We had a difficult situation today.
I think the temptation with blogs–and Facebook, Instagram, or any social media–is to only be fake. We are only posting our best: the parts of the day we are choosing to share because they are beautiful, joyful, or exciting. We’re proud of them. The reality of tears, fights, questions, fears, and insecurities are rarely shown.
I want to attempt to show both the best of our lives here and the ugly realities. Don’t get me wrong, I will still edit what I write. I don’t want to be offensive or awkwardly honest; I don’t think every sorrow must to be shared. But I do think it is easy to romanticize a life overseas, a life in a foreign land with tropical weather and exotic foods, a life with beautiful little kids around us. The photos do tell the story: that is our life! We do have kids in our home and they are adorable. There are countless funny stories.
There is also vomit to clean up at the end of the day. There are times we are dealing with drunkenness, children being beaten, and sexual abuse. We don’t want to deny that those exist. They are reality.
Today’s reality involved stealing.
I told a couple of the girls they could come in to do puzzles, at which point I discovered two puzzles were missing and two pairs of flip flops that had been sent to us for the kids. Both had been on the shelves in the community space. I called a couple of the kids in and asked them about it, and a great discussion ensued as they argued over who was to blame. In the end, we learned that six of the girls had been involved. We later learned that one girl had instigated it and the others had been watching.
Everything was returned. But either way, it was discouraging.
It is so difficult to know how to handle such a situation: how do we punish–and communicate punishment–in a positive way? How do we communicate that this is unacceptable, but also extend grace? How do we show disapproval, but not show so much disapproval that a) they are scared or b) their parents are upset? For some of the kids, I know the choice of punishment at home is severe beatings. I’ve bandaged the wounds from such beatings, and we certainly didn’t want something like that coming from puzzles and flip flops.
There are so many cultural and family elements at play; there are boundaries to consider and setting precedents.
But God was good. He gives us grace in each and every circumstance; He gives us words and equips us every step of the way. It is really no less than a miracle that we are here, that our relationships with the community are good; that we have not been taken advantage of more significantly!
And then, at the end of the day, He brought redemption.
A group of the kids came over after visiting the Sunday night market down the street. They came with a Christmas package for us, and it was a beautiful little light-up Christmas tree they had purchased from the market! It flashes a variety of bright colors, and is a true market treasure, if you will.
Really, it was just so sweet.
I also had a conversation tonight with Mo Bya, one of our primary Karen-Burmese translators. His wife has been working outside of town and is now caring for her elderly mother, and he was telling me about his upcoming trip back to Burma to care for his own mom. I asked if he’d ever be interested in moving back to Burma as things improved. He told me about the situation there, how there was very little work and it wouldn’t be good for his son; the healthcare was poor. He said there is work here in Mae Sot, and it is better because we are here to help. If someone is sick, we can help; if they have a need, we are there to help. This makes their lives here better.
I was so humbled to have his say this me–so boldly; so unashamed.
I told him that we try, but really don’t know what we are doing. And I told him thank you.
We talked about other things, including Aung Moo’s current conditions. It has been a community effort to care for him as he can’t see or walk. We talked about caring for each other.
We are really thankful the Lord gave us this little glimpse into the mind of the community. Mo Bya’s words were such an encouraging reminder that God has placed us here, that he is working here; that there is a purpose to all of the questions about stealing and abuse and addiction.
Sometimes just one day holds both really wonderful joys and really harsh realities.