some small changes, and more importantly, we are hopeful that these small changes will make us sustainable.
We are hopeful.
The chorus of Blessed Assurance has been rolling around in my head for a few days now. “This is my story, this is my song; praising my Savior all the day long!” Our story seems very messy right now and very scattered, but I really find this line encouraging. This is it; this is our story. We are doing what we can to praise the Savior; we are doing what we can to let Him write the story and sing the song.
When I drive my motorbike across town for another Karen lesson, in hopes of someday speaking, understanding, and translating flawlessly: this is our story. When I pray before my class and then try to teach politics and economics that my students understand, can apply, and are infiltrated with Christ’s hope: this is our story. When Stephen gives high fives and tickles all the little kids as we arrive home; when the kids ask for water again and again; and even when we tell them (again!) to not touch the motorbike as we drive by: this our story. When we are driving a little two-year-old Burmese boy to the clinic while his mom stays back to nurse her newest baby; then we suddenly realize it looks like a little like we stole this child–that’s our story! Even when Stephen goes out to sit on the porch with the kids when a drunk neighbor begins to bother them or pray through how to help when neighbors are arrested for gambling: that’s a part of our story now. And when we are really torn and struggling, praying together and frustrated together and hurting together; and thus finding ourselves closer than ever: it’s all a part of the story.
I never thought our story would be this chaotic, interesting, heart-wrenching, and complicated. But I can honestly say we are still praising the Savior with all that we are. We are asking, we are hoping, and the story is being written–in classrooms, through photos, on a motorbike, in meetings, over meals!